Healthcare should unequivocally be accessible to anyone and all who need it when they need it without prejudice or judgment. That’s the ideal. In reality, people from minority groups experience more barriers to healthcare and support than those who don’t identify as being minority or marginalized groups.
For those who don’t identify with gender norms and are part of the LBGTQ community, getting access to appropriate, safe, and non-judgmental healthcare can be hard. There are many reasons as to why this happens. From discrimination to fear. Homophobia, transphobia, misinformation, or not being able to find a provider who is knowledgeable in the challenges and preferences of treating people in the LGTQ population and more, there are quite rightly too many barriers that can cause people to suffer or struggle to get the medical they need unnecessarily.
In the US, 8% of LGBTQ people avoided healthcare due to discrimination, and 23% of transgender people surveyed said their doctor or another healthcare professional repeatedly misgendered them during treatment.
But in the face of increasing adversity, how can you advocate for better medical care to ensure that you are getting the treatment you service both personally and medically?
To avoid facing any unwanted conflict with your health provider, it is important that you do your research to find a gender-affirming primary care physician. You need an ally who you can trust and be offset with. From here, you then use this support to find further specialists who will also be supportive and get you the treatment you need when you need it so you don’t have to worry or experience adverse effects on your mental health.
It might be that you need to travel further away to get the treatment you need, especially if cost is a factor or a lack of resources in your local area. And while you shouldn’t rule this out, you should know the risks and benefits of medical tourism before embarking on this journey so you can be confident it is the right decision for you, and you will get the care you need.
If you feel you aren’t being offered the treatment you should be or you are not being treated properly, it is essential that you speak up and insist on being treated as any other patient would be. If you feel you aren’t able to do this yourself, take an advocate with you. This can be a family member or friend, or you can contact local charities or support groups to see what help is available to you so you know your rights.
Leading on from the above point, it is important you know your rights as an LGBTQ person to demand access to treatment and a level of care that is experienced by others. The same services and screenings should be available to you regardless of your gender identity or sexual orientation, and knowing what you are legally entitled to can help you ensure you get what you need when you need it. Sadly, In the US, for example, there are no laws preventing medical discrimination against transgender or LGBT people, and the same is applicable in many countries across the world. However, you are still entitled to the same fundamental rights as heterosexuals. If you aren’t receiving them, you can file a complaint with the immediate provider, with the hospital they are affiliated with, or with your local government to examine this further.
Navigating healthcare that offers you a safe space and gender-affirming care shouldn’t be as hard as it is or can be. However, being proactive in your care, knowing the laws concerning discrimination, and finding the right providers will help you improve your experience and get the medical treatment you need when you need it.