Historically, the healthcare system has been treating black people unethically for decades, used as ploys for the betterment of the health care system that does not care for black people. We can think of Henrietta Lacks whose cells were used without her permission that led to the advancement of the medical field that allowed doctors to run test on her cells due to their ability to live and grow. Meanwhile Henrietta herself was not receiving optimal treatment due to her blackness, and the economic advancement that came with the discovery of her cells was never shared with her family. Also, consider The Tuskegee experiments that left hundreds of black men with syphilis untreated, even after the discovery of a treatment using penicillin. J. Marion Sims coined as “the father of modern gynecology” used the bodies of black women to run his experiments in which these women were coerced and endured pain at its full extent because they were not given anesthesia.
Though we have stricter laws about ethics there are loop holes in the system that leads to the murder of queer, as well as black and brown folks. Just thinking of the mortality rate of black mothers, or the hesitance and discrimination associated with treating trans folks, and the overall lack of care and access to those that live at the margins. It is imperative that we take our healthcare into our own hands and advocate not only for ourselves but others who share our same experiences.
I recall a time going to my white female doctor. I told her that I wanted to get tested for STIs and HIV because l had recently started having sex. She asked about my sexual partners and I had shared that I had only had sex with folks with vaginas. She then told me I did not need to get tested if I was only having sex with women because I would be fine. This alone showcased the lack of cultural competency around queer folks and their bodies, and just overall stupidity. No matter who your sexual partners are you should for sure be getting tested and you have the right to get tested when you want to. I am not the only person whose had experiences with doctors who do not listen or seem to care. There can be much fear and embarrassment when going into a doctors office, but we owe it to ourselves to advocate anyway.
To ask questions, to demand what kind of care we want. It can be a super daunting task to walk into a doctors office and advocate for yourself, especially since we are taught that respect is equated to being seen and not heard. Medical school perpetuates biases that do not cater to black, brown & queer folks. So how does one make themselves seen and heard when they go to the doctors?
- Do your research! Research the doctors that you are interested in, learn about their specialties and how they treat folks. Research about what you are experiencing, read medical books or articles, ask your family about medical history so that you can be prepared.
- Bring a partner with you who will help you to ask all the questions you want and need to know. This person will be your backup so that you do not feel cornered by your doctor.
- ASK QUESTIONS!!! Then ask it again.
- Say “NO” if it does not feel right to you. Get a second opinion if needed.
- Do not go to a physician that makes you feel uncomfortable or does not take their time with you.
I know that healthcare in general can be a hard topic. It requires you to be vulnerable and honest, which can be difficult to do at the same time. Nonetheless, we all deserve to be cared for and taken seriously. Women should not have to say that the pain they are experiencing is at a 10 for the doctor to only consider it to be a 7. Without a doubt there needs to be a shift in the medical community, but there also needs to be a shift in ourselves to be persistent and loud at our next doctor visit.