As Australia’s primary healthcare providers, all GPs can look after all Australians, but choice is available if you prefer a more focused approach
What is an LGBTIQ+ friendly GP?
Australian GPs strive to deliver the very best support for the communities they work in. And while most will be happy to discuss their approach to care of LGBTIQ+ patients, some GPs and practices take pride in offering knowledgable and sensitive services. “An LGBTIQ+ inclusive GP will understand the relationship between sexuality, gender identity and variations in sex characteristics and health outcomes to be able to offer appropriate screening or healthcare for the patient’s needs,” says Zed Tintor, deputy CEO of LGBTIQ+ Health Australia which works to improve the availability and quality of healthcare services for LGBTIQ+ people. As well as ensuring patients feel safe to disclose personal information, LGBTIQ+ inclusive GPs usually make a point of explaining practice policies and systems to uphold confidentiality. “LGBTIQ+ friendly GPs will ensure that their LGBTIQ+ patients have confidence in their practice’s rigour in relation to privacy and confidentiality, particularly where their patient is not ‘out’ to members of their family or the local community,” Zed says.
Do I need an LGBTIQ+ friendly GP?
If you identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans/transgender, intersex, queer and other sexuality, gender or bodily diverse, you may prefer to see a GP with a specific skill set in this area of care. “While some LGBTIQ+ people are comfortable accessing mainstream services, others want or need care and support from practitioners and services that have a deep understanding of their lived experiences, or a specialised understanding of their distinctive needs,” Zed says.
Supporting LGBTIQ+ mental health
“LGBTIQ+ people experience worse health outcomes compared to the general population,” Zed says. “These disparities are directly related to stigma, prejudice, and discrimination due to being part of LGBTIQ+ communities.” Australian and international research shows the impacts of not being able to access safe healthcare are enormous, especially for mental health, which can be devastating. “Compared to the heterosexual population, LGBTIQ+ people are more likely to have depression, anxiety, be diagnosed with a mental health disorder, have suicidal ideation, engaged in self-harm and/or have attempted suicide in their lifetime,” Zed says. Even for someone without a chronic health condition, having a trusted GP goes a long way to ensuring that recommended health screenings and immunisations keep you healthy and well.
What about trans friendly GPs and doctors?
Some LGBTIQ+ people have specific health needs and timely care can be particularly vital. “Trans and gender diverse people face long waiting times for gender affirming care,” Zed says. “People with innate variations of sex characteristics may have specialised medical needs and may have experienced medical interventions at an early age that result in trauma and anxiety in medical settings.”
Find LGBTIQ+ friendly GP near me
Traditionally, it’s always been through word of mouth or community organisations, but a new online directory is making it easier to find the right GP for you. DocDir.org.au is a search engine listing more than 700 clinics around Australia. “The list has been developed with nominations from members of LGBTIQ+ communities and self-nominations from clinicians,” Zed says. “LGBTIQ+ inclusive primary care providers tend to be geographically concentrated in urban areas with higher LGBTIQ+ populations, with less access in suburban, rural, regional and remote areas. LGBTIQ+ inclusive providers tend to be in high demand and often have closed books, and/or limited capacity to offer bulk billing.” Still, if you live in a remote or rural area, it’s worth asking if a known LGBTIQ+ inclusive GP can take you on as a telehealth patient.
Will it get easier to find a LGBTIQ+ doctor?
As with all healthcare services, planning, policy and investment begin with data to demonstrate need. And that’s a problem for LGBTIQ+ people and communities who may not be recognised in traditional data collection tools. “Current data collection through national and jurisdictional surveys, including the national census, does not accurately count LGBTIQ+ people and communities,” Zed explains. “This means that LGBTIQ+ communities are routinely excluded or not adequately considered in program development.”
To find a LGBTIQ+GP near you, visit DocDir