LGBTQ Life: First visit to the doc

You’re visiting a walk in clinic for the first time. The receptionist loudly asks, “What is the reason for your visit?” Panicked, you glance around the room: you were already worried about running into somebody that you know, and now you’re worried that everybody will know why you’re here. “I want an STI check”, you reply. He hands you an intake form.

The form asks, “Are you sexually active? Y/N” You mark yes, though you aren’t sure that the form is asking about the kind of sex that you’re having. Only three options are provided for sexual orientation: heterosexual/homosexual/bisexual. None of those terms work for you, and you don’t know how to respond. You stare around the room. There are posters on the walls, but none of the people on the posters look like you.

When you see the doctor, she immediately begins going through your intake form. “You last saw a doctor seven years ago? Don’t you realize the importance of regular medical care? You need to see a doctor every two years at the very minimum!” She doesn’t ask why it’s been that long: if she had, you could have told her that your last doctor had been the same one that your parents go to. That you never told him about your sexual orientation because you were worried about what he would say and who he would tell. Eventually you just stopped going.

She continues. “I see here that you’re sexually active. What kind of birth control are you using?” When you tell her that you aren’t using any birth control, her eyes widen: “Aren’t you aware of the risk of pregnancy? Are you sure that a pregnancy hasn’t already occurred?” When she sees your response to the question about sexual orientation she pauses: “Oh, I couldn’t tell! Well, I guess we don’t need to worry about the birth control, then.”

She finishes going through the intake form, and tells you to lie down on the exam table for your physical. By now, you don’t want to see the doctor. You haven’t had any symptoms of an STI, anyways, so you think you’re probably fine. But you’re already in the paper gown, and you feel too awkward telling her that you want to leave. As she does the exam, she says, “You know, I have a bisexual cousin and we were always so jealous of her. Twice the dates! But she always had been greedy.” You want to tell her that what she’s saying is oppressive, but by now you feel like you can’t say anything at all.

Finally the appointment is over. As you leave, you mutter to yourself, “I am NEVER going back.”

TAKE TWO

You’re visiting a sexual health clinic for the first time. You’re nervous about running into somebody you know—from what you’ve heard, everybody goes to this clinic—but glad to be in a space with such a good reputation.

You look down at the intake form that the receptionist handed you. The form asks for the name on your health card, but there is also a separate question asking, “Do you go by another name?”  You’re relieved. You haven’t used the name on your health card in years, and hate having to answer to it. It’s good to know that you won’t have to correct anybody here. The form asks for your pronoun, your gender, your sexual orientation. Each question includes a long list of options as well as an “other” box: you’re glad that you could write anything in. Once you’ve filled out the form, you look around the clinic. The space is colourful and friendly, and there are posters on the walls. You see a positive space poster, and a couple of posters advertising LGBTQ groups in the area. Flyers on a table provide information about other available community resources.

When you’re called in for your appointment, the doctor uses the name that you had asked to be called. She tells you about herself and the clinic, emphasizing that they are LGBTQ-positive. She confirms the information that you had provided on your intake form, but doesn’t assume what that information means. She asks you about your relationships, sexual activity, and the protection that you’re using. You watch the doctor closely, trying to see if she’s judging you, but her friendly attitude doesn’t change. Based on the information that you’ve provided, she recommends some tests and asks what you think. You tell her that you would also like to be tested for HIV. She agrees, explaining that a positive test would be recorded, and asks if you would like a referral to an anonymous clinic. When you tell her that you’re comfortable being tested where you are, she reassures you that all of the tests you’ve agreed on can be performed onsite. You’re relieved that you don’t need to go anywhere else: based on past experience, you know that not all healthcare environments are so friendly. As the doctor performs your exam, she tells you what she is doing and checks in to see if you’re comfortable. Considering the fact that you’re at a doctor’s office, you really are.

Before leaving the clinic, you fill out a feedback form: “This was great! The most LGBTQ-positive clinic I’ve ever been to!”

Which version do you want your visit to look like? What else makes for a good/bad experience? Let us know in the comments below!