Addressing Attitudes, Beliefs and Biases
As underlined early in this module, the LGBTQ+ community experiences significant health disparities, including higher rates of depression, anxiety, suicidality, tobacco use, and substance use disorders.
An important way for physicians to reduce disparities is to recognize and address their own biases. We need to acknowledge that we are all vulnerable to biases. The most detrimental response is to deny or avoid our biases because they make us feel uncomfortable. In contrast, the only way to “change our thoughts and behaviour is to acknowledge our biases, become curious about them, and practice ways to transform them” (National LGBT Health Education Center, 2018).
When we notice prejudicial attitudes and beliefs arise in ourselves, we should pause and really consider:
- why do I hold these beliefs?
- how do these beliefs serve me?
- how might it benefit me and others to change this perspective?
The National LGBTQIA Health Education Center provides two exercises to assist health care professionals to reduce implicit bias.
Individuating is the process of focusing on specific information about an individual, as opposed to categorizing someone based on their social, racial, or other group belonging. The example used by the LGBT Health Education Centre is
“when we learn that a new patient is a transgender man, do we only think about his gender identity and when he transitioned, or can we think about how he is new to town and started working at the local library? “
Consider how assumptions can be set aside in order to get know a person just as they are right now.
In contrast, perspective-taking involves taking another person’s viewpoint intentionally. For example, try to imagine what it might feel like to be this particular patient who is LGBTQ+.
- What might this person be worried about?
- What might they be anxious about?
- What are they looking for?
- What might they be hoping to receive from me?
*Source: National LGBT Health Education Center. (2017). Learning to address implicit bias towards LGBTQ Patients: Case Scenarios. Boston, MA. Available at http://www.lgbthealtheducation.org/publication/learning-to-address-implicit-bias-towards-lgbtq-patients-case-scenarios/