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Why is it important to tell my doctor I’m gay or trans?

When your doctor knows about your sexual orientation and gender identity, he or she can give you even better health care. Your doctor can ask you specific questions about your sexual practices and know what kinds of tests he or she should run. For example, if a woman is regularly having sex with other women, then the doctor can talk to her about safer sex methods between women. If a person is regularly having anal sex with men, then the doctor will be more likely to give that person an anal pap smear for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). If you are taking hormones, then your doctor can be sure not to prescribe something that will react badly with testosterone or estrogen.

A good doctor will also keep in mind STD screening and treatment, hormone levels, what language to use with you (like the word “partner” or “girlfriend” or “boyfriend” or your preferred gender pronouns), counseling, cancer risk, parenting, depression, alcohol use, smoking and violence. The bottom line is that the more your doctor knows about you, the better health care he or she can provide.

You may be afraid to come out to your doctor if you’ve had bad experiences coming out to other people in the past. But if you can muster the courage to come out to your doctor, you will be able to have a more open conversation about your behavior and your health risks.

If you are sure that your doctor would not react well, then take the time to research gay– or lesbian-friendly or trans-friendly doctors in your area. You can get help from the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association website.

As with any doctor, if you think you aren’t getting the best health care, then switch doctors. This is always your right as a patient. Also, the more you learn and the more educated you are as a patient, the more you can advocate for your health and proper and respectful health care.

It is also important for medical providers to have information about who you want involved in your health care. You can tell a doctor that you have a “family of choice” or a preferred emergency contact for them to call in case of an emergency. If you aren’t specific, they may call your blood relatives or not allow your partner to visit you in the hospital. Also, be sure to ask what papers you need to sign to make this a legal request.

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