Becka Wall | @beckawall

It’s Saturday brunch. You’re gossiping with your friends about the latest details of their dates and romantic life, when it dawns on you: how would I know if any of my friends are in unhealthy relationships? What are the big warning signs to look for? What advice do I give them if they are worried about their reproductive health?

If you have friends who identify as part of the LGBTQ community, and you’re feeling nervous about whether your experience and the red flags you’ve grown to recognize as a straight, cis person will translate, Dana Karash, a nurse practitioner and family planning coordinator at Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, has good news for you: the same general tips apply to everyone, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. “Everyone is at risk for inter-partner violence,” she says, noting that many members of the trans community are at greater risk for IPV since they are considered to be part of a marginalized community, because of the stigma around gender identity or their economic status.

That goes for the sexual and reproductive health of trans folks too. Karash emphasized the importance of preventative healthcare and practicing safe sex. “Testing and using PrEP – the pre-exposure prophylactic for HIV – is something that not only trans and gender non-conforming patients should consider, but something that same-sex or hetero couples should consider as well.”

Karash also noted the importance for LGBTQAI+ folks to have a healthcare provider who they feel comfortable talking to about their sexual activity, sexual contact, and talking about their body parts with. For trans and gender non-conforming folks and those who are transitioning, she added, “language is key – what a body part is called is important in talking about the body part. Risks for STIs, potential for pregnancy all depend on your body parts, which can be uncomfortable to talk about but should always be approached in a respectful way.”

It’s crucial that everyone talks to their health care provider about who they are, who they’re having sex with, and what body parts are involved— this will help your provider develop the best possible plan to make sure they’re addressing any risks and testing plans. Kushner notes, “if your provider has sex negativity or is showing judgement about who you are or you feel the need to hide things – that is not a good fit.”

If you identify as trans or gender non-conforming, Karash notes that when it comes to

coming out to your doctor or healthcare provider, a lot of the responsibility lies with them. “This is something we’re actively working on at Planned Parenthood – language, inclusivity, and not making assumptions about those who walk through the door.” She notes that signage, paperwork, and screening questions should be intentional and inclusive.

Karash also said that often, dealing with insurance providers are where the real bumps lie. “It’s more an issue of communication,” she says. It’s important that providers have as much information as possible, so that if they need to provide more information to the insurance company, they can. “Hopefully providers are working with individuals to make sure the services they need can be covered by their insurance.”

If you’re feeling uncomfortable with your healthcare provider, trust your gut instinct. “It’s everyone’s right to feel respected by the person that they’re seeing,” Karash says. Your provider should be asking questions and really listening to the answers, providing appropriate care and information. “If you don’t feel the respect is there, I recommend looking elsewhere.”

Sound life advice for any relationship – from your healthcare provider to your significant other.