According to a 2016 Gallup poll, approximately 4.1% of the US adult population self-identifies as belonging to the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans) community, with millennials being more than twice as likely as any other generation to identify as LGBT (7.3%). Unfortunately, there is a long history of anti-LGBT bias in healthcare which is a significant barrier to access for many.

Members of the LGBT community are at higher risk for many health challenges including smoking and other addictions, sexually transmitted infections, unintended pregnancy and mental health concerns. Discrimination, coupled with a lack of quality care, is likely the biggest driver of significant health disparities in this population.

To help understand how access to primary care affects the LGBTQ+ community, Bridgercare gathered more information about the medical needs of LGBTQ+ people in Montana.  A survey of 43 Montanans who identified as LGBTQ+ found that 63% of respondents didn’t feel the last healthcare worker they saw adequately addressed their gender or sexuality and 55% indicated a low level of comfort with the medical staff.  Survey comments included:

  • “My experience was made worse by their lack of awareness of queer experiences/medical needs and obstacles.”
  • “They didn’t really address my sexuality.”
  • “It was better when they didn’t act as though my sexual orientation was something horrendous.”
  • “I believe that there should be more openness regarding the LGBT+ community when it comes to healthcare. Yes, there are clinics specialized to our needs, but it doesn’t extend into inpatient services.”

Another survey of 67 Montana healthcare professionals revealed that 48% hadn’t ever received education/information about LGBTQ+ health issues, 53% did not feel confident in their ability see trans patients and 87% wanted to learn more about trans care.

Ensuring patient access to essential healthcare, especially for those facing particular barriers, is a fundamental organizational value for Bridgercare. Hence the LGBTQ+ Healthcare Ally Training was conceived. Working with key community partners including staff and volunteers from Bozeman Health, the Diversity and Inclusion Student Commons at MSU, Dr. Kathryn Lowe, and members and allies of the local LGBTQ+ community, this training seeks to increase access to effective healthcare for persons who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans (LGBT) or who identify with other sexual orientation or gender minorities (Q+).  We include an experienced healthcare provider and a healthcare consumer-patient from the LGBTQ+ community as facilitators in each training when possible.

The Healthcare Allies Training:

  • clarifies relevant LGBTQ+ vocabulary
  • facilitates activities around privilege, bias and identity
  • creates a safe environment to empower personal investment in LGBTQ+ issues
  • provides resources for Best Practices in LGTBQ+ affirmating medical care
  • and trains on how to conduct an LGBTQ+ inclusive medical visit

After the training, we provide ongoing support to identify strategies to make the clinical environment a safer space. This includes updating forms, identifying gender neutral bathrooms, and identifying decor that reflects diversity of sexualities, and ensure they have the resources and knowledge they need to continue developing as a healthcare ally.

If you are interested in bringing this training to your clinic or taking it as an individual, please contact Bridgercare’s Community Outreach Specialist, Cami Armijo-Grover, at (406) 587-0681, ext. 113 or carmijo@bridgercare.org.