LGBT patients ‘weary and watchful’

September 13, 2013 3:45 PM

Keith Brannon

Going to the doctor has an added layer of stress for many gay or transgendered patients who fear they’ll be treated differently if they’re too open about their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Watchful and weary” are words national LGBT health expert Shane Snowden says characterize the fears many have when going into a vulnerable situation like a hospital. “You are always wondering: ‘Is this going to be OK?’”

Snowden, director of LGBT Health and Aging for the Human Rights Campaign, spoke to students at the Tulane University School of Medicine Wednesday (Sept. 11) about some of the concerns gays and lesbians have about health care and how doctors can address them. A recent HRC survey found that almost a third of LGBT respondents delayed or didn’t seek health care when they needed it and the same percentage felt they’d be treated differently by their doctor.

Snowden also said that physicians don’t always know how to respond when a patient “comes out” to them. Her advice? “(Say) ‘Thank you for sharing that. I know that is not always easy. Is there anything you’d like to talk about in that connection?’ If you just smile and acknowledge, it’s profound.”

The lecture kicked off LGBT Health Week, which begins Monday (Sept. 16). The annual event, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by TOGA (Tulane Organization for Gays and Allies) and includes programming to educate the medical and public health community about particular health needs of the LGBT population.

This year’s lineup includes sessions on health disparities facing LGBT patients, inclusive sexual history taking skills, LGBT adolescent and mental health, and provides an introduction to transgender health needs. TOGA will also host a documentary and a breakout session on creating a welcoming workplace environment for LGBT students and clinicians.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 website@tulane.edu