In the first issue we printed an article entitled “The Homosexual and Venereal Disease”, which we felt contained, along with very sound medical advice, some unpleasant and unnecessary moral attitudes. On consulting another doctor about this, he told us that “it is written in medical prose where words have a precise meaning without any associated concepts that may occur in ordinary prose” – in other words, it did not carry any moral overtones.
The article began by stating that, “the two main reservoirs of venereal disease in this country …. are the promiscuous female and the promiscuous ‘passive’ homosexual male”.
To me, this paints a rather impossible picture ….. after all, how did they get V.D. in the first place. If we must distribute ‘blame’ – which in itself seems a stupid thing to do – then surely the ‘promiscuous’ heterosexual male and the ‘promiscuous’ ‘active’ homosexual male ought to come in for an equal share of it? But in any case, only another doctor could (possibly) read it as “medical prose …without any associated concepts” – to anyone else, these words are bound to carry some connotations, and doctors should surely be aware of this, and take account of it when dealing with ordinary people? Using words which, to the layman, inevitably have a disapproving ring (whether they are meant like that or not) can only defeat the object of the exercise, which is to encourage people not to be ashamed about requesting treatment for something which could happen to any of us.
Another error, and one which the medical profession seems peculiarly addicted to, is the division of male gays into rigid categories of ‘active’ and ‘passive’ – it hardly needs me to say that people are generally more interesting than that. Perhaps it stems from doctors thinking largely in heterosexual terms.
But why should the whole attitude of the medical profession revolve around finding and treating individual cases? How much time, effort, and money is being devoted to the other side of it – to preventative vaccines, routine screenings, research into the eradication of V.D. generally? Not very much, I would guess. After all, the treatment clinics, in the main, are clearly kept short of money. No doubt the Festival of Lighters and their cohorts would be down like a ton of bricks if V.D. treatment and research were ever given a higher priority in hospital budgeting – on the grounds that if people weren’t “promiscuous” (i.e. remained frustrated and repressed) the dangers wouldn’t exist. Is it not true to say that V.D. is being used as a moral weapon in defence of the established uptight morality? Or to put it another way, it’s easier to reinforce the guilt people feel about sex than it is to embark on a comprehensive programme of research and treatment in order to remove one of the risks involved. And it’s cheaper too.
Despite their rather high opinion of themselves, doctors, like policemen, are only people like anybody else. Amongst people generally, there is an appalling amount of ignorance about gayness, and an equally appalling amount of prejudice, and doctors are just as likely to be prejudiced as anyone else. You may fall foul of one who, whilst treating you for V.D., will attempt to persuade you to be ‘treated’ for homosexuality too, as if it were some sort of sickness. Or he may over emphasise the seriousness of whatever you’ve got, or just be downright rude, inconsiderate, and even cruel. With such doctors, the important thing to remember is that, when it comes to gayness, you know more about it than he does – his training will only have covered the subject in the narrowest way. And even if he’s gay himself, it’s no guarantee that he doesn’t think of gayness as some sort of abnormality. At a V.D. clinic, the only thing he’s expert at is treating V.D. – he’s probably lousy at human relations.
And although a gay man probably has more guilt and prejudice to contend with when seeking treatment for V.D., he mustn’t let that deter him. It is important to have regular blood tests, it is important to be tested the moment you think you might have caught V.D. I gather that women are not usually asked, or don’t say, whether they contracted the disease heterosexually or homosexually, so their gayness doesn’t necessarily affect the doctor’s attitude (which can be unpleasant enough anyway).
V.D, with the exception of the new and fortunately still rare strains like ‘Hanoi Rose’, is no great horror if it is diagnosed and treated promptly
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