By Alex Temblador
For many people, finding a great doctor is fairly simple and interactions with physicians are usually positive. However, for LGBT families, finding a great doctor can sometimes be difficult and for a lack of a better term, scary. Parents aren’t just asking a doctor to take care of them—an adult—but now their children too. Will the doctor discriminate against an LGBT family? Will they provide subpar medical attention to the children of same-sex couples because they don’t like their parent’s relationship? Or consider the fears of parents of LGBT children. How does a parent find doctors that will treat their LGBT child with dignity and provide the best medical attention that they need?
It’s not uncommon for LGBT people to face discrimination by doctors or medical facilities. The Human Rights Campaign reported that more than half of LGB Americans and 70% of the transgender community have reported discrimination when trying to receive healthcare. Only 22 states have anti-discrimination laws based on sexual orientation in terms of receiving healthcare and only 14 of those states protect gender identity from medical discrimination.
Until all states pass anti-discrimination laws for healthcare, it may be a little more difficult for LGBT families to find a great doctor for their family. That being said—it can be done! Furthermore, it’s possible to have a positive relationship with your children’s doctor and we’ve got some tips below to help you out with just that.
- How to find a doctor.
LGBT families have a variety of options when searching for a doctor for their family and their children. The quickest way would be by word-of-mouth. Ask your same-sex couple friends who their children’s pediatrician is and if they like them. If your same-sex couple friends do not have children, ask them for a referral to their family or general practitioner, and then call that office and see if the office can refer you to an all-inclusive doctor.
Parents of LGBT children might already have a doctor for their kids before they come out to their family. If you feel it is necessary to change doctors, try contacting a local LGBT center for referrals or suggestions. (This may also be useful for same-sex parents). LGBT centers have a variety of resources including healthcare information that could be helpful in finding a doctor for your children or family.
There are multiple organizations that list LGBT-friendly healthcare providers. The Gay & Lesbian Medical Association provides a directory of LGBT healthcare providers according to zip code. The Human Rights Campaign Healthcare Equality Index is well suited for same-sex couples and their children and parents with LGBT children. The site provides information on over 1,500 healthcare facilities and how inclusive they are of modern families.
Last but not least, see who you are covered under yours or your partner’s insurance and start doing research. Many times there are reviews on Google or state medical sites concerning these doctors. The Better Business Bureau might also have pertinent information that you can consider when choosing a family doctor. P Obtain the office numbers of these doctors and start making calls. Ask the office questions: Has the doctor treated children of two-mom or two-dad families? Do they have LGBT youth patients? How LGBT-friendly are they?
- I have a doctor in mind, now what?
Set up an appointment so that you can get a feel for the doctor. Write down questions before going to the doctor’s office. It’s the doctor’s job to make you feel comfortable with having them as yours and your children’s healthcare provider. If they can’t answer simple questions that any parent, straight or single, would ask, then they probably aren’t the best doctor for you or your children.
Dr. Maja Castillo, a gay pediatrician, shared in an interview with It’s Conceivable that same-sex parents should also, “make sure the [doctor] feels comfortable interacting with both parents equally and does not feel that one person is more of a “parent” than the other.”
Remember, it’s an initial visit, not a contract written in blood, so you don’t have to return to the doctor or even let them give your children an exam.
- When should we start looking for a pediatrician for our children?
Start looking when you start planning to create a family. It’s never too early to start making a list and interviewing doctors. This is your family and giving yourself ample time to find the best medical provider for your children will be well worth it.
- Sometimes LGBT families might have to help their doctor.
Many doctors have not had a lot of LGBT patients or LGBT family patients. Still, many are interested in providing quality care for any patient regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Sometimes though, doctors may unconsciously come across in ways that make LGBT parents or parents of LGBT youth uncomfortable. Castillo stated that you should assume that these doctors have “the best intentions and is just not aware of the way they are coming across. This is an opportunity to educate someone about how gay parents are just like everyone else. I would tell the person that I want to discuss something with them and tell them how they are coming across to us and how we would like to be treated. If they respond negatively, it’s time to find a new pediatrician.”
On the other hand, an “Ask a Homo” video featured a doctor who wrote in to the producers asking how to address two-dad or two-mom families. It’s amazing to know that many doctors do want some guidance! Of course, the producers provide insight for healthcare providers but they also encourages parents to help the doctor out in instances like this. Does one of you prefer to be called “Dad” and the other “Pop”? Or “Mom” and “Ma”? Working with your doctor can be helpful for your family and families in the future. See the video below.
- Be open and honest with your healthcare provider.
Sharing information with your family’s healthcare provider is extremely important. For instance, LGBT youth are more susceptible to certain medical risks such as STDs, depression, and drug use. As a parent of LGBT youth, it’s important to share your child’s sexual orientation or gender identity with their doctor. By being open and sharing information with your family’s doctor, the doctor can then properly monitor and treat the LGBT members in your family in the best way possible.
This also extends to same-sex parents that used IVF, surrogacy, or adoption to create their families. If you have the medical history of your child’s egg or sperm donor, share that with your pediatrician. If you don’t have any medical history or a limited history, let your doctors know that too so that they can be aware when giving medical exams. By working together with your children’s doctors, you are ensuring that your child is receiving the best medical attention.
- What should we do if a doctor/nurse/facility discriminates against us or our children?
Even after all the research that you and your partner have done to find the best doctor for your family, sometimes emergencies happen and you have to quickly see a doctor or other healthcare professionals that you didn’t have a chance to vet.
If you experience discrimination toward your LGBT family in the healthcare world, what do you do?
- First, know your state’s laws. Does your state protect gender identity and sexual orientation in public accommodations like healthcare facilities? If a doctor refuses to treat you or your family, even for religious beliefs, they are violating the law and you can take legal action.
- Lodge a complaint on your healthcare provider’s website, directly with a hospital or healthcare organization, or with the professional association or licensing provider of that type of doctor. This can be done usually online or by talking with someone at the facility.
- File a complaint with your state’s medical licensing board or the state’s medical society.
- Write a review on Google or report them to the Better Business Bureau.
- In some cases, you may need to contact a lawyer or a gay rights organization for help.
- Though it might not produce positive results, sometimes it could be worth just speaking directly to the healthcare provider about their discriminatory practices and see what comes of it.
The most important thing that this article can leave you with is to be strong and diligent when it comes to finding the best medical care for your family. Although it may seem like an impossible feat, you can find a doctor that will work well with you and your children. With just a little research and remaining strong and positive, your children and LGBT family can receive the best medical attention that you deserve.
Photo by UW Health