Growing up with a significant physical disability, I have been around doctors my entire life. Or, perhaps more accurately, they have been around me. For many years, I was regularly run through the gauntlet of occupational therapists, physiotherapists, specialists or other medical professionals. They would routinely ask me every question in the book. Every question, that is, except for ones pertaining to my sexuality.
Four years ago, I returned home to Canada after completing a one-year Masters degree in the UK. Soon after returning home I knew that I needed to get on the task of finding a family doctor. I am not particularly unhealthy in any way, but when you have a disability, you often need to "prove" your diagnosis in order to access social or other services. Luckily, the local medical clinic down the street from me was accepting new patients and so I went to sign up.
And so we arrive at the first intake interview with my new doctor. He seemed nice enough, if not slightly naïve about my disability but he was willing to learn and that was all that mattered to me. We started to go through the standard set of initial intake questions. Now I do not know whether I jumped the gun or whether he was not planning to ask me questions around sexuality, but regardless, I volunteered my sexual information fairly early on in the process. I think part of me wanted to make sure that I "got it in there". He hesitated. He seemed rather unsure what to do with that information. Cautiously, he began to engage me about my sexuality but something told me that he would not have done it had I not been bold enough to interject it without any prompting. He bore the same statement that so many medical professionals do.
The fact is that, even in 2015, there is still a great deal of stigma around disability. The second fact is that, similarly, there is still a great deal of stigma around sexuality. When you combine the two, you encounter double the stigma and an intensified sense of discomfort. Many medical professionals, to this day, will choose not to address sexuality with their disabled patients. That is not to say that none of them will, but just that there is hesitancywith that combination. I will never know for certain whether the encounter described above would have eventually turned to sexuality without my prompting. However, I do know how important it is and therefore refuse to take that chance.