Learn some of the best practices on LGBTQIA+ terminology and compassionate care for all patients from Natalie Yousef, OMS-II.
By Natalie Yousef, OMS-II, CHSU-COM
Avoiding discrimination and providing compassionate care requires education on inclusive terms, risks for those within the queer community, and how to properly care for those individuals. Understanding how to approach LBGTQIA+ patients when asking difficult questions is part of building patient trust.
Here are some inclusive and important terms to be aware of:
- LGBTQIA+: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual. Other acronyms may be preferred by specific groups and individuals. When in doubt, choose more inclusive acronyms.
- Ally: A term used to describe someone actively supporting LGBTQ+ people. It encompasses straight and cisgender allies and those within the LGBTQ+ community who support each other (e.g., a lesbian who is an ally of the bisexual community).
- Homophobia: The fear and hatred of or discomfort with people attracted to members of the same sex.
- Implicit Bias: A negative attitude, of which one is not consciously aware, against a specific social group. It is thought to be shaped by experience and based on learned associations between particular qualities and social categories, including race and/or gender.
- Gender Binary: A system in which gender is constructed into two strict categories: male or female. Gender identity is expected to align with the sex assigned at birth, and gender expressions and roles fit traditional expectations.
- Nonbinary: An adjective describing a person who does not identify exclusively as a man or a woman. They may identify as both a man and a woman, somewhere in between, or neither. Nonbinary can also be an umbrella term encompassing identities such as agender, bigender, genderqueer, or gender-fluid.
- Gender Expression: External appearance of one’s gender identity, usually expressed through behavior, clothing, body characteristics, or voice, which may or may not conform to socially defined behaviors and characteristics associated with being either masculine or feminine.
- Sexual Orientation: An inherent or immutable enduring emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction to other people. Note: an individual’s sexual orientation is independent of their gender identity.
- Sex Assigned at Birth: The sex (male, female, or intersex) that a doctor or midwife uses to describe a child at birth based on their external anatomy.
Incorrect assumptions can alter advice given to patients, resulting in non-relevant information being provided (i.e., explaining the importance of contraceptives in preventing pregnancy when pregnancy cannot occur). Instead of making assumptions, here are some tips on verbal and nonverbal communication.
- Use appropriate terminology and practices to include LGBTQIA+ individuals
- Use they/them when referring to a patient’s partner instead of gender-specific pronouns
- Watch your tone of voice, pitch, and volume when discussing sexual health or practices