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Coming out to your doctor: The benefits of being yourself

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Benefits of being openAm I right to have concerns?Finding a healthcare professionalHaving an open conversationMore help and adviceSummary
Telling a doctor about your gender identity or sexual orientation can help you receive the healthcare you need and the respect you deserve.
Medically reviewed by Francis Kuehnle, MSN, RN-BC
Written by Charlotte Parker
Updated on

Whether you’re looking for healthcare related to your sexuality or gender, or you simply want acknowledgment for being the person you are, finding a doctor who’s supportive and knowledgeable about LGBTQIA+ and gender diverse issues can be very validating.

However, not everyone needs or wants to come out in a social or healthcare setting. The choice is a personal one, and it’s yours to make.

Benefits of being open about your sexuality and gender in healthcare

aAdult male being examined by a female healthcare professional possibly wondering do I need to come out to my doctor?
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Being open and honest with a healthcare professional can be a great way to help you receive the care you need. This article outlines some of the main benefits.

Feeling respected for who you are

Once a doctor or healthcare professional knows about your LGBTQIA+ status, they can adapt their service to make you feel comfortable, safe, and respected. Not all healthcare professionals may know about LGBTQIA+ matters, but if they know that you identify as such, then it should mean the following:

  • Healthcare professionals may be less likely to ask inappropriate questions that assume something about your sex, identity, or sexual or romantic partner(s).
  • Staff and healthcare professionals may refer to you by your correct name and pronouns, even if your medical records don’t display these.
  • Medical professionals can consider referring your care to doctors with experience supporting LGBTQIA+ communities.

Access to LGBTQIA+-specific healthcare

Some prescription medications can be particularly helpful for people in the LGBTQIA+ communities. Examples include:

  • Preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP): Preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) can significantly reduce the risk of contracting HIV.
  • Gender-affirming hormone therapy (GAHT): A 2023 research review showed that this therapy may reduce symptoms of depression and psychological distress for transgender and nonbinary people.

If you’d like access to these medication types, you’ll need to explain to the doctor why you think the medication or therapy might help you, and this may naturally involve coming out to them.

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Better general, tailored healthcare

People in LGBTQIA+ communities may be at a greater risk of experiencing specific health conditions and health-affecting situations, including:

  • substance misuse
  • sexually transmitted infections
  • violence
  • cardiovascular disease
  • depression
  • stress
  • mental health conditions
  • HIV
  • cancer
  • obesity

If you tell a healthcare professional about your sexual orientation or gender identity, they may make a proper diagnosis of your symptoms and give you the healthcare you need.

Am I right to have concerns about coming out to my doctor?

The answer to this question is sometimes yes. While many healthcare professionals are conscientious and try to treat their patients equally, a 2022 study suggested that LGBTQIA+ people may be significantly more likely to experience discrimination in the healthcare system(s) in the United States. This is particularly true for people of color.

In 2015, the American College of Physicians made its policy statement supporting the equal healthcare rights of LGBTQIA+ people. The American Medical Association also supports this.

However, findings from a 2020 Center for American Progress survey revealed that around 15% of LGBTQIA+ people in the United States, increasing to almost 30% among transgender people, postponed or avoided medical care due to discrimination.

Finding a healthcare team that can care for you how you deserve is still important, and many healthcare professionals can provide that care.

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How to find a healthcare professional that’s right for you

Finding the right healthcare professional can be an exciting step for LGBTQIA+ people, and it can open the door to compassionate and inclusive medical care.

Here are some tips that might help:

  • Ask local LGBTQIA+ people whether they can recommend healthcare services.
  • Online resources can help you find various healthcare options in your area.
  • Feel free to voice privacy concerns to healthcare staff. They’re there to safeguard your confidentiality.
  • If you ever feel uneasy or experience disrespect, know it’s OK to say “No” and ask for a different doctor.

Evaluating healthcare professionals

  • A professional’s website can tell you a lot. Check whether digital patient forms include options for gender identity and preferred names. Inclusive language is a good sign.
  • Reading reviews can give you a feel for their approach to LGBTQIA+ care.
  • Pay attention to how the front desk staff communicates. Inclusivity in language matters.
  • Ask professionals about their nondiscrimination policies, experiences with LGBTQIA+ patients, and facilities like gender-neutral bathrooms. Their reaction toward you asking these questions and their answers can tell you a lot about their attitudes.
  • Trust your instincts when evaluating a professional, and prioritize finding a healthcare professional you’re comfortable speaking with.

How to have an open conversation with a doctor

Once you find a healthcare professional that you trust, here are some tips for that first conversation:

  • Approach it confidently: Treat disclosing your sexual orientation or gender identity as a straightforward fact. Healthcare professionals may handle diverse personal information daily, but it may be harder for the doctor to accept what you say if you seem unsure. Finding an understanding doctor can make the process easier.
  • Use pronoun indicators: Tools like pronoun badges or directly stating your preferred pronouns can help indicate your gender identity.
  • Prepare a questions list: Write down important questions, such as inquiries about HIV prevention or GAHT, to ensure you cover everything you intend to during the appointment.
  • Take it one step at a time: While telling a doctor information relevant to your healthcare can benefit you, there’s no need to tell them everything about yourself if you don’t feel ready. Be patient and kind to yourself.
  • Have support with you: Consider bringing a trusted friend, family member, or partner to the appointment. Introducing your partner or using their pronouns can be a subtle way to come out.

Finding more help and advice

Here’s a list of just some of the many nonprofits that provide advice and support to LGBTQIA+ people:

  • National LGBTQIA+ Health Education Center: The National LGBTQIA+ Health Education Center provides comprehensive resources and webinars for healthcare professionals and LGBTQIA+ people.
  • OutCare: OutCare is an online resource that offers health advice and a healthcare professional search facility for LGBTQIA+ people.
  • The Trevor Project: The Trevor Project offers crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBTQIA+ young adults, and they can direct you to additional health resources.
  • Gay and Lesbian Medical Association: If you need a directory of healthcare professionals, the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association’s commitment is to help you find the right one that creates a welcoming environment for LGBTQIA+ people.
  • Planned Parenthood: Planned Parenthood provides extensive sexual and reproductive health information for LGBTQIA+ people, including a chatbot that allows you to ask questions.
  • Please PrEP Me: Please PrEP Me is a service that helps locate professionals prescribing PrEP based on your ZIP code.
  • Out2Enroll: If you need health insurance, Out2Enroll can assist LGBTQIA+ people and allies in finding health insurance coverage, focusing on Affordable Care Act plans and gender-affirming care.


Sharing your gender identity or sexual orientation with your doctor can lead to more personalized healthcare and the respect you deserve.

Finding a doctor who’s supportive and knowledgeable about LGBTQIA+ matters can be incredibly validating, whether it’s for healthcare needs related to your sexuality or gender or just to get acknowledgment for who you are.

Remember, the decision to come out in healthcare settings is entirely yours, and it’s a choice that should feel right for you.

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