Happy Pride from Movement Systems PT!
By Jill McVey, DPT, ATC
Pride month is in full swing! While you might see rainbow crosswalks, different mulitcolored flags hanging in windows, and joyous celebrations, the LGBTQA population has not yet achieved equity in this country. This group still faces employment and housing discrimination, problems with access to medical care, social stigmatization, and violence.
You can help by being an ally, whether you work in healthcare or not.
An ally is a heterosexual and/or cisgendered person who supports equal civil rights, gender equality, and who challenges sexual and gender phobia. This goes beyond simply feeling compassion for others — allies take concrete actions to end discrimination.
Healthcare is an important arena to focus your attention as an ally. Sexual and gender minorities report a higher incidence of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal behaviors, with rejection by family and harassment by peers as strong contributing factors.
According to a Center for American Progress study, up to 10% of sexual minorities, and up to 30% of gender minorities face disturbing levels of discrimination, including being turned away from care. As a result, LGBTQA individuals less likely to seek health care services in the first place.
What can you as an ally do to change these numbers?
- Educate yourself! Learn and correctly use inclusive language. Do you know the difference between sex and gender? Can you start to eliminate gendered language from your vocabulary? More terms are found here: https://www.nextavenue.org/5-ways-to-be-an-lgbtq-ally/
- Notice if your doctor or therapist uses inclusive language and asks inclusive questions on their intake paperwork. Do they ask for your pronouns or use other inclusive language? If not, speak up! Tell them you want to see all individuals cared for the way you are.
- Spread the word. Did you find a great yoga instructor or therapist who works to create an open, safe space for all? Shout them out on social media or give them a five star review so others can find them too. Word of mouth is powerful.
- Help to change the laws. Progress is slow, but it can speed up if you contact your local, state, or federal representatives to let them know that you won’t tolerate discriminatory laws or policy. If you have the financial ability, consider donating to advocacy groups such as PFLAG or the ACLU. As an ally, you likely have more power in society than minority groups; your voice can be powerful in affecting change. Use it!
If you work in the health and/or fitness profession, you can take many actions to make your workspace inclusive and welcoming to all:
- Learn the laws and how they might impact your patients. For example, does your patient’s spouse or partner have the legal right to make medical decisions for them?
- Use inclusive language on your intake forms and in your verbal communications. Customize your intake forms. Use gender-neutral terms such as significant other or partner rather than husband or wife. Ask your patient if they are in a relationship rather than if they are married, and include your patient’s partner in their care the same way you would for a heterosexual/cisgendered couple. Recommendations for and samples of inclusive patient intake forms are available at https://fenwayhealth.org/ and http://www.glma.org/_data/n_0001/resources/live/Welcoming%20Environment.pdf
- Provide visual cues that your office is a safe space. Post a non-discrimination policy which includes sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression, in clear view in your waiting area.
- If you use an electronic documentation system which only includes binary language, start a campaign to change it! Submit a support ticket every single day and ask your colleagues to help. It’s easier to use inclusive language and support your patients when your documentation system does too.
- List your practice on the GLMA (Gay and Lesbian Medical Association) Provider Directory; see http://glma.org/ for details.
- Include your own pronouns in your email signature line. Here’s some info about pronouns: https://www.peps.org/about/Pronouns
- Educate your coworkers and colleagues so they can become allies too. Together we can make a huge difference!
Want even more information?
- Dig into ally-specific FAQ here: https://www.kent.edu/lgbtq/common-ally-questions
- …or here: https://assets2.hrc.org/files/assets/resources/Supporter_Guide_April_2014.pdf?_ga=2.99881118.1857015767.1559572813-538206608.1559572813
- …or specifically, being an ally in medicine: https://www.straightforequality.org/healthcare
- …including communication recommendations for your patients and clients: https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/population-care/communicating-lgbtq-patients
- …or simply improve your own understanding of the experience of trans and gender noncomforming individuals: https://www.nextavenue.org/transgender-older-adults/
Happy Pride Month! Let’s keep the advocacy as well as the celebration rolling all year long!
Jill McVey, DPT, ATC is asexual and agender and an ally for all people.