Bringing up alternative relationships styles with a doctor can be intimidating, especially when you don’t know for sure what their experience is with these topics. However, to get the care you need, it can be important for your doctor to know your relationship status. HSDP‘s most recent workshop focused on working with polyamorous patients in clinic: how we can create a safe space for patients to talk about their relationships without being judged. This is a followup post to Talking to Your Doctor About BDSM.
For Poly Patients:
- You may first want to decide what you want your doctor to know about your personal life based on what is necessary for your care.
- For example, perhaps it is relevant to tell your doctor that you are in multiple relationships when you have a questions about safer sex practices, but not when you are going in for a flu shot.
- You may decide that you personally feel more comfortable when you can be open about your identity or relationship status with every doctor, regardless of the reason for visit.
- The most important thing to remember when talking to your doctor about topics that may be new to them, is that they are primarily looking out for your safety. This means that it’s especially important to remain confident when talking about issues like poly and kink that could be seen as related to partner abuse.
- Let your provider know that you are happy and feel empowered by polyamory, if that is true for you, so that they don’t have reason to suspect that you are in a dangerous situation.
- However, if you are actually in a dangerous or uncomfortable situation and want to discuss this with your provider, it is okay to bring that up as well. Many poly people feel that they need to constantly “prove” to monogamous people that being poly is healthy and makes everyone happy, and because of this they may feel reluctant to bring up issues that they actually want to talk about.
- Remember to take care of yourself, your doctor is there to support you and you have the right to get the help you want. If you feel judged by your doctor for seeking help, or you feel you are not getting the care you want because they are not educated about your lifestyle, consider getting a recommendation from a friend for a new doctor!
For Poly Healthcare Practitioners:
- The number one thing to keep in mind, with this and any other topic you may be unfamiliar with, is simply to maintain a professional, nonjudgmental attitude when talking to your patients.
- Though actually knowing about and understanding topics like polyamory is helpful, you can still be an effective practitioner simply by keeping an open mind and paying attention to what your patients are asking of you.
- Related to this, keep your assumptions at bay. Don’t automatically assume that your poly patient is more likely to get an STI. In fact, most polyamorous people are much more STI aware and are more likely to have safer sex than monogamous people, partly because they have more people to be accountable to.
- This applies to all aspects of a patients life: don’t assume they’re straight, don’t assume their gender, don’t assume they can afford to pay for the prescription you give them, etc.
- You can ask more broad questions, like “What safe sex practices do you use?”, “Are you currently dating?/What is your current relationship status?”, and “What genders do you usually date?”. These questions are great because they don’t assume that the patient is having sex, that they use or need birth control, nor do they assume anything about their sexual identity or relationship status.
- If you are truly concerned for a patient’s mental health or physical safety (and not just because you have not educated yourself about poly relationships), you can ask questions like “Do you feel safe at home?” or “Do you have a support system or someone to talk to?” to decide whether you need to take further steps.
More Helpful Resources:
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