Often, members of the Queer community have had negative experiences with doctors or other health professionals. They may have faced heterosexism, transnormativity, homophobia, or discrimination. This can to be the point where the fear of stigma and discrimination causes members of the community to avoid getting medical care because they are not sure what kind of treatment they will receive.
Finding a doctor that is both knowledgeable and supportive can also be a challenge. Often, health care professionals who may be supportive may not know how to best navigate doing so, or may lack the knowledge on how to best provide service to members of the queer community.
The information below is in two parts. The first is a list compiling the queer-affirming doctors within the Lethbridge Area, that is regularly updated by people submitting information via the Rate my Doctor Page. The second is a general guide to help individuals navigate in seeking and evaluating whether health care professionals, including doctors, are queer-affirming and supportive. This guide does contain some great information, but it is by no means exhaustive. Only you can know for yourself who can provide the best support for yourself, and it is important to trust your instincts with deciding who will provide health services to you.
Dr. Janine Karpakis
901 3rd Avenue S, Lethbridge, AB
Dr. Mark Horne
103-2049 Mayor Magrath Drive S, Lethbridge, AB
Dr. Jillian Demontigny
4900 44th Street, Taber, AB
Dr. Mark Musk
30 Jerry Potts Boulevard W, Lethbridge, AB
Dr. Rozemin Kizuk
210-740 4th Avenue South, Lethbridge, AB
It is a great idea for queer individuals to do research on the healthcare provider before making an appointment. This can help provide reassurance on whether a specific clinic or healthcare location has included queer-supportive components into their system. Unfortunately, some businesses and locations may stick a rainbow flag on their site and their business door and claim to be queer-friendly but don’t actually have the supportive knowledge or programming in place to support their claim to be a safe place.
Visit the provider’s website
Take a close look at the language used on the provider’s website. Unless they’re talking about someone specific, a provider shouldn’t gender their services. Instead of directing people to “women” services, a queer-friendly provider will use ‘pregnant person’ or ‘someone who menstruates’ instead as to not gender those experiences.
Many queer folks will call out if a healthcare provider is exceptionally welcoming — or not — in online reviews. These can help provide a sense of the quality of care provided. Keep in mind reviews aren’t always reliable, though. They can be dated or misleading. But if there’s a particularly egregious review about how the doctor approached or treated someone based on their identity, that’s a big red flag.
Call the front desk
A telltale sign that a provider isn’t queer-friendly is when the front desk unnecessarily uses gendered lingo, assumes your pronouns or sexuality, or otherwise questions your identity. Progressive providers have ensured that their staff have undergone special training to work with queer individuals, as well as creating the space for queer individuals to feel welcomed. You can even ask the staff member if they and the provider are trained in queer client work.
Questions to ask
- Do you have a nondiscrimination policy? A provider committed to providing equal opportunity care should have an anti-discrimination policy to protect employees.
- Does this doctor regularly work with [insert identity marker(s) here], or would I be one of the first? Whether you want to be one of the first patients with your identity your provider has seen is up to you, but it’s a useful question.
- Does your facility have gender-neutral bathrooms? Even if they don’t, how the employee responds is often telling.
- Do any queer employees work on staff? Not every workplace will, but if they do it’s a good sign. While providers are patient-first organizations, it’s important that the staff members also feel affirmed and comfortable being out at work.
Look at a digital patient form
Most facilities can email you intake and first-visit paperwork before your appointment if you request it. Check to see what options are given for gender identity marker and whether there’s a place to list your preferred name and your legal name.
Your doctor’s office should be a safe space to explain anything they may need to know in order to take excellent care of you, including various aspects of your identity. When they ask what brought you in to see them, that’s a great time to lead with statements that include aspects of your identity, including sexual history, gender identity, use of pronouns, and more.
But remember, regardless of how well you self-advocate, the onus is on the doctor to navigate the situation properly and provide superb support.
Here are some signs your doctor is committed to providing great queer-inclusive support:
- They ask what your pronouns are, or if you tell them before they ask, they use the correct ones.
- If they mess up your pronouns, they apologize.
- They ask assumption-free questions such as, “Are you in a relationship?” rather than, “Do you have a husband?”
- They also don’t assume things after you express your identity, such as thinking you’re there for STI testing just because you are bisexual.
- If their body language and/or facial expression change when you mention your identity, it’s only in affirming ways, such as nodding and smiling.
- They admit when they don’t have the answers. “You don’t want the person who is like, ‘I know everything’. You want someone who knows when they have to ask a colleague,” Dr. Torres says. As an example, Dr. Torres, who doesn’t have many transgender patients, tells those undergoing hormone therapy that she will discuss their care with an endocrinologist.
it is normal for medical professionals and doctors to make mistakes. But assessing how they navigate their mistakes and work towards being accountable and improving can help you understand how supportive they are of providing clear supports for queer individuals.
If your medical provider does do something that makes you uncomfortable, you might freeze up and not know how to respond. That is completely understandable. If you feel safe enough, you can try to advocate for yourself in that moment.
You can try correcting them by saying “I actually don’t date men” or, “As I mentioned, my pronouns are ‘they/them.’”
Depending on how comfortable you feel being direct, you can also straight up say something like, “That was extremely unprofessional.”
If you don’t feel you’re in a position to speak up but you want to leave, do or say what you need to in order to get out of there. Maybe it’s exiting the room instead of changing into a dressing gown and proceeding with an exam, or even pretending you got a text and need to attend to work immediately. Whatever you need to do is valid.
If they do make a mistake, and are supportive, look for signs of correcting their mistakes, apologizing, and being contrite.
If they do make mistakes, or otherwise do not provide queer-affirming support, you have the right to leave, and to relay your experience to others. If you feel you have experienced discrimination or homophobia within the doctor’s clinic, you can also look into making complaints with the Human Rights Commission of Canada, as discrimination against individuals based on sexuality and gender identity is not permitted.
Regardless of what is taking place, you have the right to a safe and secure place for your health needs to be met.