Top 10 Ways to Create a Welcoming Environment for LGBTQ+ Patients
1. Have—and post—an inclusive nondiscrimination policy
Be sure to include sexual orientation and behavior, gender identity and expression, sex and sex characteristics, HIV status, and weight along with race, ethnicity, immigration status, marital status, veteran status, etc.
2. Update website and social media
Include relevant expertise in LGBTQ+ health, transgender health, and HIV/AIDS on your profiles; post on important dates (like Transgender Day of Visibility and Pride Month); and use photos that showcase diversity.
3. Add LGBTQ-friendly literature and signage to waiting rooms and clinic
Ideas include inclusive language on intimate partner violence posters and quit smoking brochures, and info from local LGBTQ+ support groups.
4. Update forms with sexual orientation and gender identity data collection
Use the two-step method by asking patients or clients about their “current gender identity” separately from their “sex assigned at birth”; ask sexual orientation, pronouns, and current name; and keep legal/insurance info separate when different. Read more in: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Measuring Sex, Gender Identity, and Sexual Orientation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
5. Provide all-gender single user restrooms
Include signage and give directions to find gender-neutral restrooms easily and without making assumptions.
6. Train staff to ask and use pronouns and name correctly and consistently
Do not make assumptions based upon name or gender identity or gender expression whether any patient has the right to be there (e.g., don’t assume that men are out of place at an Ob-Gyn clinic – transgender men may need gynecological care too).
7. Take an inclusive sexual history
Learn to ask about the 5 P’s from CDC (Partners, Practices, Protection, Past History, Pregnancy) and ask everyone, every time in a non-stigmatizing way. Get comfortable asking a sixth P for Pleasure!
8. Troubleshoot insurance coverage and concerns for patients
Some examples include: transgender patients who may have a gender identity that is different than their sex assigned at birth, and baby-making for LGBTQ+ families.
9. Appreciate the impact of homophobia and transphobia
Stress and discrimination mean many LGBTQ+ people have a lack of early detection and educational outreach, which leads to higher rates of many preventable and treatable conditions. Do not blame or shame patients for “unhealthy” or “risky” behaviors. Learn about minority stress and the unique health concerns of LGBTQ+ patients in the Top 10 lists on this website.
10. Come out! Speak up!
If you feel safe to do so, let patients know you are part of the LGBTQ+ community or an ally. Speak up for your LGBTQ+ patients and their rights!
2022 Author: Jessica Halem, MBA