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Now that my partner’s health has deteriorated, we’re concerned that if we come out to a community agency, we’ll face further discrimination.

This is clearly one of the most delicate—and important—questions you can face. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer, no cut-and-dried formula to follow. How you proceed may depend upon many factors, including where you live, your legal status vis-à-vis your partner (married, registered domestic partners, none of these); and whether state and local laws where you live protect LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination. At this point in time, you want the quickest and best information and services available. You may decide it is best to be open with service agencies, especially if you have learned from acquaintances or local LGBTQ+ resources which organizations are likely to maintain an open attitude. Much investigation about agencies in your area is available online. and be sure to review the list of LGBTQ+-friendly resources in the Resource section of this fact sheet. Or you may adopt a step-by-step approach, confiding in individual care providers whom you have come to trust through working with them.

The importance of having the proper legal documents in place—before a loved one becomes ill and can no longer make decisions—cannot be stressed enough. (See FCA fact sheet Legal Issues for LGBTQ+ Caregivers). The proper legal documents will allow you the greatest flexibility in developing a network of available services and grant you, your spouse, partner, or a close friend the legal right to act in each other’s behalf, in any state, without having to offer anyone—biological family members, service organizations, government agencies—in-depth explanations about your relationship. The persons you name in these legal documents to act as your agent will have legal authority to act for you and in your place, without your having to define your relationship. If you have great concerns about not disclosing the nature of your relationship, you can simply say you are a good friend who has the legal authority to make decisions on her/his behalf.

Even if you currently have an understanding physician and/or care staff, it is still important to take these legal steps. In an emergency, you may have to deal with doctors and other staff who do not know you and will not provide medical information to individuals who are not next of kin or not legally authorized to share information with you.