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  • Stephanie Thrower

Why does identity matter when it comes to women's health?

Updated: Mar 25, 2020

Why does identity matter when it comes to women’s health? Dr. Chun, a provider I work with, bravely shares how his identity as a non-white male OBGYN may make women think twice about selecting him first. Clearly, so many of his patients know he is way more than the sum of the boxes he checks off in the census. However, our identities such as gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, class, nationality, etc., are important in:

  • how we view our world

  • learning about how the world might view us (stereotypes)

  • what makes us feel mentally well, connected, and empowered

Providers are encouraged to be sensitive to how patient’s identities may shape their experiences. However, this is relatively new to the fields of medicine and mental health unfortunately. People experience invalidation, discrimination, and prejudice all the time, and are particularly vulnerable during the perinatal experience.

It is very important to remember that you are a consumer in your own healthcare. Sometimes you can give feedback to providers when things don’t sit well, but sometimes because of the power dynamics and lack of awareness of the provider it’s just not worth your emotional energy. Your identities and cultural values matter. Look for providers that go beyond stereotypes, are open and interested in your values as they relate to your care, and more importantly are self-aware and can acknowledge their privilege and power as a provider.

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