Moving to a new city can be a stressful venture. As you settle into your home, the tiny tasks at hand can start to pile up including finding healthcare providers to keep you on the road to a healthier life. While it’s easy to do a quick google search for local primary care doctors or dentists, picking the right physician can mean the difference in getting the right care you need and being neglected on health issues that are important to you.
“We want you to form a really good relationship with your provider so that you can tell them your sexual history, personal history, substance use, and sexual behavior you may think people aren’t encouraging of,” said Jewel Sawyer, a physician’s assistant with AbsoluteCare in Atlanta. “This is your safe place.”
For decades, members of the LGBTQ community have faced discrimination inside doctors’ offices. According to statistics from the National LGBTQ Task Force, 56 percent of LGBTQ individuals have confronted discrimination while seeking medical treatment. A recent survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found that 19 percent of trans and GNC people have been refused care outright because they were transgender or gender non-conforming.
In larger cities across the United States including Atlanta, inclusion in medical practices is becoming more accepted. How do patients find that perfect primary care doctor that is in tune with their medical needs? Sawyer says it starts with word of mouth. “Asking your neighbors, people at your gym, wherever you frequent…who do they see?” she said. “How long have you been seeing them? What do they do that you like or dislike?”
Once the research is done, a patient can now begin vetting a potential doctor before they even stepped foot in an examination room. Practices like AbsoluteCare welcome patients using gender-neutral terms and even take those terms to patient intake paperwork.
“If you walk in and see things are always gendered, ask if there is paperwork that they can make it less gendered. We like to see sexual orientation, gender identity in two parts. What’s your assigned gender at birth and what do you identify as now?” she said.
Sawyer also says the initial phone call to a medical practice can be very telling. “See how the people on the phone address you. Do they say ma’am or sir, or do they just say ‘thank you for calling, how can I help you?” she said. “If they ask about your partner, do they refer them as a husband or wife, or do they use gender-neutral terms?”
In terms of care, AbsoluteCare has a provider for almost every patient need with 14 providers operating at their Atlanta practice, but their primary focus has been providing compassionate, quality care to those living with HIV in Atlanta for nearly 20 years.
“We tend to stick to the metro area to give you the center of where you’ll find the most LGBTQ providers,” said Sawyer. At AbsoluteCare and other medical practices in the metro, the focus continues to be creating a place for open conversation and trust among those in the Atlanta LGBTQ community and for those who will soon call Atlanta home.