Contextualizing Competence: Language and LGBT-Based Competency in Health Care

Alexis L. Rossi, Eliot J. Lopez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Changes in the language and terminology used to refer to individuals identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT), as well as how best to discuss issues of sexual and gender identity, can prove challenging for health care providers due to (1) lack of training; (2) interdisciplinary issues; and (3) prejudices on personal and institutional levels. Given the importance of language in the relationship between health care provider and patient as well as the myriad ways in which language can reflect knowledge, skills, and attitudes, we contend that language is both a facilitator and inhibitor of competence. In this article, we discuss language as a means of exhibiting cultural competence as well as the barriers to facilitating this degree of competence. Communicative competence, a concept traditionally used in linguistics, is discussed as a framework for contextualizing LGBT-specific cultural competence in health care. Ideally, a professional will be considered competent once they (1) acquire a foundation in issues associated with LGBT individuals, as well as a basic understanding of appropriate vocabulary’ (2) reconcile personal beliefs with their professional role; (3) create an inclusive healthcare environment such that the influence of personal biases does not negatively impact care; and (4) use identifiers suggested by the patient.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1330-1349
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Homosexuality
Issue number10
StatePublished - Aug 24 2017


  • Competence
  • LGBT
  • healthcare
  • language

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Psychology(all)


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