Published on September 7th, 2012 | by Healthy Gay Lifestyles7
Searching for a Gay or Gay-Friendly Doctor
by Stephen Jackson
Identify the Problem
Have you ever dreaded going to the doctor because you know it’s going to be uncomfortable if the doctor and staff can’t deal with your sexuality? Do you feel you have to hide your sexuality because you aren’t sure if your doctor and his/her staff are gay friendly? Or do you have something sensitive to talk about that you aren’t sure the doctor or you will be comfortable discussing? Are you unable to find a doctor close by who you like and trust talking about sensitive issues? So here’s the problem: you can’t get good health care if you can’t talk to your doctor about your health care needs. Big problem… I want to share a few ideas about how to connect with a doctor who can meet your needs as a gay man, and how to get the most for your health care dollars.
Create a Solution
Think about it like this: you are paying to go to the doctor for the benefit of your health. Shouldn’t you get the best for the expense of the office visit and care? Put it in the context of your love/sex life. When you are looking for a date, trick, buddy or partner, you check him out. Questioning that person about what he likes sexually, musical tastes, movies, sports, kinks, etc., are all part of the game plan. You don’t hook up with the first available guy usually, right, especially if he doesn’t do it for you? Well, maybe sometimes but you know what I mean.
Anyway, why not interview your potential doctor just like you’d interview a potential mate? Call the office up and ask a few questions like:
- Are you comfortable treating and caring for a gay man?
- Are you trained and knowledgeable on issues impacting gay men? (You may have to give examples. See the next paragraph for a few.)
- Is your office staff trained and knowledgeable on issues impacting gay men?
- Do you have referrals to other competent providers/specialists who are gay or gay friendly if I need them?
- Is your office staff trained on how to interact respectfully and professionally with gay men?
You can add other interview questions specific to your situation. It is always important to get your question answered, your health care needs met and your concerns discussed and remedied. That’s the purpose of having health insurance, right?
Reasons Why This is Important
Specific issues that you might want to talk about with your doctor are the priority. For example, anal cancer is a real issue that we as gay men need to take more seriously. Prostate health is another important thing. Also, if you bareback, you may want to discuss tests for disease transmission beyond HIV as well as reducing your disease risks. What about fisting and the potential for internal damage? These are just a few examples of things that you may not want to talk to just any doctor or medical staff about. These are also examples of things you can add to the list of interview questions when looking for a doctor or changing doctors.
Finding a doctor who can talk to you about these issues may lead you to a doctor who is sex positive. Sex positive is an attitude towards human sexuality that regards all consensual sexual activities as fundamentally healthy and pleasurable, and encourages sexual pleasure and experimentation. Getting your concerns, questions and issues out in the open can help you continue to have the sex life that you enjoy with the knowledge and information that can keep you healthy and/or get you treatment when you need it.
Many of us do not live in large cities where finding a gay/gay-friendly doctor is an easy thing. We can ask for referrals to doctors from friends and colleagues, but maybe we haven’t found a good doctor yet. Having a gay doctor has been a gift for me here in the Midwest. I can ask questions that he can understand and doesn’t get embarrassed about, and that he has answers for! While we as gay men have many of the same health issues as other men, we have some unique issues that need to be addressed on a regular basis.
Try, Try Again
If the provider or office staff that you interview answers no, that they aren’t comfortable with treating or seeing gay patients, what have you lost? Move on to the next possibility. You can do the interview over the phone so no one knows who is calling, or you can do it face to face. Either way, you work towards getting into a provider’s care that can help you achieve good health outcomes. When you find someone who says yes, maybe it works out and maybe it doesn’t. That’s life. Try it again until you are comfortable with your provider. Just as you would if you were looking for that partner, buddy, hook-up…
If you don’t think that you could do something like interviewing a doctor, ask a friend for help. You don’t have to disclose your health issues, but just the fact that you want a doctor that can give you the best care for your gay self. If you have a health care plan or insurance that gives you a lot of providers to choose from, you’re definitely on your way. If not, you may have to cope with the options available to you. Either way, you’ve exercised your right as a consumer in the health care industry. The doctors don’t get to dictate the care that is available to you ~ you should get to do that. Take advantage of your right to good health care. Good luck in your search!
About the author: Stephen Jackson holds a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Nebraska Medical Center. His primary responsibility is as Program Manager for the Ryan White Program, which delivers medication, treatment, education and support services to HIV+ consumers across Nebraska. Stephen also works with men’s health issues. His patient advocacy related to gay men relates to his own searches for gay/gay friendly doctors in the past as well as his research thesis regarding access to healthcare for LGBTQI populations in Nebraska. Stephen can be reached at email@example.com.