The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) recently posted on Gay.com ten issues gay men should discuss with their doctors. The top ten were as follows:
- HIV/AIDS, safe sex.
- Substance abuse.
- Hepatitis immunization.
- STD’s (sexually transmitted diseases).
- Prostate, testicular and colon cancer.
- Fitness (diet and exercise).
- Anal Papilloma (anal and genital warts).
GLMA also had a list of ten for women. They were in order:
- Breast cancer.
- Gynecological cancer.
- Substance abuse.
- Domestic violence.
- Heart health.
I hope these lists will prompt discussion with one’s health care provider, community awareness, and perhaps even some debate. I found it interesting that the men’s list started with HIV and the women’s list started with Breast Cancer. Both are obviously very important problems but there are a whole lot of other “lions and tigers and bears” out there we should also not forget. Being a major cheerleader for the “homosexual lifestyle” I think it is also vitally important for us to not forget the many ways in which we are already a powerful, healthy and evolving people and how we should be cultivating those strengths as the foundation for good health and wellbeing.
In order for a discussion on any of these health topics to occur from a GLBT perspective your health care provider of course needs to know you are “that way” and that he or she is able to handle that reality. Being comfortable enough with yourself to share your innate proclivities with your provider is absolutely vital to your health and wellbeing. The reality of course is that if you are comfortable with whom you are you may still need to do a fair amount of education with your care provider around these specific homophile issues. If you have a good provider they will be willing to learn and help, and if not, you may need to look around for someone else, easier said than done though in this age of managed health care.
I learned early in my gay life not to speak for lesbian women around their health and wellbeing, they do a good job on their own, thank you. There certainly are many health issues though that all GLBT people share and that we can and should be working on together, at least some of the time. It is my opinion that the issues of substance abuse, alcohol and tobacco are major problems with definite connections to our “lifestyle” and as some evidence suggests, we may as a community have greater difficulty with these than the straight world. If we added up the bodies from problems caused by booze, abused drugs and smokes it would, I fear, far surpass AIDS and Breast Cancer combined!
Despite significant gains for our people in the past 50 plus years we still have a long way to go as evidenced by the fact that the Supreme Court would even entertain a ruling on the legitimacy of two men having consensual sex in the privacy of their own home! Talk about something that should generate “shock and awe”, it is the possible upholding of an antiquated sodomy law in the year 2003 in the land of the free and home of the brave! We need to be as strong and healthy as possible to face this sort of lunacy.
So how do we get to be the strong and healthy people we have such great potential to be? First and foremost I think it behooves us to facilitate and accelerate on a community wide level the process (“coming out” is a bit inadequate and antiquated) of positive queer identity formation. We have allowed society and the psychological, religious and medical communities, not to mention a bunch of Queer Theorists, to deconstruct us to our genitals, what we do with them and the diseases and pathologies that sometimes come along for the ride.
For gay men in particular our concept of good health needs to go beyond disease free genitalia! Of course it is important that we face the ugly reality of HIV and if not already infected work to stay that way. We also want to be aware that there are other lions and tigers and bears out there beside HIV: syphilis, hepatitis, genital warts, anal cancer, gonorrhea, intestinal parasites (there are possible consequences to licking butt!) and so on!
I would like to push the envelope here though and say that all of these genital maladies, HIV included, are really the easy things to address when struggling to realize the potential of our body, mind, heart and soul. Who am I, why am I here on earth and what should I be about are the tough ones! These are questions that have been raised by all the great religious traditions, and I believe this issue of who we are in particular is of great importance for GLBT people. We start out of the box different and despised which often leads to a lot of self loathing, often vigorously reinforced by the dominate society. It is hard to have a positive self image when on some level you think there is something profoundly wrong with you.
We have an opportunity as Pride weekend approaches, and we will be getting together in large numbers, to look around at each other and ask why this feels so damn good to be hanging out in downtown Denver with one hundred thousand of our closest friends! I know in my gut it’s not just the food, the beer, the drugs, the vibrant looking men and women or the corporate sponsorship! There is something about our coming together that energizes our soul and makes us feel truly good about ourselves. What is that? We need to try to tap into that feeling, try to grab onto it and run with it beyond the day! It is a lot more than just feeling “out and proud”. Our health and wellbeing is absolutely dependent on the positive realization and evolution of who we are. Once we grasp that reality all the lions and tigers and bears in the world can’t hurt us.