My Doctor Made Me Come Out

My Doctor Made Me Come Out

By Garrett McDonnell

“How many girls have you had sex with in the past six months?” he asked.

That’s when I realized my doctor had no idea I was gay. The answer to his question was far more complicated than zero.

When you start coming out of the closet you start with the people closest to you — your friends and family. But at what point do you stop coming out? Should you tell your coworkers? How about your neighbors, should you come out to them?

In some ways I assumed my doctor knew I was gay because everybody else knew. Certainly there was never any mention of a girlfriend. Sometimes I even joked about getting probed...

I was lying by omission.

It shouldn’t be our burden to come out every time we visit a new doctor, go to the emergency room, or donate blood. Doctors shouldn’t assume your sexual orientation or identity, they should ask. And regardless of your answer you deserve to be treated with the same dignity and respect as every other patient. Unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in yet.

I nervously fiddled with my hands, sitting naked across from a man whose sole duty was to protect my health. It’s terrifying to come out to your doctor. We hold them to extraordinarily high standards but at the end of the day they’re only human. They can be just as ignorant as the rest of us. The difference is your doctor’s ignorance comes at a much higher cost — your optimal wellbeing.

You must tell your doctor you’re gay. No one will ever care more about your health and wellness than you. If you're not being proactively honest with your doctor, you’re not receiving the healthcare you need.

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This isn’t just about your HIV status — your sexual orientation affects many different components of your health. For example, the CDC reports that because of social marginalization members of the LGBTQ community are at increased risk for a number of mental health problems.

If at any point you get the feeling that your sexual orientation makes your doctor uncomfortable, you need to find a new doctor. It doesn’t matter if this has been your doctor since you were a child. You have the right to receive the best possible healthcare.

It’s also illegal for your doctor to discuss your sexual orientation with others. If you’re worried about your doctor outing you to others firmly remind them that doing so is a violation of HIPAA. Once again, it’s up to us to look out for our own health.

The best way to find LGBTQ friendly doctors is to contact their office before your first visit. Write them an email or call them and ask about their experience with LGBTQ patients. Their response will reveal a lot. If you sense any hesitation, follow your instincts.

Proactive honesty — I looked my doctor square in the eyes and said, “I’ve never had sex with a girl. Actually, I’m gay.” That’s when the conversation really began.

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