We’re all lucky here in Australia – our healthcare system is alright. If you’re queer though, your mileage may vary.
This doesn’t happen often, but sometimes I forget that I’m a minority. I’ll stroll into a doctor’s office and ask for an STI panel and be nonplussed by the flurry of questions that follow. The questioning can be, uh, awkward – not for me, but for the doctor asking them. I’ve heard it all. There’s almost always lots of squirming, euphemisms, metaphors and sometimes even blushing.
The doctor I saw last week was grinning uncontrollably the entire time we were in consultation. I thought she was going to bust a gut at any moment. I only realised late into the appointment that this was a nervous response and she wasn’t just really, really fucking happy.
This grinning doctor referred to penetrative sex as “sexual relations”. It took me ages to understand what she was trying to ask of me. She was trying to get me to tell her if I’d recently had heterosexual sex that involved some hot Slot A into Slot B action, but she couldn’t say it or ask it or assume it. She would occasionally giggle through a sentence and looked at me like I’d floated into her office through the wall.
This grinning doctor referred to penetrative sex as ‘sexual relations’. It took me ages to understand what she was trying to ask of me.
Kudos to the doc for being understanding about different expressions of sexuality. She didn’t want me to think she was being presumptuous, so she buried me underneath her million probing questions. She felt uncomfortable asking me things in a direct manner, and tried to coax explanations out of me instead. I was unaware of this while it was happening – I think I was in shock because I didn’t understand why she was acting like she’d drank 16 cups of coffee that morning.
I went in that day for an uncomplicated procedure. Just take a couple of tubes of my blood and see if there’s anything nasty going on. The exchange between the doctor and myself was shambolic. It’s like we were speaking different languages.
She asked, “Is pregnancy a possibility for you right now?”
I said, “Um, yeah, maybe? I mean I don’t know the chances exactly. Probably?”
“Well, do you think you are?”
I laughed and said I’m definitely not pregnant, it would be miraculous – and at this, her eyebrows threatened to disappear into her hairline: “But you just said ‘probably’?!”
I was still unaware of what she was really trying to ask me, which is, have I had sex recently that could have resulted in pregnancy? I thought she was asking me if I could get pregnant at all.
We stared at each other for a second.
“Oh,” I began, carefully, so as not to frighten her. “I thought you were asking if I could get pregnant. My bad.”
We finally managed to get a decent dialogue going. She still had no idea how to talk to me about my sexual health without bumping up uncomfortably against a heterosexual framework, but we made it through OK. I still had to go to another doctor though, because I couldn’t get the advice I needed from her. She was well-meaning, but just didn’t get it and was too discomfited by me to be able to help me enough.
This isn’t a unique event for me. Most every single doctor I have seen, who hasn’t been queer themselves or who hasn’t dealt specifically with queer sexual health, has had no idea how to talk to me. The results of this are mildly annoying. I usually go get a second opinion or just put off seeing any doctor for a while (which is less than ideal and a bit irresponsible).
I’m sure there are queer folks out there who have far more complicated relationships with health practitioners for a bunch of reasons, but wouldn’t everything be so much better if they could just start by talking to us without being massive weirdos?
On Thursday June 15, drop by The Shift Club for a classic showgirl extravaganza, Lay’d Girls, starring Annie Mation, Fran Gipanni and the fabulous Maxi Shield. DJ Kirby will hit the decks after the show with some camp tunes just for you. More details (and a surprise guest) to be announced.
Plus, with the Sydney Film Festival now under way, here are two must-see queer films on this year’s program:
The Wound – “In this captivating look at African masculinity and sexuality, a young man is threatened when his deepest secret is discovered during a traditional male initiation ceremony.” Wednesday June 14 at Event Cinemas George Street.
Call Me By Your Name – “It is the summer of 1983, and teenager Elio (Timothée Chalamet) is on holiday at his parents’ Italian villa. At first, when his professor father’s new American assistant Oliver (Armie Hammer) arrives, Elio is indifferent. As the days pass, the two spend more time together and grow irresistibly attracted to each other. This film is a sensual story of first love set in the Italian countryside.” Saturday June 17 at Hayden Orpheum Cremorne.