January 12, 2020

How to Choose an LGBTQ-Friendly Doctor

Looking for an LGBTQ-friendly doctor can feel daunting, but finding one doesn’t have to be as difficult as you might think. Like everyone else who is looking for a doctor, you want to be treated with respect and you want to find someone who is knowledgeable about, and sensitive to, your unique needs. To find the right doctor, all it takes is a little education, knowing where to look, and being open to asking the right questions.

Ask the Right Questions

Seeing a doctor who has experience working with LGBTQ patients can make you feel more confident that you’ll receive skilled and respectful care. This is especially important for people seeking transgender-friendly doctors. “I would just be blunt and ask, ‘Hey, do you have any experience handling transgender care?'” Christopher Swales, MD, a family medicine doctor with Dignity Health Medical Foundation – Woodland and Davis suggested. “Ask, ‘Do you feel comfortable treating someone who’s transgender?’ The only way is to just be up front and ask.” The Human Rights Campaign agrees; the organization advises: “When you call to make an appointment, ask if the practice has any LGBTQ patients. If you’re nervous about asking, remember you don’t have to give your name during that initial call.”

If you already have a doctor who does not yet know about your sexual orientation or gender identity, it can be hard to know when or how you should make them aware. According to the National LGBT Health Education Center, “Coming out to your health care provider is an important step to being healthy.” The organization offers a guide to help LGBTQ patients come out to their health care providers.

Of course, that’s not so easy for everyone. You may not feel willing to reveal these details about yourself before you’ve even seen the doctor. But the good news is you have additional resources to use.

Use Online and Offline Resources

For people who don’t feel comfortable calling and asking about a practice and its doctors, they can seek online or offline resources that list LGBTQ-friendly physicians. “I’d go to places like the gender health care center here in Sacramento,” Dr. Swales said. “They can help you find physicians who they’ve talked to, or they will have a list of doctors who are transgender-friendly. Usually LGBTQ centers can help you with that.”

You can find a map of LGBTQ community centers on CenterLink. It’s searchable by state, city, address, or your current location. The map will pull up the five centers that are closest to you, or you can simply scroll down and look at the list of centers below the map, which are in alphabetical order by state.

You can also use online resources that list LGBTQ-friendly doctors. These resources include OutCare and the GLMA provider directory. Some insurance companies even note LGBTQ-friendly doctors in their provider network list. And talking to trusted friends and members of your community to get recommendations can also be quite helpful.

Listen to Your Gut

Just because you find a doctor who is LGBTQ-friendly doesn’t mean you have to stick with that physician. If you don’t feel comfortable after your first appointment, you should feel empowered to find someone else. Always listen to your gut and remember that if a doctor doesn’t necessarily have experience with LGBTQ patients, but you’re comfortable with them, that’s OK too. You’ll get the best care if you’re happy with your doctor because you’ll feel more open about being honest and sharing important details of your life.

After your first appointment, ask yourself if the doctor was respectful, really listened to you, and truly saw you as a whole person. Was there any tension in the room at any point? Did you feel understood? If you felt respected and safe, then you likely found a good match.

Finding an LGBTQ-friendly doctor can feel overwhelming, but it isn’t all that different from finding any other doctor or specialist. Ultimately, everyone wants treatment from someone who is respectful and knowledgeable, so a doctor who exhibits these qualities will likely be an excellent care provider for you.