It comes as no surprise that many LGBT people choose not be out to their medical providers. Negative reactions by doctors and nurses is a huge concern for many in our community. Medical institutions can also perpetuate LGBT invisibility by not including sexual orientation or gender identity questions on their intake forms, or in initial health history conversations, which may make it feel forced or awkward for individuals to come out. With LGBT health disparities taking center stage in federal policy (Healthy People 2020 and the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare,” for example), and great strides in LGBT specific health research, we know that screening is exceedingly important for members of our community; disclosing LGBT identity can help doctors know what screenings their patients most need.
Unfortunately, LGBT people have to advocate for our own health more than most heterosexuals. Knowing the health risks of our community, and our own risk factors, can help us ask for specific screenings from our doctors. It is an unfortunate truth that many people and health care providers, evaluating the health risks of LGBT peoples immediately think of HIV and other STI’s; but anal, breast, cervical, colorectal, and prostate cancers are all epidemics which affect LGBT people disproportionately and we cannot urge our community enough to get screened for these cancers. To assess your own cancer risks, check out this cancer risk assessment tool provided by the National LGBT Cancer Network.
Historically, LGBT people have faced problems with doctors and nurses discriminating and withholding care, something which can continue to this day. If your doctor is not gay-friendly, there are resources to help you find a gay friendly doctor, including the HRC Health Equity Index, and the National LGBT Cancer Networks directory of LGBT-friendly cancer screening facilities. You can also reach out to your local LGBT community centers or organizations to help you locate LGBT friendly providers.