Patterns and Predictors of Disclosure of Sexual Orientation to Healthcare Providers among Lesbians, Gay Men, and Bisexuals

By Laura E. Durso & Illan H. Meyer
December 2012

New research shows that bisexual men and women are less likely than gay men and lesbians to disclose their sexual orientation to healthcare providers.  The study, which examined nondisclosure of sexual orientation among lesbians, gay men and bisexual men and women, found that concealment of sexual orientation from healthcare providers was related to poor psychological wellbeing.

Public health professionals recommend that lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals (LGB) disclose their sexual orientation to healthcare personnel to facilitate optimal care.  The study found that LGB individuals with greater internalized homophobia were less likely to disclose their sexual orientation to healthcare providers than individuals with lesser internalized homophobia.  LGB individuals who were connected to the LGBT community were more likely to share their orientation with providers than those with lesser connection to the community.  Expectations of rejection and discrimination and past experiences with everyday discrimination did not predict disclosure to health care providers.

The study was conducted in New York City among 396 LGB individuals.  Nondisclosure was higher among bisexual men of whom 39% did not disclose to any medical provider and bisexual women of whom 33% did not disclose to any medical provider.  Disclosure was much more prevalent among gay men and lesbians among whom only 13% and 10%, respectively, did not disclose their sexual orientation to any medical provider.  Among lesbians, greater nondisclosure was found among racial/ethnic minorities, women with lower educational level, and women with children.  Among both gay and bisexual men, greater nondisclosure was found among younger men and men who were born outside the U.S.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and is published in Sexuality Research and Social Policy.

Click here for the full study.