That’s right, you’re not the only one in my life. I know I am supposed to come to you, my family doctor, for any health issue but when it comes to my gay sex life I go to another clinic, a community-based sexual health clinic in downtown.
You are probably wondering why. Well, honestly, I’m not sure. I just don’t feel as welcomed as a gay man at your clinic as I feel at the other clinic. Don’t get me wrong, every one is nice and helpful, and I really appreciated the rainbow flag sticker that they put up last year. I also appreciated your reaction the first time I mentioned having a boyfriend. And when it comes to my blood pressure, my kidneys, my knees, and my heart you make me feel safe. However, I think that sex is missing in our relationship. That’s right, we barely talk about sex. I don’t know if it is because it makes you uncomfortable or maybe it makes me uncomfortable. Or maybe both. I’m not sure.
But I’m not the only one who is cheating on you. I know, I know, that should not be an excuse but you know what they say: two in distress makes sorrow less. One of my f***friends is married and his wife does not know that he has sex with men. He will not tell you because you are also his wife and his daughter’s family doctor. That’s why he goes to that other clinic. Then there’s my ex-boyfriend who comes from a town an hour and a half away from the city. His family is very conservative and they still don’t know he is gay. He doesn’t tell you -or the pharmacist- because he has cousins working everywhere in town. He would rather go all the way to the city to that other clinic and get his PrEP and his antidepressants from the pharmacy next-door. And then there’s my friend who hasn’t been in Canada for long. I think he told you he is gay. However, he still will not get tested with you. It helps him feel less anxious being anonymous. I guess is the fact that he would not be able to get the permanent residency if he got HIV. At the other clinic, he can get tested and counselled anonymously.
So, let me tell you how the other makes me feel. I have never really noticed if they have a rainbow flag but on their website, they have many photos of gay guys and it didn’t take me long to find the information I was looking for. And when I called, they asked upfront and without discomfort if I have sexual relationships with men. Then for getting an appointment they only asked for my first name, no ID number, no address, no details, no police background check! If that wasn’t enough they had so many availabilities mornings, evenings, and weekends, with or without an appointment. As soon as I get there, even if it is all the way to downtown, I feel welcomed. It feels less like a medical centre and more like a community one. The guys in the reception are gay and it doesn’t feel awkward telling them it burns when I pee. The forms that I fill are anonymous but are also adapted for my sexual orientation and my gender identity. In the waiting room, I’m not afraid of running into my homophobic neighbour that bullied me all high school. Also, I don’t feel like I’m the only one there having threesomes with my partner and there are plenty of reading materials with useful information[i] for me and my friends: “Primed: A Sex Guide for Trans Men into Men”, “Use Your Head When Giving It: Blow Job Tips”, “Drugs, Alcohol and Gay Men”, “ShoutOut Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Transphobia and Heterosexism”, “Vivre au positif”, “Hep C and Sex for Gay, Bi and Queer Men”, “Chicos como tú”, “BDSM Safer Kinky Sex”, “Guide pour les clients des travailleurs du sexe” and the local gay magazine.
If all that didn’t feel good enough… the sex talk I have had there with the nurse, the counsellor and the doctor has been fantastic! I feel they listen to me and that they are not only interested on getting bacteria off my system but that they are working with me to help have the sex I want. I can talk openly with them. They know I’m in an open relationship with my boyfriend, that he is HIV positive, that I don’t always use condoms, that my older brother doesn’t talk to me because I’m gay, that I have multiple sex partners, and that I have a foot fetish. Every time I leave the clinic I don’t feel ashamed or guilty, I feel liberated and motivated to take my health in hand.
I’m not sure we can work things out and start all over again. Can we stop assuming my friends and I are cisgender, heterosexual and monogamous? Can we broaden our definition of masculinity? Can we try getting past the morals and the stigma around sex? Can we make sure our written, verbal and non-verbal interactions from the first contact all the way to treatment and follow-ups are inclusive and judgement-free? Probably that will make my friends and I stop cheating. Or maybe not. In the end, decades and decades of stigma don’t go away so fast, so each one of us comes out of the closet if and when it feels right. But even if I keep cheating, you would have done everything in your power to make me feel welcomed and safe.
[i] You can get most of the materials listed in the article for free from www.orders.catie.ca