By Tara Baysol
Navigating the health care arena can be especially nerve-wracking for LGBTQ patients, many of whom dread the possibility of awkward encounters, judgmental questions, or outright discrimination. Even if hospitals and other facilities are committed to serving our community, we can still face insensitive interactions that leave us wanting to run out of the building and never look back.
Instead of putting our health care on the back burner, we can equip ourselves with tools that empower us to address those awkward moments with clarity and purpose. We should also practice self-care that helps us recover from disappointing or triggering situations.
Make a list for yourself
One way to feel empowered to challenge any missteps made by your care team is to come prepared with a plan on how to address potential scenarios you may encounter. Make a list of questions or reactions that you think you might experience. They can be from experiences you’ve already encountered and thought to yourself, “I should have said…”
On a number of occasions, I’ve encountered providers or staff who have asked me if the person I brought with me to my appointment was a sister or friend, when she was in fact my wife. These questions would throw me off and leave me feeling very frustrated. Since I developed a response game plan, I’ve found these encounters to be opportunities for me to educate others and represent my beautiful community.
Also on my list are potential scenarios that I haven’t experienced for myself, but have heard about from others. I even include extreme situations that in my mind are probably unlikely to happen, but that I worry about nonetheless. Nothing is off limits on your list – if it’s a concern to you, it’s worth consideration.
Once you have your list, consider how each scenario makes you feel and what might be an empowering response. If any specific situation seems to not have any reassuring options, ask others from the LGBTQ community for ideas on how they might go about that scenario.
Help represent our community in larger conversations
Feeling confident that you can speak up for yourself during challenging situations is fantastic, but it doesn’t have to stop there. You can make your voice heard even beyond those individual interactions.
For example, by taking a moment to fill out a patient experience survey, your concerns will be heard even more. If you’re feeling especially motivated, consider joining a local advisory board that welcomes patient perspectives. You can even consider being a voice in your community at large for LGBTQ patients and their unique health needs.
It is important to make sure you take care of yourself. Be aware of personal challenges that may get triggered during your medical appointments. The coming out process when establishing care with a new provider is always stressful for me. As a result, I make sure to do something out in the LGBTQ community afterwards, whether it’s finding a Meetup event to go to or watching an empowering movie or show.
It is important to be able to make time after stressful appointments for something relaxing and enjoyable that reminds you to love and care for yourself. You deserve it.
Learn more about LGBTQ patient care and support at Dana-Farber.