Health awareness

LGBTQ+: Starting a conversation with a health care provider

Dr. Alix Casler suggests ways for LGBTQ+ individuals to find supportive care

June 14, 2023

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pride flag and stethoscope

For LGBTQ+ patients, it can be difficult to share and discuss your sexual orientation and gender identity with a health care professional, but there are some details they might need to know.   

Dr. Alix Casler — a pediatrician, director of medical affairs, and mother of three children who are members of the LGBTQ+ community — shared her insights to help guide conversations with a health care provider for people who might not know where to begin.  

Finding a safe, accepting space for LGBTQ+ care 

Casler, also a member of our Rainbow Alliance Employee Business Resource Group (EBRG), suggests doing some research and making sure it’s a good fit before deciding on a health care provider.  

“There’s no easy way to gauge a doctor’s familiarity with LGBTQ+ care, but one way to find a safe, accepting space in your community is to look for pride flags or ribbons,” Casler said. “Providers sometimes might wear rainbow ribbons on their badges to let you know they’re either members of the community or allies. However, it’s not always that easy, and patients may need to do their own research to find a supportive provider.” 

Casler said it’s vital to be 100% transparent with a trusted health care provider because the people treating you should know as much as they can to help give the best care possible.  

“This is the person who’s responsible for helping you take care of your physical and mental health in an individualized, personal way,” Casler said. Someone might be wondering, ‘Should I come out to my doctor?’

"You owe it to yourself to find a provider that you're comfortable asking anything and telling everything. There's no question that's inappropriate for you to ask in choosing the right provider for you."

–Dr. Alix Casler

Well-being involves mental health, too 

Caring for your mental health is so important. According to the U.S. Census, adults who identify as LGBTQ+ have reportedly higher symptom levels of anxiety and depression than adults who do not.  

“Some people in the LGBTQ+ community could be facing mental health issues due to fear of rejection, fear of violence or fear of being exposed when they’re not ready to be exposed,” Casler said. “When you’re not ready to be open, just the stress of covering up who you are could lead to depression or anxiety.”  

Casler said finding a mental health counselor who understands the stresses associated with covering and importance of psychological safety is paramount for LGBTQ+ individuals’ mental health care. 

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“I always want to help families understand a little bit more and help parents become allies and advocates for their kids.”

–Dr. Casler

“Resources are available and can be identified through trusted organizations in your local community like your local Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) chapter or nationally through non-profits or public health agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to make the right decision regarding your health.” 

How Merck supports the LGBTQ+ community  

While there has been great progress when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights, there’s still work to be done — and our company is proud to play a role in achieving those goals.