This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness.
Many of you are familiar with him from Livejournal, as well
as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here.
Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from
Dear readers, I come to you with wonderful
news! It seems I am immortal!
Yes, I have found the key to eternal life,
I am immune to 99% of everything, so long as I protect my one Achilles
heel, there is no health complaint I can face, no injury I can suffer,
nothing can strike me down!
And even my Achilles heel is pretty easy to
avoid – see the only thing that can kill me is an illness I can catch
with my penis. That’s a pretty damn specific weakness.
I know this is so because I have been repeatedly
assured so by various doctors and recently had it confirmed by Beloved.
See, he has an ear infection (which he blamed on me) so painfully made
his way down to the doctor who decided to do the directed medicine thing
and asked him… about AIDS.
Beloved thanked him for his concern but his
ear was really hurting and he didn’t actually have AIDS so can we
deal with the actual medical condition he was suffering from, thank
you so much. No, really he was polite. The third time the nice doctor
man mentioned AIDS Beloved’s ear inflamed temper became much less…
flexible and he came home in a towering rage.
And I’ve been there. In my ongoing battle
to try and stop my horrible chronically dry skin from peeling off in
huge chunks and leaving me looking like an extra on the Walking Dead,
I’ve ambled down to the doc and tried to discover if I have eczema,
dermatitis or leprosy or something aaand… AIDS.
Is AIDS causing me to look like I need to
carry a bell around with me? No. I’m not there to talk about AIDS.
Fix my skin! I dodged his question about when was the last time I took
a HIV test so many times he started to get accusatory. Personally I
didn’t want to be told that my last check – years ago – made me
a terribad gay and instead wanted him to address the fact my skin was
falling off in nasty, dry, flaky chunks.
It’s not the first time either, to an extent
that, while I’m determined not to crawl back into the closet for any
reason, I’m tempted to do so when visiting the doctor’s office.
In fact, I think if I was stabbed multiple times tomorrow, rushed to
the ER only semi-coherent and we had one of those scenes where I’m
being wheeled through the corridors with doctors chanting medical babble
around me (I watch TV, I know they happen :P) they’d actually be saying
“Do you have a HIV test? When was the last time he had a HIV test!”
“Nurse! Did he say he was sexually active?” “Sparky, stay with
us Sparky, I need to give you a condescending lecture about condoms,
So I can only assume from these experiences that I am immortal. That
the reason medical professionals around me obsess about AIDS (and, occasionally,
other STDS) is because only sexually transmitted diseases can bring
me down. My penis is my weakness!
Or, I could conclude that people, even medical
people, have an overwhelming obsession with AIDs when it comes to gay
One of these options is more likely –
but I prefer the immortal one.
The thing is, I’d quite like to see the
NHS make a point of offering GBLTQ focused health care, especially since
study after study has shown that we’re underserved and often failed
by the people who are meant to keep body and soul together (and stop
my skin falling off). But being aware of our health issues means actually
studying what those issues are, rather than hitting the same note.
As a gay man, yes that includes AIDS and other STDs, of course it does
But we also have vastly disproportionate addiction
levels. Smoking, alcohol, substance abuse are all through the charts.
We also have a many times higher eating disorder
rate than straight men.
We much more likely to be homeless with the
attendant health risks.
We have an IMMENSELY higher rate of mental
illness, depression, PTSD, self-harm, suicide.
We’re often victims of violence
These are just a few – and there’s
doubtless more I’m not even aware of because any study into our health
has the problem of both a closeted population and too many people asking
these questions because they have an agenda. By all means find these
out, tell me about them – hey I’ve been hearing rumblings about
meningitis which I know nothing about and is probably a continent away
but I’d really appreciate some clarification if nothing else than
because the idea of a potentially lethal contagious disease spreading
among gay men makes me REALLY FREAKING NERVOUS for obvious reasons.
And that’s just as a gay man. I can’t
imagine what my bisexual siblings may have to put up with, or the fuckeries
that have lesbians happily committing murder in their minds in the doctor’s
office. And as for trans people – I have yet to meet one trans
person who doesn’t know of at least one doctor they would happily
strap to an altar and sacrifice their souls to any dark god that happens
to be passing. And, given what they have to tolerate, I’d hold the
knife for them AND wear the silly robe.
We want personalised health
care, we need personalised health care and I would be overjoyed if the
medical profession paid attention to issues that disproportionately
affected us and health care considerations we may especially need. But
that doesn’t replace actually listening to us, nor does it mean treating
the stereotype rather than the person.