Martha S., a storyteller in VA, shares her experience accessing reproductive health care as a member of the LGBTQ community.
The first time I talked to a healthcare provider about being queer, they casually suggested my family might cut me out of their lives (forever) and reminded me that was their choice to make. I had gone to see the provider to deal with newly occurring panic attacks. Shockingly, this “insight” didn’t help.
Quality healthcare encompasses so much more than it has been reduced to, it has always been, and should always be, about building a relationship with your patient and so that clear and respectful communication can be achieved. Without effective communication, the healthcare practitioner can not fully address the problem, and the patient can not begin to trust the guidance being offered. This matter is of particular significance for the queer community, a population that is often subjected to harassment, violence and judgement, and also a lack of resources and support structures to both empower and protect the community.
The Joint Commission noted in their field guide for “Advancing Effective Communication, Cultural Competence, and Patient- and Family-Centered Care for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Community (2014)” that, “The role of effective communication and patient-centeredness in providing safe and high-quality health care to diverse patient populations is well accepted. Effective patient–provider communication has been linked to an increase in patient satisfaction, better adherence to treatment recommendations, and improved health outcomes.”
The queer community needs to feel empowered and financially able to pursue quality healthcare, not just when they need it, but also on a regular basis (if possible) to get prevent more serious health concerns. The healthcare practitioners who work for Planned Parenthood know from the moment they join this organization that there is an incredible amount of judgement and misinformation surrounding the work that they do, and they commit to this work in spite of those facts. I have found the staff members at Planned Parenthood to be kind, professional, and frank. (Shout out to my nurse who immediately recognized my zodiac sign from my chart.) I think working at Planned Parenthood brings out the staff’s humility and empathy, as well as desire to push past outdated social mores and focus on the task at hand: ensuring you are healthy, happy, and well educated on how to stay that way. Sliding scale payments, confidential appointment scheduling and billing, excellent staff, and enough free condoms and dental dams to keep your drag bingo cards filled for decades, are just a few of the ways they accomplish that task.