Some Words From Your Gynecologist
A friend of mine suggested to have new business cards printed with a rather different title: Hello, I’m your gynecologist, and no worries, I’m also gay.
At first, I found this hilarious. As I kept drinking at the party, and thinking about it -Yes Jannie, doctors also drink and have personal lives- I realized how bad the whole thing was, on so many different layers.
Of course, she meant it as a joke, but the fact that my sexuality might be slogan material, even with the purpose of making me laugh, kept resonating in my head for days.
After 12 years training to become an Obstetrician and Gynecologist, there are so many qualities and even defects of mine, I want to make sure my patients are aware of.
Choosing one’s doctor, and even more, choosing the physician in charge of getting so close to many private sides, should not be taken lightly.
Please don’t get me wrong. I am definitely an advocate for strong bonds and commitment when it comes to Healthcare. However, how is my sexuality suddenly part of my Curriculum Vitae?
I mean, I get it. We share a lot, but I don’t see any Billboards in Minnesota going I’m your contractor for the floors, but no worries, I’m straight. Do you?
The next very important thing that keeps making a U-turn in my head: why do I need to clarify? Does that mean my straight colleagues have to write their sexual orientation under their title as well? Or even worse: they don’t? I can’t stop thinking about it.
It is paradoxical to imagine a physician having to identify his/her sexuality in order for patients to feel safe. By doing so, we would be justifying the fear that many women have, when it comes to choosing males as their gynecologists.
Every time I start working at a new place, I always get the typical Have you ever had issues for being a male gynecologist? And the answer is never as juicy as the interviewer expects.
My guess would be that I’ve been pretty lucky, or that I’ve always worked for big organizations, in big cities, where people tend to be more progressive and a bit more eager to try different approaches.
I could also guess that my patients have understood the role of my gender, and that it is just another aspect of their physician. Many colleagues have had different experiences, when their masculinity has stood in between patients and themselves.
Same I could say about sexuality. Although, it tends to be less common of a conversation topic. Being a gay gynecologist helps me see things differently, when it comes to my personal life. But it absolutely has no role in the way I practice medicine.
Just to put things in perspective: Obstetricians and Gynecologists are physicians, who go to school for 8 years to become doctors.
After that, they have to train at a hospital for 4 years to become specialists in the female reproductive system and pregnancy, a very complex and dynamic branch of medicine.
Point made — it is a very arduous process. For many years, Ob-gyns have to train, study, and even compete with others based on scores and resumés, to finally be allowed to practice medicine.
We play a very close, almost confidential figure for our patient. It becomes crucial to stay sensitive to women’s topics and up to date with new evolving information. Not to mention how stressful it is to take care of two patients and their well-being, at the same time. One of them unborn.
I’ve always thought that a good quality every physician should develop is unbiased empathy. From the early days in med-school, a very important lesson we all learn is inclusion and equality, regardless of race, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, skin color, passport origin, and any other variants.
I swear there is a good reason for the explanation: This long path is designed to teach gynecologists how to diagnose and cure affections in the reproductive tract, making sure they stay approachable and intimate.
The same way a mechanic treats cars, or a teacher deals with children: our main goal is the medicine behind the genital system, regardless of personal opinion/preferences.
Now, let’s talk about a very important point: respect. Dealing with somebody’s genitalia is something to be taken quite seriously. In fact, most gynecologists I know have routines and techniques to make patients feel as safe and respected as possible.
If I have to mention some patients’ favorites, I’d say warmed speculums, lighting and music that suggests nice and cozy, the right amount of privacy, supportive staff.
The main focus remains women’s healthcare, but making sure the experience ends up being as dignifying and elevating as possible is very important for both you and I.
The last thing a physician wants is to be seen as disrespectful or invasive. Or even worse: pervy. Making sure patients are aware of one’s sexual orientation, so they can feel safe instead of vulnerable, is an idea far from logical.
It links personal preferences with professionalism. It leaves many questions behind, one of them being How much should I trust my doctor?
I want to make sure the following gets across: I have never — in 14 years that I have been connected to the world of medicine, or in my 6 years as an Ob-gyn — felt that any of my colleagues, straight or gay, have sexualized our job.
And how do I feel about it all? I love my patients and my career. I’m pretty happy with what I chose for a living. Do I make them feel safe and respected? You bet. No labels needed on my tag for that.
And if you leave this taking only one thing with you: Despite how bizarre it might sound, your vagina — among other things — is our job, not our hobby.
I promise I can take jokes. This one was actually very funny, but it stayed with me for a bit longer than expected because it opened so many questions in my head, and some remain unanswered.
One thing is for sure: I’m not getting new business cards.