Guide: Coming Out to Your Doctor
Telling My Doctor: Akilah's Story
It was the first time I had to go to see this doctor. Nothing was wrong. I just knew that I had to have a few annual checkups done. Nothing was wrong but I was nervous. I knew there would be questions. There always were. "Are you sexually active?" "Are you on the pill?" I knew that these would come in rapid fire succession. And so I waited to see how I'd let her know. The nurse came in and checked my height and weight. She checked my blood pressure and noted each of these objective numbers on my chart. Then she started with the questions.
"Are you sexually active," she asks without looking up. "Yes," I reply.
"Are you on the pill?" "No." She looks up at me, "Are you trying to get pregnant?"
"No," I answered. 'Then why don't you use birth control?' My heart starts to beat a little harder and I wonder how she will react. "Well, I don't have to. I sleep with women," I finally offer. Silence. Then scribbling on the chart. "OK," she says, 'have you recently slept with men?" "Yes," I stumble, "although, not in a few years." 'I'll put you down for a Pap test, you still may need one," she tells me putting down my chart.
She instructs me to put on the gown, and then leaves me to myself. So that's one down. It wasn't too hard, but I should be used to these inquisitions, but you never know how someone will react. Perhaps next time I'll try to be funny.
Now it's the doctor's turn. The doctor is young. She has a kind face, but I'm still nervous, anxious and just plain apprehensive. She asks me a few questions about my level of activity. She wants me to exercise more. As she looks over my chart her expression changes just slightly. She asks, "When was the last time you slept with a man?" I answer, "Over a year ago." She asks "Do you plan on sleeping with men in the future?" "Not if I can help it," I reply. She smiles. That puts me at ease. I'm still anxious but at least she got my joke.
We move on with the physical and required testing. Afterwards, she asks me to meet her in her office outside of the exam room. She goes over some advice that I think every doctor needs to go over with all people they see, eat healthy, don't smoke, drink moderately, etc. Then she says, "Since you choose to…" she starts then catches herself: "wait that wasn't right." She starts again, "Even though you are not sexually active with men, we will still need to do a Pap test every year for the next few years. If they are all negative you will probably only need one every three years. But you should also know that you should still practice safe sex. If you use toys be sure to wash them before sharing, and after use. You don't have to worry about getting pregnant, but you should be mindful of disease. Remember to protect yourself." "Thanks Doctor, I do and I will." – Akilah, age 29