Building Courage

I came out approximately 5 years ago.

English: Rainbow flag flapping in the wind wit...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the time, I was terrified. I assumed that I would never speak to my family again, lose my friends, move far away and start a new life.

Now, that just seems silly. I told one of my sisters first, and word got around either by me or through the grapevine. The majority of my friends stayed true to me. Those that did not,  quietly removed themselves from my life. Although, to be fair, I didn’t exactly give some people the chance to tell me what they really felt, and for that I feel regret. I should have given them the chance to give me a chance. 

I was selfish, scared, immature and irresponsible to a degree. I didn’t know what to do with myself once I had finally conquered my biggest fear. Life became beautiful, wonderful and… chaotic at best. Eventually, I straightened it out, grew up and moved on. I have amazing family, awesome friends, and great jobs. Something struck me today at a new job I recently took.

I was talking to a coworker I hardly know. I just met her, we are both new, and I have no idea what her beliefs or political standings are. I related my relationship to hers, talked with other LGBT employees about the drag shows, etc. I openly mentioned my partner in my interview, and as the last few weeks of training have progressed there has been no hesitation in relating my life and experiences to others. And I wasn’t even thinking twice about it. Even when I taked to a sweet little lady about the election of a new Pope, I never assumed she was anti-LGBT inclusion. I just saw that she was sweet, polite and happy about the selection that had been made. It made me smile.

There used to be such fear and discomfort. Always worried about how someone might react to my orientation, my life, my partner… But now, I just don’t even think about it.

And no one reacts innapropriately. THAT, my friends, is so beautiful. And I owe it to all of you that have supported me, given me opportunities and chances, friendship and love. I hope and pray that every young person, regardless of what struggle they have, will find those people in life so that they may reach full potential.

I smile so much these days. I laugh, dance, sing, and love. Not like before, when it was gaurded, insecure and sometimes forced. Now it is genuine, bright and glowing like a Montana summer day.

We all make a difference in the lives around us. Let’s make sure it’s a positive difference.

Christmas Wishes

christmas paint

christmas paint (Photo credit: cassie_bedfordgolf)

This past month has been a whirlwind of chaos. In fact, the year 2012 has been trying for many. With my head spinning from all of the news reports, online posts, shopping, socializing and more, I have been trying to find small ways in which to relax and gain perspective.

The first thing I did was to pray. I prayed for the families of those lost, the families of those who harmed others. For the President and his family. For the 80-something year old lady that would be working on Christmas. For my family, my friends, and myself. I prayed for clarity, wisdom, and a gentle heart. And then I saw the police show up at the neighbor’s house… yet again. So I prayed for the single mother who seems to have addiction challenges. and for the officers attending. and especially for her children.

And then I found something to do.

I sat and watched my beautiful aquarim for 10 minutes. I trimmed and watered my plants. I read a chapter of a good book. I told my partner that I love him, and spent a good long while reflecting on all of our good times, outweighing the challenges we have gone through this past year.

That’s when the dogs decided I was ignoring them, and so we went to play fetch and tug.

I self destruct when I dont slow my brain down and give thanks. My new year’s rsolution is not to get in shape, quit bad habits, promise myself things that may or may not come to be. Insead, I just wish to be at peace once in a while. Even for 5 minutes a day.

So, wherever you are and whomever you may be, I am grateful for you. If I could give each and everyone a gift this year, it would be 10 minutes of uninterrupted peace and joy. Take a minute this holiday season to sit back, find the beauty and smile a little.

Merry Christmas, and I wish you all a beautiful and inspiring 2013.


Identification of LGBT Needs in the Exam Room

A physician performs a routine checkup on a pa...

A physician performs a routine checkup on a patient at the medical clinic. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last time you were in an exam room, did you feel that the attending physician received all the information needed to gain an accurate perspective of your plight? Did you share everything you felt you should, no matter how personal? Did said physician even ask about anything, aside from the usual short list of inquiries we are all too familiar with in that particular setting?

If you are a physician, do you really get the answers you need from your patients? Or perhaps it is just too uncomfortable when talking about sexual health and behaviors. More likely, they do not disclose the details out of discomfort, or even fear.

LGBT persons have shown to have some unique healthcare needs, sometimes experiencing disparities in care. LGBT patients are often uncomfortable or inhibited from talking openly with healthcare providers about sexual orientation, gender identity, and sexual behaviors. Certain sexual behaviors do not automatically define that patient as LGBT, and not all LGBT patients are going to have similar sexual behaviors. Truthfully, it’s not about whether a person is a member of the LGBT community or not. It’s about the individuals choices and behaviors that could be putting their health at risk, as well as the health of others. In order to cover everyone’s needs, patients must speak openly with providers. Providers must delve into the patients behaviors and understand where the risk behavior is at for each patient. I am going to lay out a few examples, ideas, and suggestions for physicians, as well as patients.

In any healthcare position, you will find people from diverse backgrounds and lifestyles. Different interests, tastes, and mindset. The right approach will reassure patients that the provider is knowledgeable, genuine, concerned, confidential and accepting. This enables the patient to open up and discuss the very private matters of sexual behavior, often in this society a ‘taboo’ subject.

Ask the patient to tell a bit about themselves. As the patient, make sure you indulge your sexual partner(s), safe sex practices, and concerns. Some behaviors have an amount of risk attached to them that is often unknown to the patient.  A physician might ask “Do you have any questions or concerns about your sexuality, sexual orientation or sexual desires?”. Use gender-neutral terms and mirror the patient’s terminology to better understand how they identify. For example, asking “do you have a partner or spouse?” “Are you currently in a relationship?” “What do you call your partner?” are all good ways to decide how the patient will identify without offending them with clinical terms which may sound cold and ‘labeled’. From here the in-depth sexual questions begin: “Are you sexually active?” “When you have sex, do you have sex with men, women or both?” “Are you and your partner monogamous?” “How many sexual partners have you had in the past year?” “Do you have vaginal sex, anal sex, or both?”. These and many more are the key to finding out just what unique needs your particular patient might have.

It is important to differentiate between sexual identity and sexual behavior. Providers need to discuss sexual behavior with patients regardless of sexual identity in order to define risk-assessment, ascertaining what activities they engage in and to learn what they are doing to prevent the transmission of disease.

And for the majority of readers, as  patients we have a personal responsibility to find the courage to openly discuss in confidence all of our behaviors and desires with our doctors, nurses, therapists and counselors, etc. This is extremely important. We cannot rely on someone to read our thoughts and know the truth.

Stand up and be proud of yourself. I can almost guarantee that the person treating you has heard it all. And if they haven’t, they will soon enough.