OT practitioners can take steps to make a big difference in the accessibility and safety of their practice for LGBTQ+ clients.
Many LGBTQ+ patients believe that their healthcare providers should know about their sexual orientation and gender identity. (7, 11) Intake forms that allow individuals to declare their legal name, a different name that they go by, pronouns, gender identity, gender assigned at birth (physiological sex), and sexual orientation enable all patients to disclose as much or as little information about their identities as they see fit.
The Fenway Institute's patient registration form is an excellent example of inclusive paperwork.
If you are unable to change the paperwork used at your practice,
we recommend the use of Q Cards, cards that fit in a wallet and
allow clients to discretely tell their providers about their sexual
orientation, gender identity, and other important sensitive information.
These cards can be ordered online, and we recommend that you keep
some in your clinic and make them available to clients. For more
information, visit www.qcardproject.com.
Because the LGBTQ+ community is the most common target of hate crimes in the United States (5), many LGBTQ+ people are constantly looking for signs of safety (or lack thereof), including in healthcare settings. Adding environmental signals of LGBTQ+ safety to a clinic or office sends the message that it is a place where LGBTQ+ people are welcome and safe to come out to practitioners and staff.
Displaying brochures on LGBTQ+ health topics shows that you are aware of LGBTQ+ health issues and that you are open to talking about them.
LGBTQ+ Safety Symbols
Display symbols of LGBTQ+ safety, such as a “Hate Free Zone” rainbow sticker, or a Safe Zone sticker after completing Safe Zone Training. A small sign can make a big difference in how safe your LGBTQ+ clients feel in your clinic or office.
Gender Neutral Restrooms
Gender neutral (unisex) restrooms are important for
transgender people's health and safety, and serve as
environmental cues of LGBTQ+ inclusion and awareness.
Display non-discriminatory policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Cultural Awareness Education
Why is LGBTQ+ cultural awareness important for healthcare providers?
Many LGBTQ+ individuals avoid seeking healthcare services for fear of receiving culturally incompetent or inadequate care, which exacerbates the health disparities that LGBTQ+ populations face (7).
Many LGBTQ+ individuals have reported negative interactions with clinicians, citing cultural incompetence and even hostility and harassment on the part of the providers (7, 16).
LGBTQ+ patients frequently find themselves educating healthcare practitioners on their medical needs (23).
Improving LGBTQ+ cultural awareness among healthcare providers can lead to better communication and better outcomes for LGBTQ+ patients.
Click here for LGBTQ+ cultural awareness resources specifically designed for healthcare providers, educators, students, and more.
Understanding and recognizing intersectionality is an important part of cultural awareness. For information on intersectionality, click here.
Language is also an important part of cultural awareness. Language is constantly evolving, and terminology can be controversial. The best way to know how to refer to someone is to ask, and to use the words that they use to describe themselves.
"Vanessa Goes To the Doctor," a lighthearted educational video by the National LGBT Cancer Network, highlights the importance of inclusive paperwork and cultural awareness in healthcare.
A restroom sign at Goddess and the Baker in Chicago
For more information on creating safe clinics and working with LGBTQ+ clients,
see the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association's Guidelines for Care of
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Patients
This page last updated: 2020