Tuesday, October 22, 2013

STI Testing, Slut-Shaming, and My Adopted City

Today I went to one of the City of Chicago's free STI testing clinics for my bi-annual STI/HIV test.

The 2-3 hour visit to this clinic normally breaks down like this:


It's boring, but hey, it delivers immediate HIV results, only takes 10 days for the other results, doesn't require an appointment, and it's free - it's great that I can get this in exchange for my tax dollars in Chicago. 

Today, unfortunately, I was offered a little something extra with my visit - a big, healthy dose of slut-shaming by the woman assigned to do my intake and triage.

When you walk into the clinic, someone behind a counter tells you to go over by the door to the exam room area and wait for someone to help you. After a few minutes of people walking in and out of exam rooms looking right at me without saying anything (SOP for this clinic), an older woman in a lab coat pointed towards a nearby open door and told me to go in. She followed behind me and closed the door partway.

"Why are you here today?" she asked. 

"To get an STI test," I responded.

"No, we all know you're here to get an STI test." She does a half eye-roll. "What brings you here to this walk-in clinic? There must be some reason you came in here today. Are you having a rash or itching or something?"

I'm put off by her manners but this is a reasonable question, I decide. "No, no symptoms. I'm just here because I'm out of work right now, but I try to get tested regularly because I have a lot of sex partners."

As she's crossing to the desk, she looks at me sideways and says "A lot of sex partners? Shame, shame, shame." Then she hands me a clipboard and a pink card with a number on it, and tells me to fill these out and they'll call my number.

Are you kidding me? I'm thinking. Did she actually just say that? Wow. I wanted to say something but I didn't know what to say in that moment, plus she was already leaving the room. So I went back to the waiting area and filled out my paperwork, then texted my partner and told him what happened. He asked if I got her name; I hadn't, but said I'd try to get it.

Then I got really mad. Who was that woman, and what the hell was she doing, working in an STI clinic? I went on my phone and found the Twitter account for the City of Chicago's Department of Public Health, and tweeted:


An hour or so later, when the CNP (Certified Nurse Practitioner) called me back to get my urine sample and swab me, I told her what had happened. She looked alarmed and perturbed. She apologized to me and when I said "Oh well, it was bound to happen some time," she said "Why? That shouldn't happen to anyone!" That made me smile - it was a good answer.

As I was leaving the clinic later with the insulting woman's name, job title, and ALL THE FREE CONDOMS (seriously, free female condoms are the best reason to go there) I got a tweet from @ChiPublicHealth. It was someone named Brian; he apologized as well, left a number, and requested I call. I did and left a message. He called back  - after 5 P.M. no less - and asked for the details I was willing to give. When I told him what the woman had said (the "Shame, shame, shame" bit) he goes (and I quote):


He apologized again, thanked me for calling, and told me that he'd already reported it to the Commissioner of the Department of Public Health, and the Chairman of the Board of Public Health. He said he thought she would need some intensive education, and that didn't know what anyone in that Department was doing with opinions like that. I told him I didn't care what her opinions were, I just didn't appreciate her giving them to me. He responded by saying: "Well I work here and I do care." Nice work, Brian! When I got home, I discovered another tweet from the DPH Commissioner himself (!), promising follow up and thanking me for contacting them.

May I just say...?
Ok, this is where I get all Chicago-pride on you guys. As horrible as it is that someone working in an STI clinic would say that to anyone, the follow up I received from the Department of Public Health was positively outstanding. From the CNP who first apologized, tried to fix it, and offered to lodge a complaint on my behalf; to Brian the Public Relations guy who seemed genuinely appalled at my experience; to Dr. Choucair (the Commissioner of DPH) personally thanking me for reporting it, I saw an attitude of care and concern about public sexual health that was, frankly, exemplary. And I was shocked and very pleasantly surprised to see that quality of care from a big city government agency. 

It kinda makes me proud to be a kinky person in such a sex-positive city.








6 comments:

  1. The level of care showed in their responses is absolutely awesome.

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  2. Good for you for reporting her judge-yness, that's not the kind of attitude that is needed in a clinic like that. I so glad to hear that the response to the report was positive and obviously willing to address the inappropriate nature of her comments instead of trying to excuse it or sweep it under the rug. People need to feel comfortable getting their testing and do it more often not be chased away by people with bad attitudes that should probably be working elsewhere.
    ML.

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  3. Glad they saw the need for people to feel comfortable.

    I had the weird experience at a similar city clinic in New York whereby when getting my results the practitioner asked about my habits and I told her I had multiple partners including men and I get tested yearly as part of my safer sex routine and to reassure my girlfriend. When she asked if I'd had any unprotected sex in the last few months, I said 1.) I never have any unprotected sex, and 2.) I hadn't had any sex outside my primary relationship at all in the last three months. She then expressed concern that I was not monogamous but also chastised me for coming in when I didn't need to. According to her three months without any new partners meant there was no need for testing. I was so flabbergasted I didn't know what to say so I didn't say anything. I should have.

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  4. Thank you for reporting it and making sure that this woman will not be saying things like that to others who won't be confident enough to report her!

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  6. i agree with Brian, "oh no she didn't!" that's none of her damned business! i'm in a chair, and get treated like "ohmygod, you have sex!?" and i respond, "uh yes! do you?"

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