How can I advocate for my needs and wants?

Communicating our Needs

  • Advocating for ourselves takes time, energy, and practice. Many of us struggle to self-advocate especially in the context of healthcare and power imbalances. Here are some options we can explore to communicate our needs.
    • “I brought a list of questions and I want to read it.”
    • “Having time to think helps me remember.”
    • “My pronouns are ___. Can you write that down on my chart?”
    • “Can you slow down?”
    • “I understand you have a busy schedule. I still have unanswered questions.”
    • “I want to know about all of the side effects of this treatment before I decide.”
    • “I want to know what all of my treatment options are.”
    • “It’s important to me to be able to bring a friend to my appointments.”
    • “Last time I was here, we focused a lot on _. I find it more helpful to focus on _ instead.”
    • “I’m going to take some time to make my decision and I will let you know.”

Communicating our Discomfort

  • Here are some options we can explore to communicate our discomfort.
    • “No.”
    • “I’m not ready to talk about that.”
    • “That isn’t a good fit for me.”
    • “I’m not comfortable with that option. What are alternatives?”
    • “I’ve tried that before and I didn’t like it. What else can I try?”
    • “I’m not sure if I’m doing this right. Can you explain it again or show me?”
    • “Please stop using ___ pronouns. I use ___ pronouns.”
    • “What are my rights as a patient?”

Requesting Documentation 

  • If doctors are dismissing our concerns, we can request that they document this in our file. Here is what one youth shared with us about this approach:
    • “This is something that is being in discussion around disability politics and fatphobia right now. As fat people, we have a lot of our concerns dismissed, especially if we are presenting more femininely, racialized, etc. This is a tactic I learned that when this is happening, this is a great way. They can’t actually dismiss you. But when they do, actually putting it into your file means that this is their professional take on this. And they have to explain why they didn’t do this thing. The problem is though, you can say this, but they might not do it.”


  • Some of us find that code-switching (changing how we speak, act, and/or dress) makes it more likely for doctors to listen to us. Here’s what one person shared with us about code-switching:
    • “When you’re marginalized, you need to make things palatable, unfortunately, for doctors to take you seriously. Sometimes, you even have to learn the right way to say it so you don’t offend their sensitivities.”

Declining Care & Changing Practitioners

  • We may feel pressure to continue care, even when services are not affirming. In some cases, we might want to decline care or change practitioners. Here are some phrases we can use if we can decline care:
    • “This isn’t working for me. I want to book with Dr. X instead.”
    • “I would like to change practitioners.”
    • “I don’t think we’re a good fit. I’d like to book with someone else.”
    • “I don’t want these options. I’m deciding not to continue care.”