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After going to the doctor for routine blood work, North Carolina resident Kristina Rodriguez read something unexpected in her medical history: “Lesbianism” was not only noted on her chart, but it was also listed under “problems” as a diagnosis.
Rodriguez, who has gone to the same doctor since she was 10, told local station WSOC-TV that she’s always had positive experiences with the staff. “I don’t think he had any ill-intent with putting it on there,” she said, “but I truly don’t know.”
In North Carolina last year, an ordinance to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity was nullified. As the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) found in 2016, the Carolinas Healthcare System also does not include gender identity or sexual orientation in their non-discrimination protections.
However, in a statement, the Carolinas Healthcare System acknowledged that sexual orientation is not a clinical diagnosis (it was removed from the DSM in 1973) and said that it will work with HRC to ensure best practices:
Carolinas HealthCare System recognizes optimum care depends on strong relationships between doctors, care teams, and patients. To that end, our physicians and care teams seek information to help them understand as much as possible about patients, their families, and their lives to treat them holistically. Health care providers everywhere are working to better understand the best way to include information in the most sensitive and respectful way to each patient. Like other providers, we are continuously working to improve our process and have work underway to enhance our efforts to appropriately collect patient information in accordance with industry best practices guided by the Human Rights Campaign.
Sexual orientation is not a clinical diagnosis and we will be working closely with our physicians and providers to ensure that information included in medical records is appropriate, respectful and consistent with our belief in the importance of diversity. We strongly support diversity and inclusion in all our interactions with patients, the public and our teammates, including creating an affirming environment for LGBT patients and their families.
While Rodriguez hopes her doctor’s intentions weren’t bad (a spokesperson told her it was done to keep staff from refering to her partner as her “husband”), she does note how distressing it is to come out to a doctor in an intimate setting and for them to treat sexual orientation as an illness.
“This, listed as a medical problem, could really set someone back, could mess with their self-esteem and could make them think something is wrong with them,” Rodriguez told WSOC-TV.
Marissa Higgins is the editor of Green Matters. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, Slate, Salon, NPR, and elsewhere.