Your LGBTQIA+ patients need more than rainbows.

Your LGBTQIA+ patients need more than rainbows.

How to avoid rainbow-washing in health care settings.

Pride Month is a chance to center and celebrate LGBTQIA+ communities, but rainbow-washing—when businesses virtue signal with rainbow imagery—has become a trend in recent years. It’s bad enough when food and retail corporations rainbow-wash their logos during Pride without actually supporting queer communities, but when it occurs in health care settings it becomes even more problematic. How can we better understand this issue, and more importantly, what are the ways we can prevent it?

Cultural competence vs. Pride flags.

Putting up a flag or wearing a Pride pin is an excellent way to show patients that you’re an ally. But being committed to cultural humility and responsiveness is more than signage, it’s ensuring your organization is a safe space for LGBTQIA+ patients.

As nearly a sixth of LGBTQIA+ patients have experienced discrimination in a health care setting, it’s no wonder that some individuals opt to skip preventive care altogether. Those who need routine care don’t have this option. B Harriman, a speaker and advocate for TGNC and LGBQ+ youth and adults, explains “Being a person living with any chronic illness or pain is hard. Navigating these issues as a TGNC person is even harder. I have gone to appointments where clinicians can’t look me in the eye,” B recalls. “I have overheard physician assistants preparing doctors for what I look like in the hallway before they see me. I have been ignored and disregarded. Not believed about symptoms and not trusted about what I need.”

Health disparities within LGBTQIA+ communities have been well documented and many care organizations have expanded their initiatives to support LGBQ and TGNC patients. However, in some cases, rainbow-washing may be an oversight that happens despite good intentions. Nicole Kass Colvin, Manager of Coordinated Community Responses at Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence writes about learning from her mistakes when working to make her program more inclusive:

“I added rainbow logos to our materials, and promoted at trainings and meetings that we served all survivors. However, what I hadn’t done before slapping rainbows on making sure everyone was thoroughly trained and vetted staff on cultural competency, partnering with LGBTQIA+ run organizations, or assessing what resources and referrals in the community were safe and unsafe. As a result, folx were misgendered, dead names were used, support group curricula all said ‘For Women’ bold on the cover, and services were delayed while we took time to vet resources. LGBTQIA+ folx were not given the level of service of their straight counterparts, something that likely caused additional trauma.”

Supporting LGBTQIA+ patients.

We know you want the best for your LGBTQIA+ patients. In order to make a meaningful impact, allyship must be followed through with a commitment to cultural competence. This requires getting your team on the same page, and making sure they’re prepared to care for LGBTQIA+ patients by understanding their needs, values, and the extreme pressures they face.

But how do we measure the ability to provide inclusive care? Lived experience is often the sole measure of cultural competency, but there are many exceptional providers delivering inclusive care based on past training or educational courses. Conversely, providers who consider themselves to be proficient working with certain communities may not realize that there’s more for them to think about when delivering care.

Violet Benchmarks take into account various types of experiences, interests, and provider’s own belief of their abilities. This allows for a standardized understanding of inclusivity in providers.  

Hospitals and health systems are now beginning to use Violet Benchmarks on public provider directories, so that patients have the agency to choose the provider that’s right for their intersecting identities. 

Once benchmarked, providers can begin on a personalized learning pathway designed to address knowledge gaps in cultural responsiveness in an intuitive and engaging way.

Our curriculum includes:

  • A foundational understanding of physical and mental health factors specific to LGBQ and TGNC communities, the minority stress framework, and the impacts of social determinants of health. 
  • Getting LGBQ and TGNC patient perspectives through case vignettes and audio diaries.
  • How to facilitate an inclusive intake process through trauma-informed, culturally sensitive frameworks.

Pride Month should be celebrated, but truly supporting your LGBTQIA+ patients is a commitment that lasts all year long. To learn more about Violet Benchmarks and our continuing education pathways, book a demo today.

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