Why is it important to come out to your health care provider?
Coming out to your health care provider is an important step in maintaining your health. To see that you receive the best care possible, your health care provider needs to know who you are. Information about your sexual orientation and gender identity will prompt your provider to ask specific questions about potential risks to your health and offer appropriate health screens.
If you do not feel comfortable opening up to your provider about your sexual orientation or gender identity, ask for another VHA provider. It’s important for you to be able to trust your health care provider.
Tell your provider about the medicines you have taken and the surgeries you have had. Information about your full health history will enable your provider to determine the best treatment for you.
What should I know about coming out at VA?
As a Veteran who identifies as LGBT or with a related identity, you may have faced discrimination or other challenges throughout various stages of your life. For example, some people hear anti-LGBT comments or have had interactions that make them feel unsafe disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity. Others may have experienced discrimination or even trauma when they came out. Some Veterans have faced pressures to hide their identity, particularly during their military service. Others have wrestled with stress in deciding whether and when to come out to family members, friends, or fellow Veterans.
Although coming out may be daunting, hiding your sexual orientation or gender identity is also stressful and can be harmful to your health. VA understands these challenges and wants to help you focus on improving your quality of life. There are resources that can help.
What should I know about VA’s policies toward Veterans with LGBT or related identities?
VA is dedicated to being a leader in health care for LGBT Veterans and provides high-quality care in a sensitive, respectful environment, including support and resources for: mental health challenges; tobacco/alcohol/substance use; sexually transmitted infections; prostate, testicular, colon, anal, breast, ovarian, cervical, and uterine cancers; and fitness and heart health. In addition, VA’s patient care policy prohibits discrimination based on personal characteristics including sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.
It is important for you to know there are VA policies that protect your rights as a Veteran with an LGBT or related identity. You cannot be denied services or benefits at VA because of your identity.
If I come out to my provider, will this information be shared?
No. Your conversations and the information you share with your VA provider are confidential. You can also ask that this information not be entered into your medical record. However, medically necessary information, such as a diagnosis, must be included in your medical record to ensure that your providers have a complete picture of your health and that you are receiving the best care possible.
Finding a provider you are comfortable with is essential to your health and wellness. If you are not comfortable with your VA provider or do not feel you are being provided compassionate care, please contact your facility’s Patient Advocate and/or the LGBT Veteran Care Coordinator.
What health issues should I know about as a Veteran with an LGBT or related identity?
Studies have shown that Veterans with LGBT or related identities are at an increased risk for elevated levels of stress. This stress can increase the risk for certain mental and physical health conditions.
As a group, Veterans with an LGBT or related identities have elevated rates of the following behaviors and conditions that can affect their health:
- Smoking, problem drinking, and substance use
- Anxiety, trauma exposure, and depression
- Sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV infection
- Some cancers
Veterans with an LGBT or related identity can also face forms of bigotry and discrimination that can cause the loss of employment, housing, child custody, or physical or sexual assault. These challenges and events can also lead to stress and anxiety, as well as social withdrawal and low self-esteem.
Take the next step: Make the connection
Every day, Veterans connect with proven resources and effective support for overcoming their challenges. If you are facing issues that are interfering with your physical and mental health and well-being or your relationships, work, or the activities you enjoy, reach out for support. Consider connecting with:
- Your health care provider: It is important to find a doctor you are comfortable with to discuss your physical health.
- A mental health professional: A therapist or counselor can help you explore your symptoms and ways to address them, as well as your overall mental health.
- Your local VA medical center or Vet Center: VA provides information, guidance, and education to its providers about LGBT health issues. Search state-by-state to find a LGBT Veteran Care Coordinator at a facility near you.
Explore these resources for supporting LGBT Veterans.
Learn more about what you can do if you are facing stresses, challenges, or health issues: