Q&A on LGBT Youth: Affirmation in your practice


Question 3: How can we make our clinics a safe space for LGBT youth?

Dr. Chelvakumar: Ensure that ALL clinic staff receive training on culturally affirming care of LGBTQ people. The National LGBT Health Education Center (@LGBTHealthEdCtr) offers some of these resources.

Dr. Montano: Train everyone in the clinic to be sensitive and aware of the needs of LGBT patients; it only takes one person to make a clinical experience horrible for an LGBT person.

Dr. Chelvakumar: To me, culturally affirming care means being aware of the spectrum of identities and experiences of all of our patients/families and being respectful of these identities. I also like the term cultural humility – we must continually learn about these diverse experiences.

Dr. Montano: Remember that if they get upset, these children and teens are not mad at you, they are mad at the situation.

Dr. Chelvakumar: An easy way to show that a clinic is a safe space is to clearly display a nondiscrimination policy, such as “We serve and respect all patients regardless of gender identity, race, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status ... ”

Dr. Montano: Not every LGBT youth will disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity to the provider, even if the clinic appears welcoming. I suggest you begin a conversation with a patient by telling the patient your own pronouns, opening the door to additional conversations.

Dr. Chelvakumar: Many organizations are moving to universally asking questions about gender identity and pronouns. In the pediatric population, this can be difficult given privacy/confidentiality concerns. I usually ask these questions when obtaining my sensitive sexual history.

Question 4: What is gender dysphoria, and how is it treated?

Dr. Montano: Gender dysphoria is the distress related to gender identity that does not match sex/gender assigned at birth. Treat the distress, not the identity. There are many ways to treat gender dysphoria. You can provide social support, use pubertal blockers to prevent the development of secondary sex characteristics during adolescence, and/or use hormones or surgery to develop characteristics of the affirmed gender. And there is no “right” treatment for gender dysphoria. Each treatment is tailored to the needs of the youth.

Dr. Chelvakumar: It is important to recognize that each person’s journey/transition is different. Our job as providers is to help them on the path that will help them live their lives as their authentic selves. This may or may not involve taking medication and/or undergoing surgery.

Dr. Montano: Providers should respect the wishes of those who want to affirm their gender identity that makes sense to the patient and not try to impose their own idea of what transitioning should “look like.”

Dr. Chelvakumar: There are many guidelines that exist for patients with gender dysphoria. The World Professional Association for Transgender Health, the Endocrine Society, and University of California, San Francisco’s Center of Excellence for Transgender Health are all excellent resources.

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