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HEALTH SPORTS THE-BEAUTY

Talking to your doctor about your LGBTQ+ sex life

photo of a woman doctor talking with a man patient sitting by a window, view is over patient's shoulder

Editor’s note: in honor of Pride Month, we’re re-publishing a 2019 post by Dr. Cecil Webster.

Generally speaking, discussing what happens in our bedrooms outside of the bedroom can be anxiety-provoking. Let’s try to make your doctor’s office an exception. Why is this important? People in the LGBTQ+ community contend not only with a full range of health needs, but also with environments that may lead to unique mental and physical health challenges. Whether or not you have come out in general, doing so with your doctor may prove critical in managing your health. Sexual experiences, with their impact on identity, varied emotional significance, and disease risk, are a keystone for helping your doctor understand how to personalize your healthcare.

Admittedly, talking about your intimate sexual experiences or your gender identity may feel uncomfortable. Many LGBTQ+ patients worry that their clinicians may not be knowledgeable about their needs, or that they’ll to have to educate them. Finding a LGBTQ+ adept doctor, preparing ahead of time for your next appointment, and courageously asking tough questions can give you and your health the best shot.

Finding a skilled clinician who is LGBTQ+ adept

Many large cities have healthcare institutions whose mission centers on care for LGBTQ+ peoples. However, these organizations may prove inaccessible to many for a variety of reasons. Regardless of your location, asking friends, family, or others to recommend a clinician may be a game changer. If your trans friend had a relatively painless experience visiting an area gynecologist, perhaps your Pap smear may go smoothly there as well. If your coworker has a psychiatrist who regularly asks him about his Grindr use, perhaps it may be easier to navigate your gay relationship questions with her.

Word of mouth is often an undervalued method of finding someone skilled and attentive to the needs of LGBTQ+ individuals. Online, many clinicians offer a short bio with their areas of expertise, and there are provider directories featuring trusted clinicians. Further, some doctors regularly write articles and give talks that may offer clues about desired knowledge. A simple Google search of your provider may yield a bounty.

Next, give your doctor or healthcare organization a call. Don’t be shy about requesting someone whose practice matches your specific needs. Your health information is protected, and generally, physicians hold your clinical privacy dear. Keep in mind that not all clinics will know or share whether or not your doctor is, for example, also a lesbian, but they may pair you with someone well suited to your request or point you in the right direction.

Preparing for your appointment

Let’s say you are nervous about coming out to your doctor. A little preparation may ease this burden. Here are some quick tips:

  • Let them know you’re nervous at the start of the conversation.
  • Be as bold as you can tolerate.
  • Write down what you are excited about, nervous about, and/or curious about.
  • Go in with a few goals and start with what’s most important.
  • Maximize your comfort. If your partner is calming, bring them. If Beyoncé soothes what ails you, bring her along too.
  • Lightly correct or update your clinician if they get something wrong.

Ask tough questions, give clear answers

As a psychiatrist who works with kids and adults, I often hear questions like, “I don’t know really how to say this, but I started experimenting with other guys. Does this mean I’m gay?” I may start by asking if you’ve enjoyed it. My colleagues in health care might begin with the same question.

Pleasurable experiences come in all sorts of constellations, and healthy exploration is part of being human. Additionally, clinicians need to assess and address your safety. Many LGBTQ+ people are at higher risk of intimate partner violence. We may ask about your use of condoms, how many partners you’ve had recently, your use of substances during sex, and how these experiences may shift how you see yourself. Give clear answers if possible, but don’t fret if you’re uncertain. Your doctor will not likely provide a label or pry unnecessarily. They may offer constructive information on the use of condoms, reasons to consider using PrEP (which can effectively prevent HIV), and places you can go for more guidance. Physicians enjoy giving personalized information so that you may make informed healthcare decisions.

There is no end to what is on people’s minds. Be bold. Will tucking reduce my sperm count? Maybe. Does binding my breasts come with risk? Likely. Was Shangela robbed of her RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars 3 crown? Utterly, but let’s get back to your cholesterol, shall we?

Remember that it is often impossible to squeeze everything into one appointment. Afterward, take time to catch your breath, reflect on what you’ve learned, and come up with more questions for next time. We’re here for that.

About the Author

photo of Cecil R. Webster, Jr., MD

Cecil R. Webster, Jr., MD, Contributor

Dr. Cecil R. Webster, Jr. is a child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist in Boston. He is a lecturer in psychiatry at McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and consultant for diversity health outreach programs at the … See Full Bio View all posts by Cecil R. Webster, Jr., MD

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HEALTH SPORTS THE-BEAUTY

Ringworm: What to know and do

A doctor examing a child's skin near elbow; child on exam table with arm raised, mother nearby

The first thing to know about ringworm is that there are no worms involved.

This generally harmless skin infection is caused by a fungus. The fungus causes a raised rash usually shaped like a ring, almost as if a worm was curled up under the skin (but again: no worms are involved).

The medical name for ringworm is tinea corporis.

Are there other types of tinea infections?

There are many different kinds of tinea skin infections, named in Latin for the part of the body they affect, such as the

  • scalp (tinea capitis)
  • groin (tinea cruris)
  • feet (tinea pedis)
  • body (tinea corporis).

Tinea infections can look a bit different depending on what part of the body they affect, but they are usually pink or red and scaly.

How do you get ringworm?

Tinea infections, particularly ringworm (tinea corporis), are very common. People catch them from other infected people and also from infected animals, particularly dogs and cats. They can also spread from one part of the body to another.

What does ringworm look like?

It usually starts as a pink scaly patch that then spreads out into a ring. The ring (which is not necessarily perfectly round) usually spreads wider with time. It can sometimes be itchy, but most of the time doesn’t cause any discomfort.

There are other rashes that can have a ringlike shape, so it’s always important to check in with your doctor, especially if the ring isn’t scaly. But most ringlike rashes are tinea.

How is ringworm treated?

Luckily, tinea corporis and the other kinds of tinea are very treatable. Most of the time, an antifungal cream does the trick.

When the rash is extensive (which is rare) or doesn’t respond to an antifungal cream (also rare), an antifungal medication can be taken by mouth.

As is the case with many other germs these days, there are some drug-resistant cases of tinea related to overuse of antifungal medications. But the vast majority of fungal infections go away with medication.

What should you do if you think a family member — or a pet — has ringworm?

If you think someone in your family has ringworm, call your doctor. The sooner you get started on treatment, the better.

If someone in the family has been diagnosed with ringworm, make sure that others don’t share clothing, towels, or sheets. Have everyone wash their hands frequently and well.

If your pet has a scaly rash, call the vet. Vacuum the areas your pet frequents, and have everyone wash their hands after touching the pet.

Can you prevent ringworm?

To prevent tinea corporis and other kinds of tinea:

  • Keep skin clean and dry.
  • Change clothes (particularly socks and underwear) regularly.
  • Wash your hands regularly (this helps prevent all sorts of infections).
  • If your child plays contact sports, make sure they shower after practice, keep their uniform and gear clean, and don’t share gear with other players.

To learn more about ringworm, visit the website of the Centers for Disease and Prevention.

Follow me on Twitter @drClaire

About the Author

photo of Claire McCarthy, MD

Claire McCarthy, MD, Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Claire McCarthy, MD, is a primary care pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital, and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. In addition to being a senior faculty editor for Harvard Health Publishing, Dr. McCarthy … See Full Bio View all posts by Claire McCarthy, MD