Policy and Political Action

Policy & Political Action

Position Statement: Respecting Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Resource Type: 
Position Statement

The Registered Nurses'Association of Ontario (RNAO) is committed to speaking out against discrimination and social exclusion based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Ontario is home to between 400,000 and 1.25 million people who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, Two-Spirit, intersex, queer, or questioning (LGBTTTIQQ). Making up five to ten per cent of Ontario's population, those who are members of sexual or gender minority communities routinely experience threats to their health and well-being because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Sexual orientation refers to how we think of ourselves in terms of emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction to people of the same gender (gay, lesbian), the other gender (heterosexual), or either gender (bisexual). Gender identity is one's internal and psychological sense of oneself as female, male, both, or neither.

Discrimination against LGBTTTIQQ people may take the form of homophobia, biphobia, or transphobia. Heterosexism is the assumption that everyone is, or should be, heterosexual. Genderism is the belief that the binary construction of gender as either male or female is the most natural, normal, and preferred gender identity. These beliefs and assumptions create conditions that can result in human rights violations and health inequities.

Discrimination Threatens Health Through Violence and Social Exclusion
The health of LGBTTTIQQ people is compromised by direct assaults such as hate crimes, physical violence, and verbal assaults as well as chronic stress caused by stigmatization.

Discrimination Threatens Access to Health Care
LGBTTTIQQ clients too often experience barriers to inclusive and appropriate care because of practices by health care institutions and health professionals that are heterosexist and discriminatory.

Discrimination Threatens Quality Work Environments
Practice environments for LGBTTTIQQ nurses and other health-care professionals can be difficult due to heterosexism and discrimination from colleagues and clients.

RNAO recommendations include:

Human Rights and Health Equity


  • Speak out against stereotypes and policies that discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity, both as individuals and collectively as a profession.

  • Address social inequities faced by those that identify as LBGTTTIQQ within social determinants of health frameworks.

Client-Centred, Inclusive, and Appropriate Health Care


  • Assess health-care services and programs to ensure they are inclusive of the needs of LBGTTTIQQ clients, staff, and community. All clients should be able to see, hear, and feel that their identity is acknowledged and welcomed.

  • All health care services should have the appropriate assessment tools, forms, and educational materials to deliver care in an inclusive and appropriate manner.

  • Health professionals should receive education and training on LBGTTTIQQ health issues and skill-building to help them provide inclusive, appropriate care.

Quality Work Environments


  • Develop organizational - or agency-specific policies, procedures, and codes of conduct for all staff to help educate them on cultural diversity, sexual minorities, and the need to treat everyone with respect.

  • Employers have a responsibility to ensure safe practice settings for all nurses and other health-care workers, including those who identify as LBGTTTIQQ.

Please see the PDF version of this document for footnotes and references.

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