HealthLinks Charleston May/June 2022

32 | www. Char l es tonPhys i c i ans . com | www.Hea l thL i nksChar l es ton . com This undersupply swells in rural South Carolina, where there are fewer providers. Filling a persisting gap in care experiences, members of the LGBTQ community have resorted to circulating directories of medical and mental health care support they have identified as safe. The Alliance For Full Acceptance has created one for South Carolinians on its website at While feeling safe to disclose sensitive information is necessary for everyone to access adequate care, the risk varies among patients. “The LGBTQ community isn’t a monolith. Even within the community, you have all sorts of different experiences,” said Glenn. “As with any minoritized community, those living at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities, their experiences can be compounded even more as far as the discrimination they face and barriers to access and care.” Beyond the doctor’s office, Glenn emphasized the detrimental impact on health of other forms of discrimination, such as housing and employment. These stressors can compound in minority communities and affect an individual’s health. “The community is at risk,” said Glenn. “Our trans community in particular is especially vulnerable: higher rates of HIV and STIs, high rates of victimization, high rates of suicidal ideation, depression and anxiety,” said Glenn, additionally noting “higher rates of breast cancer among lesbians; higher rates of alcohol, tobacco and drug use among the LGBTQ community broadly. LGBTQ youth are especially vulnerable.” When health care cultures are not conducive to disclosing the context LGBTQ patients exist in, valuable knowledge can be lost. Many providers are not collecting sexual orientation and gender identity patient information. “If you don’t know this basic information about patients, then you are missing a very important piece of their health profile,” said Glenn, urging those interacting with patients to have these conversations. As a transgender man at 43 years old, Glenn himself has never once been asked by a provider and has always had to volunteer the information. It can be asked for on an intake form, but there are many ways offices can signify being a safe place, such as badges worn by staff or marketing materials and advertising of LGBTQ-specific services in the waiting room. “Starting with what happens before physicians even open their mouths is the most important part to helping patients get that confidence,” agreed Dr. Mike Guyton, medical director of the Prisma Health Division of Adolescent Medicine, otherwise known as “Dr. Mike.” In his position, Dr. Mike conducts clinical care, educational outreach and patient and community advocacy. He leads with nonverbal cues, having stickers of the pride, trans and straight-alliance flag on the window of the office. “Those are a signal to those who it’s important to that this is a safe place, that this is a place where you know that as soon as you walk through the door, you are entering an open, safe, nonjudgmental space,” said Dr. Mike. At Adolescent Medicine, physicians and staff practice language with their patients that demonstrates awareness and models communication. Team members introduce themselves with their personal pronouns, giving patients an opportunity to introduce themselves that way and start the conversation of their experiences or, if they don’t know what pronouns are, creating an opportunity to teach. Extending education to patients, practicing physicians and the community, on April 7 and 8, MUSC presented its inaugural LGBTQ+ Health Equity Summit. The two-day virtual, free-toattend event brought thought leaders together to disseminate knowledge and increase awareness of health care and equity, covering topics such as trans mental health and how families can support their LGBT youth. From the work of Glenn, Dr. Mike and teams allied with their mission, system-level changes and individual actions are coalescing to create safe spaces for the LGBTQ community and an improved health care system that better addresses the nuances underlying patient care needs. LGBTQ HEALTH CARE By the Numbers 51% reported their partner not being treated like family by their health care providers. 50% of non-cisgender respondents reported their doctors don’t know their gender identity. 41% of respondents said their doctors didn’t know their sexual orientation. Source: Alliance For Full Acceptance. More than ONE-THIRD of all respondents felt like doctors didn’t know the answers to their questions.