Finding the right healthcare provider and a trustworthy physician for a person is not an easy task, and the difficulties of seeing doctors and other medical professionals are amplified for minorities, especially members of the LGBTQ+ community.
While there is a certain level of tolerance in the healthcare system for queer people, Zachary Zane found out that many doctors don’t have a full understanding of the gay culture and are “inept” in taking care of their needs.
Zach is a Brooklyn-based writer, speaker, and activist who focuses his work on sexuality, culture, lifestyle, and entertainment. He is also a bisexual, a state of being that is barely understood, even by professionals like doctors.
“I shouldn’t be coming in this much”
According to Zach, he’s had two unforgettable experiences in the healthcare system, both of which he felt like he was oppressed, misunderstood, and discriminated. He documented his experiences in an article published by Waxoh!, a sex-positive magazine produced by DatingPositives.com titled, “As a Queer Man, I Find It Necessary to Have a Gay Male Doctor.”
“In the piece, I wrote about two horrendous experiences I had in healthcare settings. After which, I decided that it’s necessary I seek out doctors who are either queer themselves, or queer-friendly, both knowledgeable and sensitive to the specific needs of LGBTQ+ patients,” Zach told Z6Mag.
In one incident with a physician that was assigned to him by his insurance provider, Zach was dumbfounded to know that the doctor was not aware of Truvada as a means of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Worse, the doctor doesn’t even know what PrEP is.
The alarming part of this story is when Zach told the doctor that he is bisexual. Instead of aligning recommendations toward his sexual preference, the doctor heedlessly advised “having sex exclusively with women,” so as not to take Truvada anymore. Amidst efforts from Zach to educate the doctor of the benefits of Truvada, the physician still refused to prescribe him the drug.
In another incident, Zach went to take urgent care to have himself tested, as he was made aware that he was exposed to gonorrhea. What happened next was something no one expected a primary care physician would do:
“The doctor proceeded to yell at me because she said I was in urgent care two months ago because I had syphilis. I explained I didn’t have syphilis, but I was exposed, so I came in to get tested and preemptively treated, as is standard protocol for these types of STIs. She then said her condom talk “was clearly falling on deaf ears” and “I shouldn’t be coming in this much,” Zach said.
“I was being reprimanded for being responsible and taking into account both my and my partners’ sexual health.”
Zach’s story is not an isolated case. Zach, together with DatingPositives.com, discovered that “the vast majority of queer people had some negative experience with inept doctors, ranging from smaller judgmental micro-aggressions to downright offensive comments.”
This is the reason why Zach, together with Waxoh!, and DatingPositives.com, is taking a stand by launching the #WeNeedAButton campaign to urge application developers responsible for creating apps that link patients to doctors to include a button or a filter that would lead them to a queer-friendly physician. In the grander scheme, the campaign aims to start the conversation regarding the experiences of members of the LGBTQ+ community in the healthcare system.
“The ‘#WeNeedAButton’ campaign, launched 50 years after Stonewall, demands change and accountability in healthcare delivery to the queer community. The first goal for the campaign is shifting the onus of finding a queer-friendly doctor from the patient to the provider. #WeNeedAButton calls for all major patient-matching sites to include a button indicating which doctors are queer-friendly,” reads the campaign’s press release.
The campaign started June 25th and is encouraging members of the LGBTQ+ community, as well as allies, to post their “buttfies” or butt selfies to make a stand against healthcare discrimination to queer people.
Lavanya DJ, Managing Director at Hudson Cutler, representing DatingPositives.com said in an email to Z6Mag that they are “holding onto our sense of humor while maintaining our perseverance and our strong sense of mission.”
And queer people responded positively to the campaign — highlighting the fact that many gay people in America experienced discrimination in healthcare settings.
“[So] the positive response is not entirely surprising, and we are inspired by the many creative ways people are interacting with the campaign. We are seeing butt selfies, dog butts, baby butts, and likeness of butts without diluting the mission,” Lavanya added.
Out of the campaign, the team behind #WeNeedAButton said that the message already reached the ears of patient-matching services and “they’ve taken our request under consideration.”
They are very positive that they will eventually reach their goals. The first of which is opening the dialogue and starting a conversation around negative experiences at the doctor’s office for the queer community.
But that’s not where the campaign ends. The team doesn’t only want to open the conversation and to have queer-friendly button in patient-matching apps; they also want to partner with doctors, medical professionals, other advocacy groups, and politicians to “deliver the promise of the NYC’s LGBTQ Healthcare Bill of Rights for everyone, not just residents of New York City.”
“That’s why we need support from the community and allies. We are calling to put their asses to work: share a butt selfie, tag @waxoh_news and use the hashtag #WeNeedAButton,” Lavanya said.