By Marea Goodman and Ray Rachlin
Are you queer and pregnant or trying to become pregnant, and don’t know where to find an LGBTQ-ally healthcare provider?
Queer-affirming healthcare is life changing. Though I didn’t know it at the time, my path to becoming a midwife started when I was 21 and entered the youth health program at the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in New York. It was the first time I had a provider that asked open-ended questions about my relationships and was able to address my health concerns without stigma or judgment.
Why LGBTQ-affirming healthcare is important
Pregnancy care is one of the most gendered, heterocentric experiences that exists in our society, and it can be hard to find a place where LGBTQ families and their healthcare needs fit in. In many instances, the medical field just hasn’t caught up to society when it comes to gender and sexual identity. Having a queer- and trans-competent and LGBTQ-ally provider is both a barrier against discrimination and also an opportunity to be affirmed and supported in your journey to becoming a parent.
So how do you go about finding a LGBTQ-friendly/queer- and trans-competent healthcare provider?
Look to community referral networks
The location-based Queer Exchange groups on Facebook, and city- or state-wide family pride organization listservs are often a great place to crowd source queer ally providers. Hearing other people's experiences, both positive and negative, can help you begin finding a pathway.
There are a few LGBTQ health centers in the US that offer prenatal care, like Fenway Health in Boston. If that’s not available in your area, the closest LGBTQ health center to you might have recommendations for providers closer to where you live.
Find yourself a queer doula
Doulas are trained childbirth companions that support pregnant people through the birth process emotionally, physically and spiritually and are statistically proven to improve birth outcomes.
Better yet, queer doulas are knowledgeable about the resources in your community, and can plug into their network to vet healthcare providers so you don’t have to. When it comes time to birth, a doula can hold space for both you and your partner, and develop support and advocacy plans around your needs. Check out the Queer Doula Network or Queer Conception Stories to find someone in your area.
Interview your providers
How do you find out if a provider is LGBTQ competent? Vet them! This is often a great job for the non-gestational parent if you’re in a relationship.
Here’s what to look for when searching for LGBTQ-friendly healthcare providers online:
- Take a look at a provider's website and see what language they use to describe pregnancy: Do they call people mothers or use the term ‘pregnant people’?
- Are there any rainbow flags or signs about being LGBTQ-friendly posted on their website or around their practice?
While it’s not a dealbreaker if they don’t have queer-affirming language or LGBTQ flags posted on their site, it can be a pretty clear sign that they may not be focused on allyship.
Here’s what to ask the front desk administrator when you call for the first time:
- Ask if there are any queer providers on staff.
- Ask if the staff has received any training on LGBTQ care.
- Ask if there is a practice for using a person’s correct name and pronouns if it’s different from their legal name, and if forms have been updated to be gender inclusive.
If the front desk staff is not trained to be able to answer your questions well and with compassion, that’s a sign that the office has not done comprehensive LGBTQ training. There might still be LGBTQ competent providers in that office, but you may experience some challenges when navigating their systems.
Lastly, you can interview providers before beginning your healthcare journey. Some offices will set up a phone call or be happy to schedule a 15-minute in-office interview to answer questions. Other times, you can set up an initial appointment, then start out by saying “I’d like to ask you a few questions to make sure we’re a good fit for each other.”
Here are specific interview questions to ask when meeting with an LGBTQ-friendly provider:
- Ask about their experience working with LGBTQ people. You can ask questions like, “How many patients have you had in the last year who identify as LGBTQ?”
- Ask whether they’ve attended any training on caring for LGBTQ people.
- Ask about their familiarity with using they/them pronouns, gender-neutral language for body parts and not calling people ‘mom’ in labor. Even better? If they ask what your pronouns are right off the bat!
- Ask them to elaborate on how they include partners in care.
- Ask also how they would support you in navigating other care needs/advocacy with other practitioners.
Note the language and tone they use, and whether the provider is open to your questions or answers defensively. If the way a provider answers your questions doesn’t sit well with you, listen to your instincts, and go find somebody else. The most important part of having an affirming care experience is that you feel safe and supported at all times.