10 Ways for LGBTQ People to Protect Our Health
In response to growing concern about healthcare discrimination, Andie Baker, vice president of Howard Brown Health’s Center for Education, Research, and Advocacy, put together an action plan for LGBTQ people to safeguard their health during the current administration.
- Know your rights. State and local ordinances may offer some protections against discrimination. The Illinois Department of Insurance, the Illinois Human Rights Commission, and the Chicago Commission on Human Relations allow consumers to file grievances that may result in investigations.
- Identify legal resources in your area. Howard Brown partners with Legal Council for Health Justice to provide civil legal assistance to people in the Chicagoland area. Other organizations such as Transformative Justice Law Project offer important resources for people who identify as TGNC in Chicago. More information is available at email@example.com or 773.388.8665.
- Keep Detailed Records. Collect the names and titles of those with whom you interact during a healthcare visit. Record the date, time, and places you are accessing care so that you can refer to them later if needed. Having detailed accounts of your experience may be needed if your healthcare provider or agency attempts to deny care based on your sexual orientation, gender expression, or other attributions. In some cases and in some states, discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation is unlawful.
- Do your research. If you or a family member is looking for an affirming care provider, access the HRC Equality Index and RAD Remedy’s provider rating tools. These resources score providers and institutions on their policies, practices, and patient experience and can be used to identify LGBTQ-affirming healthcare providers in your area.
- Seek providers who self-identify as LGBTQ or allies. Promote the services of providers that are affirming. Ask friends and others in your network for referrals. Howard Brown has nine clinic locations in Chicago. We are regularly accepting patients and can help connect you to affirming specialty care providers.
- Prepare for medical emergencies. If you are partnered, but not married or in a civil union, seek legal information about you and your partner’s rights in case of a medical emergency.
- Defend your parental rights. If you identify as LGBTQ and have children, be sure to take documentation with you when travelling, and especially take note of safeguards available when traveling between states.
- Use the legal protections available to you. Illinois has very strong public accommodations protections. In the state of Illinois, you cannot be discriminated against because of your sexual orientation, gender identify or HIV status by a hospital or healthcare organization that receives government funding. The Illinois Department of Insurance has also issued anti-discrimination bulletins impacting LGBTQ rights; e.g., prohibiting discrimination against transgender individuals.
- Speak out against discrimination. Several grant-funded programs and services require healthcare entities to define core patient rights and publicize how patients may lodge a grievance to enforce these rights. For example, the federal Ryan White HIV Program funds entities nationwide that are required to have grievance procedures for patients living with HIV in accessing treatment and support services. In Chicago, patients living with HIV can contact the AIDS Foundation of Chicago or the Center for Conflict Resolution at 866-CARE-212 for additional support.
- Above all, take care of your body. It is critical that LGBTQ people have access to affirming reproductive and sexual health services to meet their unique needs. If you are looking for resources for contraception, pregnancy termination or pregnancy support or other sexual health needs and are in need of advocacy support, organizations across the country are ready to help. In Illinois, the Illinois Caucus of Adolescent Health and ACLU are great resources. In Chicago, the Sex Worker Outreach Project offers legal and other advocacy services for sex workers.
This list was used in part by Bill Daley in the Chicago Tribune, “LGBTQ health care: How to get what you need as concerns rise over new division at HHS.”