Health unit adopts “positive space” policy

Tara Jeffrey

A move by Lambton Public Health to adopt a ‘Positive Space’ policy is welcome news, advocates say.

“The need for a positive space is absolutely needed, and it’s great that Lambton Public Health is stepping forward,” said Kendra Druiett of Sarnia-Lambton’s Transgender Support Group.

The move identifies the public health agency as “open and welcoming, as well as equitable and accessible to persons of all sexual and gender diversities.”

It comes as the result of a 2017 survey issued to better understand the unique health needs of those locally who identify as LGBTQ2IA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Two-Spirit, Intersex, Asexual).

About 140 people responded with feedback, said Lambton’s Medical Officer of Health.

“We know from the survey that many LGBTQ2IA community members are looking for assurances that their health care providers are informed and inclusive,” said Dr. Sudit Ranade.

While some said they were comfortable being open about sexual orientation and gender expression, 40% of those surveyed said they hadn’t disclosed their sexual orientation or gender identity to their health care provider.

Fear of stigma was the main reason for not disclosing to their health care provider.

“Being part of the LGBTQ2IA community can be difficult and opening up to medical professionals can be very scary,” said Druiett. “Talking about sexuality and gender is difficult enough, but if you are part of the LGBTQ2IA community it can very scary because of the past discrimination and misunderstanding.

“More help and places for information are desperately needed.”

The survey came as a result of a Rainbow Health Ontario project grant. During a 2016 review of Lambton’s sexual health program, staff identified the need to gain a better understanding of the LGBTQ2IA community.

Lambton Public Health has since provided education and training on LGBTQ2IA health for all staff, development of an internal policy, as well as a ‘Positive Space’ symbol for signage.

“A welcoming environment and a strong commitment to privacy can reduce barriers such as the fear of stigma which in turn supports the health and well-being of all community members,” said Ranade.