The Last Word on being GAY

First published in Australian Doctor, 22nd March, 2012 On being GAY–on-being-gay

The Last Word on being GAY

by Genevieve Yates

I’m GAY, and have been since birth. I’m not referring to sexual orientation or to my propensity for being optimistic and cheerful in the face of adversity. I was named G.A.Y — Genevieve Anne Yates.

At primary school, I got the occasional taunt: “You’re gay! (snigger, snigger)”, to which I’d hotly reply, “Yes, I am — happy and bright. That’s its real meaning, you know.” All very sophisticated of me, it was. Since those playground exchanges, however, my initials have not given me any particular grief.

Until now.

And why would a mid-career professional woman suddenly have hassles with the trivial matter of her initials? The answer is PracSoft. As you are no doubt aware, medical software typically uses doctors’ initials as identifiers. In my previous practice I was ‘GY’ in PracSoft, but my new one uses three initials for each of its practitioners, making me ‘GAY’.

No big deal in itself. I can be whatever I want in my private life. Who cares if I’m GAY at work?
As it turns out, no one seems concerned that I’m GAY, but think I’m trying to label them GAY. Confused? Let me explain.

The billing procedure at my new practice involves the treating doctor handing each patient a printed billing slip at the end of a consultation. On this slip, the doctor writes the patient’s name, and circles both the appropriate item number and his/her initials, so that the receptionist knows what to bill and under whom to bill it. Somewhat surprisingly, this system has proven a little problematic for me.

It has become apparent that a not insignificant proportion of my male patients don’t appreciate having their names written beside a circled ‘GAY’. Oversensitive and ridiculous as this may seem to some, the fact is that I’ve been receiving an indignant comment from at least one patient a day.

I’m baffled as to why patients would think that I had the need to announce their sexuality to the reception staff via a billing slip in the first place. Do they perhaps think gay people receive a discount? Are they charged an extra fee? Have their details put in a little black book? I mean, really guys, think about it.

The complaints have not been generated just by homophobic males insecure about their sexuality. One flamboyant, larger-than-life patient, who happens to be HIV positive, gave me a little lecture about making assumptions based on HIV status.

“Worldwide, more heterosexuals than homosexuals have HIV!” he stated with authority.

I was tempted to reply that the assumptions I made about his sexuality were based not on his HIV status but on other politically incorrect reasons. We had a good chuckle when I explained that in fact I was the GAY one, and his pique was quickly diffused.

Brief explanations have been all that have been required to alleviate the concerns of most of these disgruntled patients, but in this time-poor business of ours, every extra second counts. The new print run of billing slips have the A taken out of GAY, which should give me an extra few precious minutes in my working week, and provide relief to the super-sensitive males who find themselves in my consulting room.

It has been an interesting lesson in human psychology.

Perhaps it is one you’d like to keep in mind, just in case you ever have a Dr Gary Andrew Young or a Dr Gwendolyn Amelia Yarwood come to work in your practice.

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