It’s hard for a parent to really know what goes on in their child’s doctor’s office. Even a minor, WITHOUT PARENTAL CONSENT, by state laws, has access to:
• STI and HIV Services
• Mental Health Services
• Drug or Alcohol use Treatments
Take your teen to the pediatrician and before the visit is over, you are asked to leave the room while the doctor asks your child questions in private. What does the doctor want to know that you are not privy to?
It has been documented that LGBT youth have a hard time confiding to their doctors when the supposed health care providers presume they are heterosexual. Or the doctors are judgmental once they know their patient is LGBTQ and treat them with bias.
In order for your LGBT child to get the best total care, the doctor should realize that LGBT children/adults have health disparities:
• Over ½ of LGBT adolescents report disordered eating behaviors.
• Recent study showed higher risk of pregnancy among LGBT youth. (identity and behavior don’t always align.)
• 60% of youth with HIV don’t know they are infected. (The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends testing all youth at least once by the age of 16-18 regardless whether they report sexual activity).
• There are low rates of HPV vaccination for all teens and preteens.
Not only are teens not hearing enough about sexual health at their check-ups, but they are not being asked by their doctors open-ended questions that will lead to better communication, reduce fear of discrimination, such as:
• Tell me more about the types of people you are attracted to.
• How comfortable are you in your identity? What makes you feel that way?
• Do you see positive examples of LGBTQ people/relationships around you?
• How does your family/community talk about LGBTQ people?
• How do others treat you at school? Do you feel comfortable there? Are you bullied? It is estimated that 84% of LGBT youth have been verbally harassed at school, 1/3 of LGBT students drop out of school at some point due to violence, and 65.3% had been sexually harassed, according to a National Survey of LGBT youth. LGBT youth are 4 to 5 x more likely to attempt suicide and 50% of transgender youth have attempted suicide.
Many doctors are not trained to look for these health disparities resulting from social stigma, family rejection or school violence. If your child is not comfortable talking about his identity and revealing his true self and has trouble raising concerns about his social development, medical and physical changes, you might consider switching doctors. You can find gay-friendly doctors on the hrc.org. site.http://www.hrc.org.
When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know
For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.