I’ve been working on my “new patient” paperwork for evaluating a new doctor. I never assume that the doctor I am seeing will work as a primary physician until after I have an initial appointment with them. Unless they can treat me as a partner and equal in my own health, I won’t have anything to do with them.
Now, I haven’t had any real issues filling these out, but I’m glad that when the paperwork is more than 2 pages long they chose to mail it out early to give me a chance to fill it out (whereas it would not be filled out completely if I had had it at the time of my appointment — it’s 4 pages, plus pages to explain my issues).
But I came across a question that I have never seen on a new patient intake form before. They want to know if I’ve had more than 4 sexual partners.
I understand that sexuality is an important part of one’s health. Letting your doctor know about your sexual activity (and its relative health or ill health, as well as how careful or how ignorant you are about protecting yourself from STDs) is important. It is also important for them to know your sexual orientation and where you are on the whole gender spectrum.
But, it is a subject difficult for many people. Women who have had over 4 sexual interactions in their lives are told by our society that we are “dirty sluts” or “skanks.” It doesn’t bug me, but I could see some female patients avoiding the question for fear of being judged by the doctor. And that’s even BEFORE considering whether one should confide their sexual orientation, thoughts on polyamory/open relationships, transsexualism or any of thousands other issues that people fear to confide to anyone — let alone a medical professional who is supposed to have strict ethics.
It’s the specific number that bugs me. Who chooses that line in the sand? I know that “on an average” most heterosexual women have 4-5 sexual partners in their lives and most heterosexual men have maybe 6-8. I’ve never lied about the fact that my numbers are more than 10x the average for a heterosexual woman (which may be a surprise to one of my old boyfriends who found me on Facebook some months ago………I think I was still somewhere in the single digits when I was with him). But I can see some heterosexual woman (or even bisexual, not so sure about lesbians) looking at that and saying to themselves: “Oh, I’ve had 6. I must be a slut!!”
We are so very quick to judge ourselves worse than anyone else.
I’ve learned, for the most part, to let those who judge me for the number of my partners think what they will. It’s no skin off my nose what they think unless they try to physically attack me or verbally abuse me for it. But having a medical professional judge you that badly is a huge problem.
Why? If you are going to let them know EVERYTHING in your life that may impact your health, you HAVE to be able to trust that they will keep their negative PERSONAL opinions to themselves and treat you with objectivity. Now, doctors are human. Hell, the doctor I am leaving is a human being and has her own set of biases and perspectives on things. It is only once it started affecting her care of my issues, it was time to leave.
But not everyone has the same willingness to confront issues that I have. Hell, even I occasionally have issues confronting certain emotions. My habits are ingrained to avoid discussion topics that I know damned well will cause an intense argument. Even with that avoidance, there still comes a point for me where I need to stop and make better choices.
I’ve been judged negatively by doctors and medical staff my entire life. Some of it is my weight, which I’ve talked about before. Some of it is because I refuse to treat them like they are God and bow before their omniscience. Yeah………no, Pookie. You are a human being just like me, and I won’t let you treat me like I am inferior to you! I sure as hell won’t let you treat me like some mentally challenged 2-year-old! Some of it, sad to say, is because I am a woman and rarely act like a stereotypical female in the privacy of the exam room.
I’ve also been judged for my sexual activity, and by my own family of origin. The thing is, there is judgement but there is no treating me like I’m inferior because I make different choices. Their judgement of me is connected to their very strong Christian faith. In fact, my sexuality isn’t exactly high on their list of priorities about changing my choices. Their #1 priority is to “return me to the arms of Christ.” I don’t think my sexual choices even make it into the top 10 of their priorities.
The only thing that affects me is that I have compromised on some of my choices because I am living with my sister. It’s her house. I have a responsibility to respect her choices if I am going to live in her house. She’s also compromised with me on that, but I’ll leave that between us.
But not everyone has built up the kind of awareness I have regarding my expectations, needs and wants regarding a medical professional. They are sometimes intimidated that their doctor could have taken up to 14 years to actually become a fully recognized doctor. But then again, I’ve actually had great rapport with residents. Many of them have come into the relationship with the hope I can teach them about how to reach their patients by having an equal relationship with them. They don’t tend to set themselves above me, particularly after they’ve spent some time getting to know me and seeing I am just as intelligent as they are.
That’s the point many doctors forget after a while (and some patients have never actually learned0. You are supposed to have a RELATIONSHIP with your doctor. Not a personal one, but one based on mutual trust and understanding.
I guess what I want to say is that if you — as a patient — come across one of these questions, don’t automatically assume the medical staff is going to judge you. If they do, vote with your feet and walk right out of there. If you can’t because you have limited options for medical support, then learn to stand up for yourself without developing a chip on your shoulder. I try VERY HARD not to allow my own chip to negatively impact a potential medical relationship. I have to allow myself to be vulnerable to the possibility that this doctor will be an idiot and try to lecture me. Because going in there with a chip on my shoulder will inevitably become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Take a deep breath. You might be surprised to know that they don’t judge you.