Are You Creating an Environment Where LGBTQ+ People Feel Welcome?
One of the most important parts of creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ folks is basic structural competency. How does interacting with your organization’s website, social media accounts, and online scheduling tools make members of this marginalized population feel? Do they see themselves included in how your organization presents itself? Do they see indicators of your organization’s intent to be LGBTQ+ inclusive? Do your forms avoid asking questions rooted in heteronormative or cisnormative assumptions? Do patients have the ability to share their chosen names? Their pronouns? If a patient is going to interact with your organization face-to-face, details embedded in the physical environment of an institution can have a huge impact. It can either make people feel more comfortable and at ease, or it can make someone tense up, or it can even feel so hostile some folks will choose to leave. Research shows us that negative interactions navigating physical and virtual structures and systems can discourage LGBTQ+ folks from seeking needed medical care, and in some cases it can even break linkage to care. What can organizations do about this?
Small changes can make a big positive impact. The availability of gender-neutral or all-gender restrooms is one thing that makes many LGBTQ+ folks feel more at ease in a new and unfamiliar environment, and this change can be accomplished simply with new signage. Giving patients the opportunity to share information about their sexual orientation and gender identity is another minor adjustment that can vastly improve the user experience. Other minor changes in procedures for staff can create noticeable changes for the better, such as not addressing patients with gendered greeting based on assumptions rooted in the patients appearance or other visual cues. Minor changes in how questions are asked are helpful, too. Instead of asking about a patient’s mother and father on a form, you could just ask for information about their parents. However, these small changes, while impactful, don’t solve the deeper structural competency issues some organizations face.
In addition to our training offerings, the Institute can also provide Structural Competency Assessments. As part of these assessments, our staff will take an in-depth look at your intake and lobby areas, the reading materials you offer, bathrooms, intake forms, organizational policies, your non-discrimination policies, and staff dress codes. Beyond that, we will analyze your online presence, including your website and social media accounts. We will then give you a comprehensive report with in-depth recommendations for improvements. By implementing these evidence-based best practices, you can increase linkage to care for LGBTQ+ folks in your community, and help to improve their health outcomes. If you are interested in learning more about these services, please email Lead Trainer Ramona Peel at firstname.lastname@example.org.