Recently, I helped Gus find a new doctor — he’s an adult now and can no longer see our family pediatrician.
We always had pretty good luck choosing pediatricians; they’ve been accepting and respectful of our family dynamic. Of course, we chose them the same way many parents do: we ran down a list of providers that took our insurance and chose the one that was closest to where we lived.
But LGBTQ+ families shouldn’t have to rely on luck when choosing a doctor who is a great fit for their family. Thankfully, there are a growing number of resources to help our families make the right choice.
Ellen Kahn, the senior director for programs and partnerships at the Human Rights Campaign, worked with the American Academy of Pediatrics to create a list of resources for doctors. It covers a wide range of AAP policy statements on topics from promoting the well-being of kids with gay parents to best practices for office-based care for queer youth. They also offer resources for families, including topics about gender identity.
But what steps can parents take to determine which pediatrician is best for their child and family?
Well, I had an opportunity to speak with Dr. Molly O’Shea, M.D., FAAP, about it. She’s a pediatrician, consultant, and parent coach based in Birmingham, Michigan. She knows a thing or two about the topic.
She told me, “Look at the practice website and social channels. How the pediatrician and practice present themselves to the world is how they will support you. If you see no representations of gay families, gender-neutral pronouns, or other evidence of public support that may be a red flag. It doesn’t mean that individual providers can’t offer you the very best care, but the system they are working in may not be completely supportive of who you are.”
Parents, she suggests, should interview the practice. Tailor your questions to your family’s specific needs. Don’t be afraid to ask about the provider and staff. Ask if they think the practice is “tolerant, accepting, or embracing” of LGBTQ families. Let them decide which adjective best describes the team.
“If families have a transgender child or are transgender themselves, ask about how they have supported other families with this background. If they have not yet had any, ask about what makes them interested and willing to care for your family,” she added.
Most importantly, Dr. O’Shea suggests, “Listen to your gut. You know when you have found a good fit.”
For all of our good luck, we did have one bad experience with a pediatrician; when Gus was in first grade, our regular doctor was out because of an emergency, and we met with one of his colleagues. This older gentleman wasn’t the warmest guy but, whatever, it was a one-time visit. Then he did it: he asked, “what does mom think?” We politely skirted around the question. He, however, kept coming back to it repeatedly. Finally, Kelly frustratedly barked, “I’m the mom!”
I sought Dr. O’Shea’s advice about what LGBTQ+ families should do if they have a bad experience with a provider. She said, “No matter who you are, being treated with respect and dignity and having your needs met in a care setting is the priority. When someone treats you poorly anywhere, sharing that experience with them is an opportunity for growth.”
Hopefully, Gus’s new adult doctor will be as caring and attentive as his pediatrician. At least he won’t have to explain which of his parents is the “mom.”