Want to Know Gender Identity? Ask Away, Patients Say

Want to Know Gender Identity? Ask Away, Patients Say

Most people seem comfortable with their health care providers asking about their sexual orientation and gender identity, a new study finds.

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The finding comes on the heels of earlier research that indicated many health care providers believed that such questions would offend patients.

The new study involved nearly 500 patients being seen for the first time at three Mayo Clinic sites in Minnesota. They were given either routine intake forms or forms that included questions about sexual orientation and gender identity.

The questions included:

  • What sex were you assigned at birth on your original birth certificate? (male; female; or choose not to answer)
  • What is your current gender identity? (male; female; female-to-male/transgender male/trans man; male-to-female/transgender female/trans woman; gender queer/neither exclusively male nor female; additional gender category/other; or choose not to answer)
  • Do you think of yourself as: lesbian/gay/homosexual; straight/heterosexual; bisexual; something else; don't know; or choose not to answer
  • What is your preferred gender pronoun? (he/him; she/her; something else; or choose not to answer

Among patients who were asked about sexual orientation and gender identity, 97 percent said they didn't mind being asked those questions.

The researchers said that finding out about patients' sexual orientation and gender identity is important in order to reduce health disparities among LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex) patients.

"Our results should help ease the concerns of providers who want to deliver the highest-quality care for their patients but may not ask sexual orientation or gender identity questions for fear of distressing or offending their patients," study co-author Joan Griffin said in a news release from Mayo Clinic, where she's a health services researcher.

Griffin said the findings may apply "to relatively similar areas in the country, especially the Midwest, but there may be differences in other regions in the U.S. or by cultural groups that we did not capture in our sample."

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The researchers suggested that health care institutions that ask sexual orientation and gender identity questions should tell patients why they're collecting such information and also explain their nondiscrimination and privacy policies.

The study was published March 9 in the journal Health Services Research.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information on LGBT health.


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