Network for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Concerns in Occupational Therapy


The mission of the Network is to create the means for members of the occupational therapy professional community who are committed to advancing the understanding of sexual orientation issues to identify, support, and mentor one another and to promote research in occupational therapy.


The Purpose of the Network is to: 
  • Provide a consistent voice to AOTA, and state and local professional organizations regarding the needs and concerns of LGBT practitioners, students, and consumers
  • Support and mentor one another, and promote LGBT representation and leadership in local, state, and national decision-making bodies
  • Promote the exploration of careers in occupational therapy by LGBT individuals
  • Promote scholarship and research by and related to LGBT individuals within the profession of occupational therapy


Erin Connor (co-chair)
Elizabeth Harrison (co-chair)
Group email:


“LGBT individuals encompass all races and ethnicities, religions, and social classes. Sexual orientation and gender identity questions are not asked on most national or state surveys, making it difficult to estimate the number of LGBT individuals and their health needs.” (Healthy People 2020, n.d.)
Research suggests that LGBT individuals endure health disparities, which increase the likeliness of psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, and suicide, and they have more limited interactions with the health care system due to fear of discrimination (Healthy People 2020, n.d.). 

Suggestions for ways to interact with clients/patients to decrease discrimination:

1. DO assume that you will have LGBT clients/patients.
2. DO remember that sexual orientation and gender identity are only two aspects of a person’s overall identity and life experience, and every person’s experience is unique.
3. DO ask your clients/patients about their sexual orientation and gender identity (including pronoun preferences) in a respectful, safe, and confidential manner.
4. DO NOT assume you can identify LGBT individuals by appearance or other external characteristics.
5. DO NOT assume that treating everyone the same, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, is effective or will make LGBT individuals feel safe or welcomed (Services for Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Elders, 2012). 

Health Disparities and Access to Health Services

The more informed health care professionals are, the more comfortable LGBT patients and clients will feel in an environment that often can be alienating, disrespectful, and traumatic. In order to create a more welcoming environment, it is essential to look at each aspect of the health care environment, from the front desk to the clinical level. 

“LGBT people don’t necessarily feel they need special treatment, but they don’t want to have to explain or justify their lives or relationships, especially at a time when they may be in crisis or in need of personal care and support. Instead they want to feel comfortable, and that they are in an environment where people understand LGBT issues and where social care practitioners are confident to work in an inclusive, anti-discriminatory way” (Social Care Institute for Excellence, n.d.).


GLMA. (n.d.). Part 2: Creating a welcoming and safe environment for LGBT people and families. Retrieved from )
Healthy People 2020. (n.d.). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender health. (n.d.). Retrieved March 23, 2015, from
Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Elders. (2012). Inclusive services for LGBT older adults: A practical guide to creating welcoming agencies. Retrieved from
Social Care Institute for Excellence. (n.d.). At a glance 42: Personalisation briefing: Working with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Retrieved from 

Key Resources

Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality:

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA):

Resource kit and report on health issues for LGBT individuals: National Resource Center on LGBT Aging

Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE): 

Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network (GLSEN): 

Resources especially relevant for school-based practice and understanding transgender and gender non-conforming issues: Gender Spectrum Education and Training:

Resources Specific to Lesbians and Occupational Therapy: 

Jackson, J. (2000). Understanding the experience of noninclusive occupational therapy clinics: Lesbians’ perspectives. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 54, 26–35.

Javaherian, H., Christy, A., & Boehringer, M. (2007). Occupational therapy practitioners’ comfort levels and preparedness in working with individuals who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Journal of Allied Health, 37(3), 150–155.