Maintaining a physician workforce that’s inclusive of LGBTQ+ doctors is crucial to the well-being of patients within the LGBTQ+ community, as well as setting an example for medical students that can help address biases they may have against LGBTQ+ individuals.
In healthcare settings, 20% of trans and gender nonconforming patients are denied access to treatment, while close to 50% have had to educate doctors about their care.
This Pride Month, we’re recognizing doctors like Rachel Levine, MD, the assistant secretary for health in the Department of Health and Human Services and the first openly transgender official to be confirmed by the US Senate.
June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month: A time to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots that prompted the ongoing fight for queer liberation across the US. Month-long celebrations honor LGBTQ+ individuals of all walks of life—including doctors.
In fact, LGBTQ+ doctors have paved the way for queer patients to receive better healthcare, while serving as role models for medical students who may have biases toward queer individuals.
Research has shown that in healthcare settings, 20% of trans and gender nonconforming patients are routinely denied access to treatment, while just under 50% have had to educate their own doctors about the care that they require.
There are also recorded incidents of physical abuse for 2% of such patients.
The physicians responsible for these improvements in health equity—on top of the daily grind of clinical practice—deserve to be seen. We’re celebrating Pride Month by highlighting three such doctors.
Chase T.M. Anderson, MD, MS
Chase T.M. Anderson, MD, MS, is a Black, gay pediatric psychiatrist who writes about the value of community healing for minoritized individuals.
According to an article written by Anderson and published by Wbur.org, lesbian, gay, and bisexual high school students attempted suicide at a rate 4.5 times higher than their straight counterparts in 2015. The attempted suicide rate that year for transgender individuals was 40%.
Anderson also wrote that suicide rates have risen among Black children as a result of the spike in hate crimes. Similarly, Asian Americans have dealt with an increase in depression and anxiety because of pandemic-related racism against them.
A key remedy for such discrimination, he wrote, is community care. He experienced this first hand with the help of friends, and wants other disenfranchised folks to do so, as well.
“They taught me that being African-American and gay were beautiful aspects of my entire self, and that I was so much more than I ever dreamed possible,” Anderson wrote about his friends.
"Not only am I lucky enough to be working with kids around their mental health struggles and coming to terms with their identity, but I’m also writing about minority stress and collaborating with others to hopefully reach those who need to know, like I did, that they are never alone. "
— Chase T.M. Anderson, MD, MS
Rachel Levine, MD
Another physician very worthy of mention is Rachel Levine, MD, a transgender woman who’s made strides to address the opioid epidemic in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic—all while advocating for LGBTQ+ individuals.
As mentioned in an article published by Heart.org, Levine worked as a pediatrician, researcher, teacher, and Pennsylvania health secretary before becoming the assistant secretary for health in the Department of Health and Human Services. She made history as the first openly transgender official confirmed by the US Senate.
At the center of Levine’s work is her fierce dedication to provide healing to those who need it. Unafraid to use her position to bolster the efforts of queer liberation, she champions health equity in her community.
"I am very pleased to advocate for the LGBTQ community in terms of health equity and equality and fairness."
— Rachel Levine, MD
“And I feel that I have been able to do that in Pennsylvania," she added. "And I'm able to do that nationally now.”
Dr. Crystal, MD
Dr. Crystal is an openly lesbian family medicine and sports medicine physician who aims to educate the public about healthcare topics on platforms like YouTube.
With over 18,000 YouTube subscribers, Dr. Crystal creates content about doctorhood with “a day in the life”–style videos, the steps she took to become a sports medicine doctor, and the science behind the athletic injuries she treats.
In addition to talking about more general medical topics, Dr. Crystal openly shares her fertility journey with her partner—another doctor named Heather—on her channel.
“We wanted to share this journey with you guys in hopes that, well, one, you’ll find it interesting,” she said in her video, “Lesbian doctors share their fertility journey part 1.”
“Two,” she continued, “hopefully to help other people who are maybe in the same position.”
LGBTQ+ Pride Month is a time to honor and commemorate the long-fought struggle for queer liberation.
Doctors who fall under the LGBTQ+ umbrella play an instrumental role in achieving and maintaining high-quality healthcare provided to queer patients.
They also may help medical students deconstruct harmful implicit and explicit biases toward queer individuals by serving as positive role models.
While significant political progress has been made for queer individuals since Pride initially started in 1969, there is a great need for more trans and gender nonconforming doctors who can speak to the needs of patients of similar identities.
What this means for you
Physicians who identify as LGBTQ+ have been significant advocates for providing quality healthcare to traditionally underserved queer patients. Consider how you work with such patients, and if there are additional considerations to take into account with their care.