Journal of Bioethical Inquiry

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 149–160 | Cite as

Discomfort, Judgment, and Health Care for Queers

  • Ami HarbinEmail author
  • Brenda Beagan
  • Lisa Goldberg
Original Research


This paper draws on findings from qualitative interviews with queer and trans patients and with physicians providing care to queer and trans patients in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, to explore how routine practices of health care can perpetuate or challenge the marginalization of queers. One of the most common “measures” of improved cultural competence in health care practice is self-reported increases in confidence and comfort, though it seems unlikely that an increase in physician comfort levels with queer and trans patients will necessarily mean better health care for queers. More attention to current felt discomfort in patient–provider encounters is required. Policies and practices that avoid discomfort at all costs are not always helpful for care, and experiences of shared discomfort in queer health contexts are not always harmful.


Queer health Transgender health Discomfort Family physicians Cultural competence 



Funding for the project was provided by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and conducted at Dalhousie University. The authors acknowledge the generosity of the participants, without whom the research could not have been conducted. We are grateful to the members of the larger research team (Susan Atkinson, Dalhousie Family Medicine; Mary Bryson, University of British Columbia; Cressida Heyes, University of Alberta; Erin Fredericks, Dalhousie University; and Brenda Hattie, Dalhousie University).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  2. 2.School of Occupational TherapyDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  3. 3.School of NursingDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada

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