Resources and methods are available to help people find knowledgeable healthcare professionals who understand health issues relating to those in LGBTQIA+ communities.

Prejudice in healthcare can prevent people in LGBTQIA+ communities from accessing necessary healthcare and can affect the level of healthcare they receive.

Healthcare professionals who lack knowledge and understanding of LGBTQIA+ health may also actively harm a person’s physical, emotional, and mental health.

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Although it is illegal to blatantly discriminate against a person because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, various forms of discrimination still occur within healthcare.

Health disparities can lead to serious health risks for LGBTQIA+ people. Some healthcare professionals may provide lower quality care to LGBTQIA+ people or deny them access to care altogether. LGBTQIA+ people may also avoid seeking healthcare because they feel unsafe.

LGBTQIA+ people experience health disparities for a variety of reasons.

According to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the following are some of these reasons:

Blatant discrimination from healthcare professionals

GLAAD cites a report in which more than half of the lesbian, gay, and bisexual people who responded reported that healthcare professionals had done one or more of the following:

Up to 39% of transgender people reported experiencing discrimination and harassment from healthcare professionals, including denial of care and violence.

Lack of LGBTQIA+-specific health training

A 2024 review of studies suggests that medical students in the United States receive inadequate education on LGBTQIA+ healthcare topics.

This limits their knowledge and preparedness to care for LGBTQIA+ people, especially those who are gender diverse or transgender.

Legal barriers to healthcare

Although President Joe Biden restored federal protections for LGBTQIA+ people seeking healthcare in 2021, some states continue to target LGBTQIA+ healthcare.

For example:

  • Tennessee and Arkansas passed laws in 2021 to limit or ban gender affirming care for transgender youth.
  • Ohio and Arkansas passed laws in 2021 that allow health professionals to deny care to LGBTQIA+ people based on religious objection.
  • Other states have proposed bills that would punish school employees who do not disclose a student’s transgender identity to their parents.
  • Some states have proposed bills that would penalize parents for providing gender affirming care to their transgender children.

A person can take the following steps to find LGBTQIA+-friendly healthcare professionals:

  • Ask for recommendations: People can ask their friends and loved ones to recommend a healthcare professional they have seen who made them feel comfortable. If a person already knows a doctor who welcomes LGBTQIA+ people, they can ask for recommendations for other LGBTQIA+-friendly doctors or specialists.
  • Search online: A healthcare professional may have an online bio or profile that could provide information about their commitment to inclusivity and specific care for LGBTQIA+ people.
  • Contact local LGBTQIA+ centers and clinics: These facilities may offer resources or affordable care or may be able to recommend healthcare professionals.

Several directories and online resources are available to help people find healthcare professionals who welcome LGBTQIA+ people:

  • Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA): The GLMA provides a directory of LGBTQIA+-friendly healthcare professionals.
  • The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH): WPATH provides a directory of healthcare professionals who can provide gender affirming care.
  • Out2Enroll: Out2Enroll provides various resources for LGBTQIA+ healthcare, including help finding a doctor, help reporting discrimination, and information on transgender healthcare.
  • National LGBTQIA+ Health Education Center: This center helps healthcare professionals become better educated on LGBTQIA+ health and provides free resources for LGBTQIA+ people, including health initiatives, hotlines, toolkits, and webinars.
  • Planned Parenthood: Planned Parenthood provides care, resources, and information for LGBTQIA+ people. This includes gender affirming care, such as hormone therapy, at some of its health centers.
  • Outcare: Outcare provides a directory of affirming healthcare professionals as well as resources on health equity training, support groups, care navigation, consulting services, and community building.

Green flags such as the following could indicate that a healthcare professional is LGBTQIA+-friendly:

  • They have statements or signs on their website or in their offices that show open support for LGBTQIA+ people.
  • Their intake forms use gender-neutral language or offer gender-neutral options.
  • Their office provides easily accessible all-gender bathrooms.
  • LGBTQIA+ people have left positive reviews about them.
  • They do not make statements that presume a person is heterosexual and cisgender.
  • They ask a person what their pronouns are.
  • They sensitively discuss health considerations without judgment.
  • They listen to and acknowledge a person’s specific health concerns.
  • They consider a person’s past negative healthcare experiences when deciding on options for treatment.
  • They discuss options with a person and work with them to decide on a treatment plan.
  • They have worked with other LGBTQIA+ people and are well informed about health issues specific to these populations.

Potential red flags

A red flag is anything a health professional does that makes you feel unsafe, misunderstood, or uncomfortable, such as:

  • providing forms that offer only “male” and “female” sex options
  • making assumptions about your gender identity or sexual orientation
  • making assumptions about your health based on your sexual orientation or gender identity
  • misgendering you
  • dismissing your health concerns
  • being openly hostile toward you
  • lacking knowledge of how certain health issues may affect you in the context of your gender identity or sexual orientation
  • making decisions about your treatment without consulting you
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Doing some quick research before making an appointment with a new healthcare professional could help a person feel more at ease.

Green or red flags may be apparent and could help a person decide whether a healthcare professional is a good fit for them.

Before an appointment, it may be helpful to:

  • Read online reviews: Other people may have posted positive or negative comments about the doctor’s treatment of LGBTQIA+ people.
  • Visit the health professional’s website: A doctor’s bio or profile section may mention that they are welcoming toward LGBTQIA+ people. They may also use gender-neutral language to indicate that they are a safe space.
  • View the intake form: A facility may email an intake form before an appointment. It may be a red flag if the form offers only “male” and “female” sex options and does not provide options for a person’s legal and preferred names.

Questions to ask

You may be able to get a better idea of whether a healthcare professional or setting is welcoming to LGBTQIA+ people by asking questions such as:

  • Does your facility provide all-gender bathrooms?
  • Do you regularly treat LGBTQIA+ people?
  • Do you have experience treating people with the same gender identity/sexual orientation as me?
  • Does your facility have any LGBTQIA+ staff members?
  • Does your facility have a nondiscrimination policy?
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A person may not always be able to access an LGBTQIA+-friendly doctor. In these instances, it can be helpful to learn how to self-advocate.

Self-advocacy involves a person representing their health interests in healthcare decision making. Some research, including a 2018 study, suggests that people who self-advocate are typically more satisfied with their healthcare experiences.

Some tips on self-advocacy

Self-advocacy may include:

  • Calling ahead: You can call the doctor’s office before your appointment to make sure the doctor is aware of your pronouns and preferred name.
  • Bringing a friend: You can ask a trusted friend or family member to go with you to the appointment. They can offer comfort and support.
  • Correcting the healthcare professional: If a healthcare professional makes incorrect assumptions about your gender or sexual orientation, you should feel empowered to correct them.
  • Requesting a patient liaison: In larger healthcare settings, such as hospitals, a patient relations office may be able to provide someone to advocate on your behalf. If you are uncomfortable with your doctor’s treatment or behavior, a patient advocate may be able to offer support and options to move forward.
  • Asking for concerns to be recorded: If you feel that the healthcare professional is dismissing you and your concerns, you can ask that they add your concerns to your medical record.
  • Leaving, if it is safe to do so: You should feel empowered to leave if you are not in an emergency situation and you do not feel safe and supported.
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Many LGBTQIA+ people encounter discrimination in healthcare settings. This can lead to a lower quality of care and denial of access to care, which can result in serious health consequences.

Although finding safe, inclusive healthcare should not be an individual’s responsibility, a person can take steps to find an LGBTQIA+-friendly doctor, such as:

  • asking other LGBTQIA+ people for recommendations
  • researching potential doctors and healthcare facilities online before making an appointment
  • contacting local clinics and LQBTQIA+ centers for information
  • using online directories and resources

If a person cannot find an LGBTQIA+-friendly healthcare professional, it may be beneficial for them to learn how to advocate for themselves.