Delivering Identity-Affirming and LGBTQ-Competent Eating Disorder Care
Ensuring that your practice is a safe, identity-affirming and LGBTQ-competent place for patients is the first step in delivering high-quality care for this patient population. Members of the LGBTQ community have an increased risk of developing an eating disorder compared to their heterosexual and cisgender peers. They are also more likely to experience barriers to care. Without treatment, eating disorders can have serious psychological consequences and lead to severe medical complications like bradycardia and refeeding syndrome.
Leave Assumptions About Who an Eating Disorder Patient Can Be Behind
There are many stereotypes and assumptions surrounding who an eating disorder patient is. Typically, eating disorder patients are assumed to be young, white, heterosexual, cisgender and female. To provide adequate care to your LGBTQ patients, you’ll need to leave this mindset behind. Eating disorders can affect anyone regardless of age, race, sexual orientation or gender identity. Providers should be open to diverse patients and their experiences.
Make Sure That Intake Forms, Screening Measures and Any Documents Used in Your Practice are Identity-Affirming
Make sure your forms are inclusive and allow your patients to adequately describe their gender identity and sexual orientation in full. Include space for your patients to share their pronouns, and make sure to reference it before assuming by appearance what you think a patient would prefer.
Recognize and Validate the Impact of Stigma and Discrimination on Health
LGBTQ+ patients experience unique barriers to care and social determinants of health that impact both their mental and physical health. Bullying, lack of community or family support, trauma, legal discrimination, increased levels of poverty and homelessness, stigma, higher risk for suicidality – all these indirectly impact LGBTQ+ patients’ health and access to care. It’s crucial to understand the entire patient and their circumstances. If possible, connect your patients with organizations or resources that can help mitigate these factors, as they have a sizeable impact on your patient’s outcome and long-term health.
Be Open to Ongoing Learning
Acknowledge that building a relationship with your patients and delivering the highest quality of care requires ongoing effort and education. Educating yourself on LGBTQ culture and history, as well as how other facets of someone’s identity can intersect with their LGBTQ identity can give you are more well-rounded view of your patients, their barriers to care and their needs. Seeking guidance, training and consultation on LGBTQ affirming care allows you to keep learning and cultivating a safe space for your LGBTQ patients.
Show Visual Signs of Being an LGBTQ-Affirming Provider
Being an open and public supporter of the LGBTQ community can help make patients feel safe and equal. Wear or include symbols in your practice that promote a safe space for LGBTQ patients. If you have posters, brochures or other medical pamphlets, make sure these items include representation of LGBTQ individuals.