Many people have a complicated relationship with their OB-GYN. Gynecology appointments are often a dreaded necessity. For queer people, that appointment is often fraught with fear of discrimination, cis-heteronormative assumptions from providers and past negative experiences that can delay a patient's readiness to reschedule.
A 2021 survey published in the Medical Science Educator found that of the 105 OB-GYN residents in Illinois training programs who responded, 50 percent felt unprepared to care for lesbian or bisexual patients, and 76 percent felt unprepared to care for transgender patients.
The study suggested that those doctors feeling well-equipped to provide care for lesbian or bisexual patients were associated with attending a university-based program, working in a hospital without religious affiliation and which year of their residence training they were currently in.
Receiving inadequate training for LGBTQIA+ affirming healthcare was part of the reason residents felt ill-equipped to care for them. Sixty-three percent of respondents stated their programs dedicate only one to five hours per year to lesbian/bisexual healthcare and transgender healthcare training. Ninety-two percent of respondents indicated they wanted more education on how to provide affirming healthcare.
While this study was small, it's no surprise that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) notes that lesbian and bisexual women face barriers at the gynecologist regarding confidentiality, disclosure and discriminatory attitudes from providers. Sexual minorities, such as lesbians and bisexual women, are also more likely to delay care and less likely to have a dedicated place of care.
"Negative experiences at the doctor's office literally kill us," said Hannah Locke, M.D., F.A.C.O.G., an assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology for Indiana University. "LGBTQ people have higher rates of cervical cancer than the general population, and we know this is because they're getting screened less often."