If you lived in Nigeria, where being gay or lesbian is a heinous social and moral crime would you feel confident in coming out to your doctor? Recently, I had to consider the implications of this. Even though I did not feel scared of being judged because I could not give a rat’s ass what she thought, I was more concerned about my health, which made the interaction, strained to say the least.
To give context, I had been seeing spots of blood coming out of my vagina for nearly two weeks after my period ended, and this generally left me caring very little about the possible discrimination I would have to face to get this issue fixed. I wad going to go see a doctor, prejudices be damned.
Here is how my meeting with the health care practitioner went (please note I am somewhat paraphrasing here).
Me: Hi! Doctor: Hi, sorry for the long wait. We’re moving to a new electronic system and today is the first day. We’re still in the teething phase so you got us at a bad time.
Me: No worries. I have already spent my entire day here so as long as I get to see someone its fine. Doctor: So, how can I help you?
Me: I think there’s a problem with my period. I saw my period about ten days early and since then I’ve been spotting. Doctor: Is your period normally regular?
Me: Yes, even to the time of day. But last month and this month have been a bit off. Last month, I wasn’t feeling well so I thought that was why. Sometimes, my period comes early if I’m unwell but it corrects itself once I’m better. Doctor: OK, let’s look at the calendar and see if you can tell me what dates your period has come on the last three months.
We both look at the calendar. I tell her the dates and she does some calculations.
Doctor: Are you sexually active? Me: Yes.
Doctor: Is there a chance you could be pregnant? Me: No.
Doctor: Have you taken a pregnancy test recently? Me: No, don’t need to.
Doctor: How can you be so sure then? Me: I’m not having sex with men.
Doctor: But, you say you’re sexually active? Me: I have sex with women.
Doctor decides its time to take notes. Because her screen is still tilted towards me. I can see her writing, “Patient claims to be sexually active but believes she cannot be pregnant”.
At that point I stop her saying, “I’m not claiming to be sexually active. I am sexually active. Just not with men”.
The rest of our meeting is awkward. She tells me to give it some time because she suspects I did not ovulate that month and my period will most likely correct itself. I ask her about other possible causes and also ask her to give me a test for STDs and she asks me why I want that. I insist until she recommends one for me. I go to the lab for the test and wait half an hour for the results. In the meantime, I go down to the Japanese restaurant to get some food.
When I meet with the doctor again she tells me that I am all clear. I persist in not wanting to wait until my period corrects itself so she says we can run a scan but I have to come back next week. I thank her and leave.
It was a horrible experience.
I wanted to be mad at her for being a doctor and being that ignorant. I wanted to ask her where she went to school and how she learned to be so insensitive but I couldn’t. Somewhere inside me I was grateful that the smirk she gave when I reclaimed by sexual activity was all. She could have decided to start preaching to me. She could have taken a nasty turn and said more hurtful things to me.
Afterwards, I wondered about other women who have sex with women.
I wonder if they felt comfortable coming out to their doctors. Did they get treated badly for being open and honest? What would happen to women who didn’t have a clue about what types of tests to run or what type of treatment to expect? I felt pity for all of us. Young now, but in a couple of years we might want to start families the unconventional ways. God help us all when its time to cross that bridge.