Out to one who mattersEditorial Thursday, June 28th, 2012
Commentary: Good Health
After two months of being congested, coughing and clearly sick, I couldn’t deny it any longer, a trip to the doctor was inevitable.
As a gay man, going to the doctor has always been an awkward and uncomfortable experience for me. I felt vulnerable and hesitant to share personal information, especially about my sex life. Coming out to close friends and family is hard enough, but coming out to a someone outside the family can feel impossible.
But I was going to do it, I was going to come out to my provider because gay men have specific health care needs; and coming out to my doctor would give me the opportunity to have an open and honest discussion about those needs. It’s unfortunate, but statistically, we face real risks.
Did you know that although gonorrhea infections are down in the United States, they’ve gone up among gay men? It turns out that gay men most often become infected with gonorrhea in the throat but your doctor may not think to check for infection there unless they know you are at risk. Also, in 1998, there were only 23 cases of syphilis reported in San Diego. But now, a gay man is diagnosed locally with syphilis nearly every day! HIV and AIDS remains a serious health threat as well. Today, gay men are 44 times more likely to be diagnosed with HIV than straight men, which means that frequent testing and knowing your status remains important.
Thinking about these risks, I sat in the examination room and shifted my weight awkwardly as the doctor asked, “Who do you have sex with, men, women or both?” I took a deep breath and answered honestly, half expecting a contorted judgmental face and a look of disgust. Instead, she continued on unflinchingly, explaining some of the things I’ve already highlighted and suggesting particular tests to address my needs as a gay man.
After all the hype and anxiety, it was a totally comfortable experience that will benefit my health for the rest of my life. From this experience, I offer this advice: Come out to your doctor as soon as possible.
As with any good modern clinic, Family Health Centers of San Diego (fhcsd.org) takes pride in being culturally sensitive to the needs of patients, including those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (glma.org) also has a list of providers who are respectful and understanding of your needs. If you have health insurance, give them a call and ask about potential doctors who would be the right fit for you. The resources are available and the need is real, it’s time to come out to the one who matters most, your doctor.
Personally, I’m very appreciative of the unflinching doctor who I now see regularly, and of course the allergy medication that has cleared up my congestion!
Cary Klemmer is a resident of Hillcrest and is a Community Engagement Specialist with Family Health Centers of San Diego. He is a graduate of UC San Diego where he was a member of the Chancellor’s LGBT Advisory Board.
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