Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D. and Wesley C. Davidson

When Your Child Is Gay

Why Don't Doctors Ask LGBT Kids About Their Identities?

Be sure the doctor is LGBT-friendly.

Posted Nov 07, 2017

Many doctors do not have frank discussions with LGBT patients so they are unaware of their patients' total medical needs. Yet those patients may feel isolated due to bullying, and they may have eating disorders, substance abuse, and have even contemplated suicide, but don't want to tell their parents for fear they will not only worry them but also disappoint them.

A young adult may be reluctant to divulge his/her sexual orientation to a doctor for fear that his parents will find out they have been tested for STDs or HIV. However, in every state, a minor can be tested for STDs without a parent's permission and a doctor is not obligated to share your son or daughter's health reports with a parent unless he or she believes the child is going to harm himself or herself.

But where do you find a doctor for your LGBT child who will take into consideration the child's identity as an integral facet of his self? Where can the child find a doctor that he can trust to safeguard his privacy and not feel as if he is being talked about behind his back?

There are no federal laws that specifically prohibit discrimination against LGBT individuals citing "religious freedom" as their rationale for not doing business with those individuals. Doctors receive little training in medical school on caring for LGBT patients. Consequently, doctors are less aware of the LGBT's population's unique health concerns.

A study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association showed results of the LGBT Medical Education Research Group at Stanford University of Medicine that surveyed medical deans in the United States and Canada. It found that only one-third of schools allotted no time at all to curriculum devoted to topics such as gender identity, coming out as gay and disparities in health access for LGBT patients. And the majority of medical schools devoted only five hours to teaching about LGBT concerns. However, nearly all medical students were taught to ask patients about the gender of their sexual partners.

Parents want the best total care for their children. But because of the failure of medical schools' curricula to incorporate material about the specific needs of gender and sexual minority patients, it may be harder to find a LGBT-friendly doctor.

With references, it's not impossible, however. 

  • A good place to start is GLMA (Gay and Lesbian Medical Association). It has a directory of LGBT-friendly online doctors.
  • Ask for referrals from a LGBT Center or your local LGBT Chamber of Commerce.
  • Is there a LGBT parenting group near you such as PFLAG? Ask parents in that group if they have any suggestions.

To interview doctors, find out if:

  • They have experience with LGBT children.
  • Can you get references from other families?
  • They have done any research about LGBT children in straight families.

Once you have located a doctor, have your LGBT child talk to him and see if he is comfortable with the doctor and would feel at ease confiding in him.

It is important to remember that this doctor is his and that you are not entitled to know about the conversations between the two of them as well as the tests the doctor conducts. However, as a concerned parent, you should know if he thinks the doctor is a good fit for him.

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