Sunday, June 13, 2004

Lesbian and Bisexual Women

Here are a couple of interesting tidbits I came across during my book research:

- 3% of women are lesbian, bisexual, or transgender

From a 2001 physician survey, when asked how they'd feel about treating an openly gay or lesbian patient:

- about 75% of doctors say they would be very comfortable

- 19% would be somewhat comfortable

- 5% would be somewhat uncomfortable

- 1% would be very uncomfortable

Other than the logistical inconvenience of having to take a nurse in with you every time you examine a patient, I don't see what difference the patient's sexual orientation makes. I remember during my internship, we had a male patient who used to come in almost weekly, complaining of various vaginal and/or uterine ailments. The problem: he didn't have the organs in question. Unfortunately, the gyn clinic wasn't the place for him to be and I'm afraid he wasn't receiving the care he needed. I think that's the only reason he continued to come and see us; we were the only ones who would at least treat his [gyn] complaints seriously. I must say, to this day, I recall feeling bad having to tell him repeatedly that there was just no way he could be pregnant.

Regarding lesbian patients, the only thing I had to do was add one question. I usually asked new patient "Are you sexually" active, followed immediately by "Do you wish to become pregnant and, if not, what birth control method are you using?". Basically, I assumed that if the patient was gay, she'll just tell me and we could move on. In reality, I can recall only one woman who informed me at the start of the visit that she was gay. [I'd always, eventually, manage to elicit the information from patients--usually, they'd tell me once they just couldn't stand my "everything-you-always-wanted-to-know-about-birth-control-but-were-afraid-to-ask" speech. In my defense, contraception is a topic of interest, so if given the chance I'd probably subject prefect strangers on the street to this speech. In any case, it's just more productive to insert a simple "What is your sexual preference?" query.]

Speaking of lesbian and bisexual women, one important thing to remember is that these patients don't have a reduced or no risk of acquiring a sexually transmitted infection (STI). HPV (Human Papilloma Virus), bacterial vaginosis, and even HIV can be sexually transmitted between women.


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