Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Physical


That’s me, there. I simply had to copy my CT scans before I dropped them off at my Internist’s. I hope no one is offended by such a revealing photo. How about that kidney, huh? Yeah, I’m quite attractive.

Now, nothing has been found wrong with me, I just have an odd new pain in my torso that’s likely nothing. Still, I can’t take a chance with our children.

So, I enter the hospital and am given the typical set of forms. The front page has the familiar options of “Married”, or “Single”. It kills me to check “Single”; I will not. Then again, I’m not legally married in the state of Utah. How important is it to gleam what exactly the hospital means and answer honestly, here? I leave it blank.

I’m called in and the doctor begins his examination. He notices the omission and asks about it. I tell him I am married, not legally here, but have been for over a decade.

“You are gay?”

I answer yes.

Then it starts, as it always does.

“When was the last time you were tested for HIV?” “Your symptoms could be caused by Hepatitis.” And something like “How many people have you had sex with in the past year?”

I immediately regret “coming out”. If I didn’t feel so much like I was betraying my home, I’d have lied. I used to do just that, but, once our boys were born, never again.

I explain that we’ve been together 14 years, neither of us have been with anyone else, ever, and we’ve never had the sort of sex people typically assume into the lives of homosexual men. But it doesn’t end.

“How do you know your lover is being faithful? You really can’t know where he is all the time.” he quickly counters.

Lover?! I wanted to get dressed and leave--in any other circumstance them’s fight’n words--but I calm down. “He’s just trying to do what’s best for me, to get to the bottom of this. It took me weeks to get this appointment” I think.

Just as I’m explaining how I know my husband isn’t sleeping around, he senses my aggravation. “I don’t mean to offend you, but I have to ask”, he says. No, I know he doesn’t mean to offend, and I tell him as much, and assure him it’s okay, but does he “have to ask” this of everyone?

Finally, he backs off all the STD tests, resolving to only look for Hepatitis. Could get that anywhere after all, right? Fine, but, nothing, of course, was found. He finally ended this bedside manner with a “Where did you get your children?”

I was glad to get back to work.

I don’t mind the needles, the scans, the waiting rooms (when else is there time for Sudoku?), but I rarely feel more treated “gay”, in the pejorative sense, than when I visit a doctor. Still, in the end, I don’t really feel any hard feeling towards the guy for his assumptions; he was in the wrong but it seems too understandable.

I have to worry, though, if that doesn’t say something about me, about my remaining biases against gays. I know I, at the very least, caved under the weight of authority, wanting to avoid criticizing his manner in favor of him finding out what was wrong with me.

8 comments:

johngalt said...

You should have asked the doctor how he knows his wife isn't sleeping around. But I guess that would be stooping to his level.

As I read this post, I could feel your angst about not being able to "claim marriage", legally. I felt the same way with my man. "Boyfriend" or "partner" or anything other than "husband" does not properly convey the emotion, the connection, the promise. It's frustrating.

I know, I know, what really matters is how you feel about each other, not what others think. But still, there is a "validation" or "recognition" that we all need at the same time.

Anyway, I'm glad you are sticking up for your family, for the truth. Don't let them ever make you feel otherwise.

Anonymous said...

It sounds unrelated, but I've thought about racial profiling in airport security lately and wondered if it isn't the horrible thing that everyone thinks. Everyone pays consequences for the acts of terrorists, but there's no even distribution of payment, despite people thinking we can make it all fair and just. This topic is already getting away from me and is probably mostly irrelevant, so I'll stop there.

But using statistical probability is how medicine is done and I have to sympathize with this physician. There is some explanation for your symptoms and finding out what it is means following the most promising leads based on past experience and probabilities. If it makes you feel any better, I've done a full sexual history on little old ladies before too. It's relevant info, and nobody should be offended by the questions because the answers very often are different than yours.

Bedside manner? Irrelevant curiosity about your children? Those sound like areas that need improvement.

-L-

Scot said...

Glad to see you out and about Mr. Galt :-)

Ah but validation from strangers really does mean next to nothing. It’s their inaccuracy and bias that can be important. I wasn’t seeing it until your post, but this event was a good example of how these words (gay, married, single, and so on) have power to do real world harm.

I wasn’t really impressed by only having the two options of “single” or “married”; I won’t pick single (save for were I’m forced to legally), but I’m used to being category-less. I’m in one of the first US generations where a gay man can be neither single nor married and be a father. They are likely after info on my behaviors, and on my legal status, leaving me in limbo (though I’ve seen some places change recently).

No, what really got to me is the assuming my life and, more provocatively, my husband’s life were careless, uncommitted, and promiscuous, because I’m gay.

But here’s thing: The more I think on it, all worries of being “disrespected” or “invalidated” or “insulted” are actually fears of real harm, from physical to legal. Who cares what strangers think? It’s what they do. If you got called a fag when I grew up, you had more to fear than some aversion to being “invalidated”; you’re at risk of being beaten. That’s how the word gained power, the actual physical consequences.

Here we have the same thing. What if I marked that box, “single”? That conveys a lie to my physician. It keeps information from him that may be important. Instead, I’m married. That is the word that best gives my doctor the information about my life and behaviors, not “boyfriend”, not “lover”. Not only that, with regards to medical concerns, (aside from the anatomy) I’m the sort of “married” that comes from decades past, when married meant life long fidelity and sex with only one person, ever. If those facts were conveyed accurately, he’d have known I’ve far less chance of harboring an STD than your average modern heterosexual.

Now, I’m also gay, and, okay, he should know that too and I don’t mind. But that word alone implied to him a whole set of incorrect facts, though it’s reasonably excusable.

So what’s the real harm of being labeled as stereotypically single and gay here?

How much time is this guy willing to waste pursuing STDs? What if that blinds him to my actual problem, and I run out of time to solve it? Do his biases, make him consider my family and me less important than, say, his other patient who instead lied about the sex of the person he goes home to? These words could cause real problems (at the very least, it cost me some blood :-)).

Scot said...

I don’t disagree with you, L. I went back and reread the post to be sure I wasn’t too tough on the guy. I do still want to know if I’m in the wrong to be okay with it? Is he using research and past experience, or bigotry? I know I don’t have any particular study on married gay men in mind, but I still excuse it.

It was the bedside manner that was the worst part; he was near crass and incredulous. There are far better, less red-flag-raising ways to pursue that option.

Also, I expect people to be curious about how we became parents and I generally answer most questions asked. But he asked in the same manner one might ask where I got my shoes.

I can certainly be twitchy in this area though.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

There is within organized medicine a well established presence of activists for the rights of GLBTI persons to quality healthcare. This force has had a wonderful impact on my medical education (which was at a generally progressive and tolerant school) and is making headway in avoiding the kinds of experience you describe.

Unfortunately, and I'll have to post more about it some time, the message gets diluted when the zeal of these good folks turns their efforts to general gay-rights activism and they are seen accurately as less interested in equality in healthcare and more interested in a special interest that has no legitimate place in organized medicine.

-L-

Marc said...

Hello. *wave*

I found your blog here while surfing posts on same-sex marriage, as I make a bit of a hobby out of arguing against the opposition.

I am a native Utahn, raised LDS, did the mission thing, came out as gay to the family in slow stages starting around age 22. Long story short, you and I seem to share some common values as far as general upbringing and monogamous commitment to one's future husband. (Just waiting for the law to change.)

Anyway, I was reading through your history posts, and came across this line:

"we’ve never had the sort of sex people typically assume into the lives of homosexual men"

I'm assuming by this you mean anal sex? I'm struck with curiosity as to why a) you don't do it, and b) you feel compelled to say it in such an obscure round-about sort of way.

Also, I realize that those are some intensely personal questions to which I do not expect an answer if you're not comfortable talking about it.

Scot said...

Hey Marc,

I’d be very interested to know your opinions of my take on the marriage debate. Let’s see… Most of those posts can be found here, if you’ve time to check another’s work ;-). The bulk of it is in the posts in the “What you get for marriage equality…” and “The Ideal Argument” series.
here

Also, I realize that those are some intensely personal questions to which I do not expect an answer if you're not comfortable talking about it.

No worries, I’m not as shy as much as concerned with decorum and privacy.

I'm struck with curiosity as to why a) you don't do it, and b) you feel compelled to say it in such an obscure round-about sort of way.

a) Just lack of desire. It’s not a moral restriction for me, if that’s the wonder.

b) Probably my upbringing in such a conservative culture. I consider this blog being in ‘mixed company.’ In fact I probably discuss less here than I would in real face-to-face mixed company. But as such there’s a line in my mind distinguishing what topics cross over out of mixed company. Hinting = okay. Specific sex act = not okay :-). I know, silly and arbitrary distinction, but it’s habit.

I am a native Utahn, raised LDS, did the mission thing, came out as gay to the family in slow stages starting around age 22. Long story short, you and I seem to share some common values as far as general upbringing and monogamous commitment to one's future husband. (Just waiting for the law to change.)

You should start a blog… We need the company :-)