Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity






by Dawn Anderson LPCCS

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) is the medical format for incorporating what we commonly refer to as LGBTQ information about those we serve in the medical community. The acronym LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning or queer. Sexual orientation describes the attraction a person experiences to others, whereas gender identity is that person’s internal sense of who they are. Best said by a dear friend of mine, Tristan Vaught owner of Transform Cincy, “Sexuality is who you go to bed with, gender is who I go to bed as.”

In healthcare, collecting this information is an important sector of understanding a person, the same way that we ask about their early life experiences, support system, or educational history. For some people, each of those questions would give more insights into how to best support and work with them more than other questions. By collecting data on gender and sexual identity as well as relationships, we can better understand their lives and the of value those sectors of personhood.

A second reason that we collect SOGI data is to provide respectful care. Knowing the proper title and pronouns to use when addressing someone is a way to demonstrate respect and honor them as an individual. Some ways you can incorporate this into your daily life might be introducing yourself first with your name and pronouns, or by using gender neutral pronouns if you are unsure of someone’s pronouns. We use this model more than we commonly think of, such as if I find a lost phone, I would say “someone left their phone here,” and that is the same for “this guest is here for their appointment.” By demonstrating this level of knowledge with those we serve as well as colleagues, we can create a safer work community for everyone with inclusion.

Sexuality is also valuable context in the way we actively show up against heteronormativity in our world. If I ask about my patient’s relationship, I want to make sure I am respecting them by referring to the important people in the lives appropriately. If a coworker tells me they have a child, I wouldn’t likely assume it’s a son. Similarly, if a coworker refers to their spouse, I shouldn’t assume their gender either. It helps to use the same words other use to refer to their significant others. (ex. Husband, wife, partner, son, daughter, child).

When it comes to asking questions, it’s important to consider if I would ask this question to any general person, if not, am I asking for the benefit of the person I’m talking to or my curiosity? If the latter, there are ways to do research and learn more that are more respectful than asking someone I don’t know well. Some resources to learn more include or