American Academy of Pediatrics: How pediatricians can help LGBT youth

The American Academy of Pediatrics have long supported and encouraged hospital environments to be both accepting and helpful to LGBT youth. The AAP issued its first statement on “sexual minority teen health”  in 1983, with revisions in 1993 and 2004.  Just a few weeks ago they released a new policy statement that included language based on extensive research that showed 84% of open LGBT teens reported verbal harassment, 30% were physically assaulted and 28% dropped out of school and stigmatization and parental rejection were very common among LGBT teens.  

This new policy statement offers a wide range of suggestions for how pediatricians can better serve lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.  It urges pediatricians to “create teen-friendly offices that are welcoming to sexual minority youth, strive to obtain a comprehensive psychosocial and sexual history and, perhaps most importantly, work to avoid biased language that implies that all patients are heterosexual”.  

The AAP policy statement also serves as a reference and includes examples for doctors, teaching them how to establish a good relationship with LGBT patients by using gender-neutral language when discussing sexual history, partners, friends or relationships.  The policy encourages pediatricians to, for example, ask a teenage girl, “Are you having sex”?” instead of “Are you and your boyfriend having sex?”.  The AAP wants their doctors to use more inclusive language like, “Tell me about your relationship,” instead of using binary terms like boyfriend or girlfriend.   

The statement says pediatricians should work to break down barriers between LGBT identified youth and their parents because they understand the importance of acceptance from one’s family, especially for people so young.  The AAP’s new extensive efforts offers doctors the tools to help facilitate conversations that can often be very difficult, between parents and LGBT youth.   

The policy statement also addresses health disparities for transgender youth, and urges pediatricians to encourage patients to discuss their sexual identities, feelings and concerns. Transgender teens need support and affirmation, the policy states, and doctors can provide education and referrals for transition.

Pediatricians are also pushed to ask LGBT students about the inclusivity of their schools, regarding available support groups for LGBT students, inclusive and effective anti-bullying policies and potential resources for their future endeavors.  The AAP wants such things to be recommended to their LGBT patients and even to the school the student attends if it does not already exist.  

The American Academy of Pediatrics is setting a positive example for the rest of the world to follow regarding LGBT health concerns and patient care.  Their efforts are appreciated and very important as we move forward towards LGBT equality.