Queering Healthcare: Why Integrating Cultural Humility into Medical Education Matters for LGBTQ+ Patients

  • Courtney A. Sarkin (University of Minnesota, Twin Cities)


The medical field is still grappling with how to understand and situate LGBTQ+ patients within healthcare settings. The medicalization of LGBTQ+ identities and the legacy of heteronormativity in the medical field has situated these patients within narrow understandings of gender and sexual orientation. In this paper I outline how the medicalization of queerness and medical management of breast cancer have marginalized LGBTQ+ breast cancer patients as they proceed through diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship. Next, I link medicalization to the broader process and context of medical education, specifically the patient-provider relationship, where cross-cultural communication strategies, such as cultural competency training, are being utilized in an effort to understand LGBTQ+ health disparities. However, this approach has limited clinicians’ abilities to examine how their own cultural standpoints influence the care of LGBTQ+ patients. In response, I discuss how an alternative approach, cultural humility, motivates clinicians to examine their own cultural biases and assumptions as well as the power imbalances inherent in the patient-provider relationship. Data collection included reviewing studies related to cultural humility, LGBTQ+ health disparities, and how medical education approaches LGBTQ+ health. Using an integrative analysis of the literature, I outline how these studies suggest cultural humility is efficacious in equalizing patient-provider relationships and generating growth through awareness of how identity is relevant to health and healthcare. In conclusion I explore how this change in medical education revolutionizes our understanding of LGBTQ+ individuals’ health both by centering and privileging the voices of LGBTQ+ patients and examining how the patient-provider interaction is shaped by sociocultural context.

Keywords: Medicalization, Breast cancer, Cultural humility, Medical education, Patient-provider relationship

How to Cite:

Sarkin, C. A., (2019) “Queering Healthcare: Why Integrating Cultural Humility into Medical Education Matters for LGBTQ+ Patients”, Journal of Critical Thought and Praxis 8(2), 47-61. doi:

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Published on
15 Nov 2019