Don’t Love Your Body? You Can Still Take Care Of It!
For a while now, folks working in queer health have talked about how we need to love our bodies so we can take care of them.
Which is certainly a great idea, theoretically, but for many of us (myself included) who have a difficult relationship with our bodies, gender, and the way these things complicate our daily life, asking us to “love” our bodies seems ludicrous if not downright cruel. It reminds me of something the Mistress (yup that was her actual title) used to say to me and all my junior nun team-mates in my former nun days. If we were upset about something she’d give us this stellar advice: “just don’t think about it.”
As if we were going to respond “oh just don’t think about it. Oh okay, it never occurred to me until now, thank you sister, problem solved.”It would be awesome if we could love our bodies. And that may or may not happen sometime in the future. but there are situations where we need to take care of our bodies NOW.
What if we decided we didn’t have to love our bodies in order to take care of our bodies? What if we used our extensive queer creativity to create workarounds? Here are just a few ideas I’ve heard when this subject comes up in LGBT health workshops I’ve facilitated across the country:
If you’re insured, check the back of your card for something called a WarmLine or a NurseLine, often that person will be able to answer some of your preliminary health care questions before you arrive in the provider’s office.
When meeting a provider for the first time in a non emergency situation, think of yourself as interviewing them for a friend. Although they won’t be your friend, exactly, you want to feel comfortable with them. .
Think about whether having a certain procedure (eg pelvic exam) will make you feel unsafe or will actually be unsafe. Often we feel unsafe during a procedure but we are actually in danger (that is unsafe) when we avoid the procedure. It’s important distinction: feeling safe is not equal to being unsafe.
Practice telling the medical version of your story, so you can speak the provider’s language.
Ask yourself “What’s the worst that can happen?”
Remember that health care providers are often full of bravado to cover up the fact that medicine is more of an art than a science, oftentimes about very educated guesswork and the process of elimination.
Go with a buddy to your provider appointments.
Compete with a buddy to see who can get the first pelvic exam, prostate exam, etc.
Work with a therapist who goes with you to procedures.
Think of getting health care as an act of social justice or a commitment to your community
Remind yourself providers have seen a lot; whatever you have going on, they probably have seen the situation before.
Don’t be afraid to fire a health care provider if the relationship is not working out.
Ask your friends for accountability/encouragement.
Give yourself permission to complain as much as you want as long as you go for the care you need.
Realize you don’t have to answer every question. Feel free to ask “Um, why exactly do you need to know that” if you feel like the provider might be asking a question more out of curiosity than actual need to know.
List health care you need to get, rate on a scale from 1-10 based on how difficult the procedure is for you (ie with ten being the most difficult) how difficult they are for you (10= most difficult) and then concentrate your first efforts on items in the 3 range. That way you'll have some success and you can work up to more difficult items.
Remind yourself “Doctors/health care providers have a lot of knowledge but they aren’t an expert on me.”