Health care for sexual and gender minority (LGBTTTIQ) women

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What does LGBTTTIQ mean?

LGBTTTIQ is a common acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgendered, two-spirit, intersex and queer individuals/communities. This acronym may or may not be used in a particular community. For example, in some places, the acronym LGBTQ (for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered/transsexual and queer) is more common. We have included LGBTTTIQ to be more inclusive of the diversity within these communities. (For more information see LGBTTTIQ Definitions.)

What barriers can sometimes prevent lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirit, intersex, queer or other sexual or gender minority women from having access to good health care?

There are many barriers that prevent LGBTTTIQ women from gaining access to adequate health care services. Some of these barriers include:

  • homophobia, a fear or hatred of homosexuals, which could result in a health care professional refusing to provide care to an LGBTTTIQ woman;
  • heterosexism, or assuming that everyone is heterosexual;
  • genderism, the assumption that all people must conform to society’s gender norms and, specifically, to only two genders (male and female). Genderism does not include or allow for people to be intersex, transgendered, transsexual, or genderqueer;
  • health care providers who are not trained in the health care needs of lesbians;
  • a bad experience in the past with a health care provider and/or the health care system;
  • disinformation, or misconceptions about the health problems that could affect sexual or gender minority women and the importance of screening tests. LGBTTTIQ women as well as health care providers can have these misconceptions; and
  • as well as all these barriers specific to LGBTTTIQ women, LGBTTTIQ women may face additional barriers from other types of prejudice such as racism and sexism or biases against people living in poverty, or against immigrants.

These barriers can result in poor health care. For example, a health care provider may propose birth control methods to an LGBTTTIQ woman who does not need them. A health care provider may also wrongly believe that an LGBTTTIQ woman does not need to have a Pap test or may not take seriously other aspects of her gynecological and sexual health.

For many reasons, LGBTTTIQ women may feel uncomfortable talking about their gender identity or sexual orientation and worry that their health care could be compromised if they talk about it. They may wait before asking for medical help or they may do nothing at all, which, in some cases, could put their lives in danger.

How can I know whether a health care provider will be able to offer me adequate health care?

Below are a few questions to ask yourself that will help you determine whether a health care provider is open to the health care needs of LGBTTTIQ women:

  • Does the health care provider use inclusive vocabulary that takes sexual orientation into account? If the health care provider asks, “Are you sexually active?” does she/he include the option of answering that your sexual partner is a woman, such as “Is your sexual partner a man, a woman or both?”
  • Does the health care provider provide brochures and resources to patients on LGBTTTIQ health?
  • Does the health care provider have posters that take into account sexual orientation and gender diversity in his/her office or waiting room?
  • Does the health care provider listen to you, respect what you have to say and take this into account when assessing your health care needs?

You are the only one to know when and with whom to share information regarding your intimate and private life.

I am an LGBTTTIQ woman and I am looking for a health care provider. What should I do?

  • Ask an LGBTTTIQ friend for the name of a health care provider she knows with whom you can speak openly and trust.
  • Ask an organization that offers services to lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, two-spirit and queer people in your area to refer you to a health care provider or recognized clinic that provides good health care to the LGBTTTIQ community.

Remember, adequate health care is your right!

Where can I go for more information?

LGBTTTIQ health organizations

Long term care / home care

Sexual & reproductive health

Cancer

For health care providers

Mental health and addictions

Trans people’s health

This FAQ may provide medical information, but is not meant to be a substitute for medical advice. When you have questions about your health, it is always advisable to ask a health care practitioner.

Revised April 2013.