This content originally appeared on Beyond Type 1. Republished with permission.
By Julia Sclafani
Everyone should have access to affirming, supportive doctors and healthcare professionals. Unfortunately, knowledgeable, gender-affirming and LGBTQ-friendly medical care isn’t always easy to find.
If you’ve faced stigma or bias or have just felt misunderstood by healthcare providers, you’re not alone. Evidence shows LGBTQ+ people are less likely to visit their doctor despite the fact they have specific health needs and risks–including diabetes.
According to one study, up to 39% of transgender people face harassment when seeking routine healthcare. Beyond harassment, many patients find themselves contending with “trans broken arm syndrome”—where healthcare providers assume, consciously or unconsciously, that any medical issue must be directly related to a transgender patient’s gender identity.
If your provider is making you feel uncomfortable or if you’ve been avoiding going to the doctor because you don’t trust them to give you the care you deserve, you don’t have to settle. There are better options out there—and it’s becoming increasingly easier to find them thanks to growing resources.
Take Advantage of Telehealth
Telehealth has been around for a while, nonetheless, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the number of doctors and types of services that are now routinely available.
While not all medical evaluations or routine check-ups can be done virtually, many can.
Telehealth can make it easier for YOU to get the healthcare you need. Meeting with your HCP virtually can eliminate commuting, time spent waiting, childcare needs, missing too much work, and other obstacles that come with getting to a physical location. It can also help settle some nerves you might have about discussing gender identity in person.
In fact, having easier access to your healthcare team via telehealth could also help you reach your A1c and overall management goals, as research suggests.
If you have a reliable and secure internet connection and privacy, you can make the most of many types of doctor’s visits from wherever you are.
Luckily, telehealth is becoming more commonly used in diabetes management and endocrinology.
Finding Gender-Affirming Care
OutCare offers a nationwide directory of “healthcare providers who identify as culturally competent in the care of the LGBTQ+ community” in the United States.
This can be a great place to start, and you might connect with a primary care provider or endocrinologist who truly understands and respects you.
If local providers aren’t available to you or you don’t feel comfortable making changes to your diabetes management team, look for providers who can support you and your health in other ways.
Consider specialty telehealth practices that cater to the LGBTQ+ community. These practices tend to focus on sexual health and gender-affirming care, though some, like FOLX Health, offer virtual primary care. QueerDoc and Plume Health are examples of telehealth practices focused on sexual health and gender affirmation.
It is worth noting that many specialty telehealth practices don’t accept insurance and operate on membership or fee-per-service basis, though sliding scale pricing can be an option.
These resources can help you expand your healthcare team so it includes providers you feel truly comfortable with. Being able to openly discuss aspects of your health and life is a must for a person with diabetes—because nearly every part of life can impact your blood sugars. And of course, because you deserve to feel fully seen and supported regardless of your gender identity.
Online Support and Resources
Peer support and online communities are great tools for connecting with others who can relate to your experience.
OutCare offers free online classes and sessions—everything from yoga and mindfulness to virtual support groups.
Other online support communities serving LGBTQ individuals include:
Spart*a: An advocacy organization for trans and gender-diverse active-duty and veteran service members.
Trans and Gestating Support Group: A bimonthly, doula-led support group that meets via Zoom.
Trevor Space: An online community connecting LGBTQ young people (ages 13-24) all across the world.
Asperger/Autism Network: An advocacy organization that offers online support groups and other live event resources for LGBTQ+ people with autism.
Beyond Type 1 and Beyond Type 2: Online communities to connect with people with diabetes.
There’s still such a long way to go when it comes to helping people within the LGBTQ+ community get the support and care you need. You deserve a healthcare team that respects you and acknowledges your full identity. Don’t give up!