Going to the doctor when you were a kid wasn’t fun at all.
Even if you got out of school early.
Because you can only play with communal toys for so long before your senses tell you that, ew, that’s gross. Especially because that snotty kid is hogging the ball and, oh look, he just sneezed on it.
Maybe my perception is skewed because I was an anxiety-fueled, slightly paranoid germophobe from the get go.
Going to the doctor as an adult is just annoying. Because you have to take a sick day (if you have them), sit in a waiting room with more sickly people emitting their grossness, remember to get a sick note since your boss sucks, and come to the realization that your healthcare plan blows when you have to pay an exorbitant amount for your prescriptions.
But LGBT’s have to deal with a lot more–and often have to make advanced plans–when dragging themselves into that teeming petri dish.
Now, I’m not about to blather on about health issues I know very little about, especially those specific to identity groups within The Community. But these are just a few questions I’ve developed from personal experiences.
Is you doctor LGBT-friendly?
I can’t count the number of LGBT friends who’ve gotten very savvy at navigating medical networks to locate doctors who don’t give a rat’s ass what hole you put it in, or what your medical history happens to be. I don’t know about y’all, but I certainly don’t want to hear “Repent! Repent!” as I go under for a colonoscopy. Sure, I’d like to think that a highly educated doctor wouldn’t proselytize in a waiting room, tout the healing power of prayer. But from what a few doctor friends have told me, I should never assume that. Because, really, doctors are just people cloaking their biases with white coats.
Having a nonjudgmental doctor isn’t just for comfort’s sake. It’s the best for your long-term health. Because a happier, relaxed patient is always more willing to divulge sensitive information during an evaluation. Especially if they don’t feel the weight of judgey eyes upon them.
Are you more comfortable with a female or male doctor?
Don’t get me wrong. I like men. Love them, actually. Hence, Andy. But I don’t really want a male doctor. There’s just something a little weird about it for me. And I’m sure it’s just a carry-over from the past, because I always had more female friends than male friends. I just got along better with women. And, to a certain extent, still do. But I digress.
This just plays into the whole being comfortable bit. I mean, sure, I’m open with my doctor. (Mostly because I inherited a bit of my paternal grandmother’s hypochondria, and want to make sure everything is out in the open.) But there’re certain things that I can more easily talk about with women. Even if it has to do with man parts.
Will your doctor (and their office staff) honor your wishes to put your partner as your primary emergency contact?
This is a tricky one. Because, regardless of what’s on paper, any “professional” staffer can veil their bigotry by saying, “Oh, yeah, we called your partner first. They didn’t answer. So we called your parents instead.” Meanwhile, your partner is flipping their shit in the waiting room because they’re not being informed about what’s happening, but your parents–several states and a timezone away–have been. This is why it’s so terribly important to have a mini “medical phone tree” –any accepting family, close friends–who can immediately connect with other “tree huggers” to ensure everyone knows what’s going on.
Does your partner know where your appointment is, what it’s about, and what time it’s supposed to be?
You’d think this would be a no-brainer. But each of us always assumes that everyone–partners included–have mind-reading capabilities. So, of course they’d know about that 12:00 appointment in the middle of the week at that tiny office near that bistro where y’all celebrated your anniversary a few years back. And of course they know your entire medical history, like what medications give you horrible cramps or explosive diarrhea.
Now, we never think that that standard appointment for a migraine will reveal some horrible medical condition that requires immediate care. But you never know. Bodies are scary things, and can revolt on you in a minute. Even if you’re taken to a hospital that won’t honor same-sex visitation privileges, your partner can at least have a breadcrumb trail to follow and piece things together that way. (Which, again, is where that phone tree comes in handy.)
Before I found myself peeing in a cup yesterday, I thought about all of these things yet again. Because, with the way I was feeling, we didn’t know what to expect.
But before Andy left for work, we confirmed where I was going, and that I’d be in contact immediately after the diagnosis. One great thing about my shallow semi-sleep chocked-full of hallucinatory dreams is that I was up early, and first in line at my PCP’s urgent care clinic branch.
Now, this is just me. But ever since I moved to North Carolina, I’ve seen a PA-C for almost everything I’ve had to have diagnosed. And I prefer it. The lack of pretension is refreshing, and I feel more comfortable with them. Plus, each one has been incredibly thorough and a clear communicator.
And this time, it was no different.
Sure, I could’ve waited for an opening upstairs with my PCP. But, quite honestly, I don’t trust a guy who spends more time washing his hands and consulting WebMD than talking about what he thinks the problem might be. And who, every single time, has misdiagnosed me–put me on the wrong pills for the wrong thing, which subsequently leads me to the urgent care branch to get everything properly assessed. He’s really just for show–mostly for when I have to provide PCP contact information for medical paperwork.
And as this particular PA-C (one of three working there that’re awesome) rattled off her diagnosis, and was amazingly, yet thoughtfully blunt in her delivery, I was glad I chose to go downstairs rather than upstairs. Yes, I still bristled a bit when she asked about STI status, protection use, and whatnot after I told her I was gay. (And yes, I know that certain STI’s are more prevalent in certain demographics. But I still cringe every time, because there still seems to be an equation of gay=promiscuous=STI vector.) But at least she did it in a way that didn’t seem as charged as such statements have been in the past by different practitioners.
And even though I had to turn around and pee in a cup for a second time–because the assisting nurse mistook my original sample for one that was to be discarded–I was fine with it. Because I knew they’d figure out what was going on.
So after I got home and dosed up on my medication, put in 50/50 for just plain tortuous reasons, I was able to sleep a little easier knowing that, while it may be a bit convoluted, my system for dealing with medical stuff has worked out thus far.
Even if this particular visit evoked the same feelings I had when I stopped being carded for booze. The whole realization of I’m-old-enough-for-this-shit? Gah!
Still, it reminded me that we all age, and we all have to take care of the challenges our bodies throw at us along the way. We have to treat ourselves to a bit of TLC every now and then to ensure each of us, as a human machine, operates properly.
Because, while my cogs may rust ever so slightly and my wiring may fray a bit, I’ll still run as smoothly as I can.
Especially since I’m fortunate enough to have someone who’ll lend an oil can or a bottle of WD-40 exactly when I need it.