Is It Okay To Ask: Transgender Patient Perspectives on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Collection in Healthcare

Acad Emerg Med. 2017 Jun;24(6):655-667. doi: 10.1111/acem.13182. Epub 2017 May 8.


Objective: The National Academy of Medicine and Joint Commission recommend routine documentation of sexual orientation (SO) and gender identity (GI) in healthcare to address lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) health disparities. We explored transgender patient-reported views on the importance on SO/GI collection, their willingness to disclose, and their perceived facilitators of SO/GI collection in primary care and emergency department (ED) settings.

Methods: We recruited a national sample of self-identified transgender patients. Participants completed demographic questions, survey questions, and free-response comments regarding their views on SO/GI collection. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics; inductive content analysis was conducted with open-ended responses.

Results: Patients mostly self-identified as male gender (54.5%), white (58.4%), and SO other than heterosexual or LGB (33.7%; N = 101). Patients felt that it was more important for primary care providers to know their GI than SO (89.1% vs. 57%; p < 0.001); there was no difference among reported importance for ED providers to know the patients' SO versus GI. Females were more likely than males to report medical relevance to chief complaint as a facilitator to SO disclosure (89.1% vs. 80%; p = 0.02) and less likely to identify routine collection from all patients as a facilitator to GI disclosure (67.4% vs. 78.2%; p = 0.09). Qualitatively, many patients reported that medical relevance to chief complaint and an LGBT-friendly environment would increase willingness to disclose their SO/GI. Patients also reported need for educating providers in LGBT health prior to implementing routine SO/GI collection.

Conclusions: Patients see the importance of providing GI more than SO to providers; nonetheless they are willing to disclose SO/GI in general.. Findings also suggest that gender differences may exist in facilitators of SO/GI disclosure. Given the underrepresentation of transgender patients in healthcare, it is crucial for providers to address their concerns with SO/GI disclosure, which include LGBT education for medical staff and provision of a safe environment.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Transgender Persons / psychology*
  • Truth Disclosure