Non traditional relationships and medical care

Oct 31, 2018

Dr. Liz Powell: Hi!
Amp: Hi!
Robin Wilson-Beattie: Hi!
Dr. Liz Powell: Hey, everybody! Welcome back to the Sex-Positive Psych channel. I am Dr. Liz
Powell. And as you can see, I have lovely guests with me here. So who are we?
Amp: I’m Pup Amp.
Robin Wilson-Beattie: And I’m Robin.
Dr. Liz Powell: And I have these wonderful friends here. We’ve been doing some different
videos together like you should check out Amp’s channel. There’s going to be a video with the
three of us talking about disabilities. And I wanted to ask them about their experiences talking
with doctors and medical professionals about doing nontraditional sex and relationship stuff.
Robin Wilson-Beattie: Oh, yeah. We can talk about how that is. I’ve got …
Dr. Liz Powell: Yeah, go ahead.
Robin Wilson-Beattie: I have had to talk with – starting with doctors in Georgia because that’s
where I used to live. Now, I live in California. But the fact that I am polyamorous and explaining
what that means because since you’re talking like your sexual history or whatever, and they say,
“Do you – are you currently having sex or do you have a partner?” And I was like, “Yes, I have a
few. I have this many partners.” And the switch in their head because doctors are products of
their culture.
Amp: Yes.
Robin Wilson-Beattie: And explaining what that meant because they’re like, “But you’re
married,” and I was like, “Yes, and I’m polyamorous.” And that one time, I had to have a
procedure and I went to the hospital and I had both my husband and my boyfriend there and all
of the medical staff was all like, “She has got – she has got a husband and a boyfriend.” They
were like, “She has disability and she has got two men and I can’t even get one.” And that is the
kind of shit that I deal with. [Laughter]
Amp: And so I hope you like turn to them and just be like, “Mmm-huh!” [Laughter]
Robin Wilson-Beattie: Yes. And so – but yes. So explaining what that means, what that means
for me sexual health wise and per cautions and why I need – why I like to get STD test a lot
more often.
Dr. Liz Powell: Yeah.
Robin Wilson-Beattie: Than what they might think for a patient. So I’m very honest. I used to
be like, “OK, I don’t …” because it’s like I don’t want to deal with this. But ultimate – this is
about my health.
Amp: Yes.
Robin Wilson-Beattie: And so yeah, I have to be able to talk to my doctors about that. And
because there have been things that impact that. So yeah.
Amp: I’ve had similar experience myself. I am a very gay man. [Laughter] And so, I’ve had
plenty of gay sex. And you have to have a different kind of approach to sex when you’re talking
about gay sex especially because we have – HIV is a lot bigger issue for gay men. No offense to
anyone not gay that deals with it.
Robin Wilson-Beattie: No, no, no. It is. Yeah.
Amp: And so I specifically remember when I was first looking for a new provider after moving
to the city and trying to get back on prep because I’ve been off of it for a bit. I had to talk to my
doctor. And I was – I went in and I was like, “Hey. I want to get back on prep. I know that I have
to get certain screenings and testings.” And he was like, “Oh yeah, great. I would love to do that.
What’s prep?” So he was like, “No!”
Robin Wilson-Beattie: No!
Amp: And he was not being sex negative. He was not being judgmental.
Dr. Liz Powell: He didn’t know.
Robin Wilson-Beattie: He just didn’t know. Bless his heart. [Laughter]
Dr. Liz Powell: Yeah.
Amp: And so that was the case where then I had to educate my doctor so that he could properly
help me to be like – to get my prescriptions and to make sure that I’m being sexually healthy. I
have found a different doctor since then, not that he wasn’t great but he was not a gay-friendly
like very on top of those kinds of issues for a doctor. And it’s important like you were saying,
it’s your health. So if you’re not taking it as a priority to find the right doctor that matches with
you, that you get along with like you want to have a good reputation with someone who you’re
going to be telling all that sorts of personal sex stuff about.

Robin Wilson-Beattie: Exactly.
Dr. Liz Powell: Maybe it’s my rebellious streak or my slightly bitchy nature but I’ve kind of
taken this like shock and awe approach to medical professionals lately where …
Robin Wilson-Beattie: I do that too. Yeah.
Dr. Liz Powell: … when I go in and they are asking me questions and I’m like, “Well, I want an
FTI screen.” And they are like, “Well, why do you want an FTI screen?” And I’m like, “I have
sex with men who have sex with men and I have sex with sex workers and have sex with a lot of
Amp: And their response is …
Dr. Liz Powell: We will require the test. [Laughter] Sometimes they get this like stricken look.
I’m not really lucky.
Amp: I shouldn’t ask. I shouldn’t ask. I shouldn’t ask.
Dr. Liz Powell: So unfortunately right before I moved away from San Francisco, I found a really
great doctor for the VA who as soon as I told him I was a psychologist was like super on top of
stuff, very open-minded. He was talking to me about prep, was talking to me about all kind of
different things. Great. And then I immediately had to move to Portland.
So now, I have new doctor there who I guess is fine. But I run into a lot of stuff especially
different places that you get tested where like if you’re asking for HSV testing for the herpes
simplex virus, I had one person asked me, “Well, why do you want that test?” And I was like,
“So I can give information to my partners.” And they said, “Well, what are you going to do if it’s
positive?” I’m like, “Tell my partners and maybe …” [0:05:27] [Crosstalk]
Amp: And then deal with it.
Dr. Liz Powell: I’m not going to freak out. It’s not – herpes is not a big deal.
Robin Wilson-Beattie: Yeah.
Amp: But do they know what that was though? Sorry.
Dr. Liz Powell: Yeah, they did. They did. HSV. Herpes simplex virus.
Robin Wilson-Beattie: And getting them to – to get them to test for that …
Dr. Liz Powell: Is really tough.
Robin Wilson-Beattie: It’s really tough and you have to say, “Yeah, this is why I need this test.”
Dr. Liz Powell: And if you’re watching this and you’re having trouble getting a healthcare
professional to test you for HSV, just tell them that you have sex with someone who revealed
that they have HSV and then they’ll run the test.
Robin Wilson-Beattie: Exactly.
Dr. Liz Powell: And that’s – you can – I don’t advocate lying to doctors except in like these
very specific instances of like if they’re refusing to run certain STI screens because from a health
professional perspective, their goal is to run tests that provide some kind of public health service
benefit. And like the spread of herpes is not something that doctors are particularly concerned
about because it’s not going to affect your health in any significant ways. It’s unsightly, it’s
painful, it’s transmissible but it’s not going to – it’s not going to harm you in the ways that
gonorrhea or syphilis or chlamydia or HIV can.
Amp: But it is emotionally going to cause stress and anxiety if you’re with someone or if you
have a partner who is not familiar with herpes and how – how it just …
Robin Wilson-Beattie: And especially culturally because of what we’ve been taught, I’m
thinking about we’re talking about herpes but it’s still like a stigma and certain communities
especially like I’m thinking the black community when Usher Raymond, this pop star …
Dr. Liz Powell: But what it sounded like was not herpes. It sounded like trichomoniasis. But
that’s fine. It’s cool. Whatever.
Robin Wilson-Beattie: Yeah.
Dr. Liz Powell: Different like …
Robin Wilson-Beattie: But the fact that she was able to get money out of him.
Dr. Liz Powell: It was V side STI. It was not …
Amp: Apples to oranges, HPV to HIV, who knows the difference.
Robin Wilson-Beattie: But it was blown up and especially in the black community …
Amp: Phrasing.
Robin Wilson-Beattie: Yeah. Was it blowing up? [Laughter] Oh, sorry.
Dr. Liz Powell: This is how you get ants. [Laughter]
Robin Wilson-Beattie: But it was – it trended – does it trended? STI trend?
Dr. Liz Powell: Whatever. A lot of folks talk about it. Yeah.

Robin Wilson-Beattie: Yeah. So everybody was talking about but particularly because this
woman was able to sue him saying, “Hey, you …” and base on like the shame, the stigma, and
all of that stuff …
Dr. Liz Powell: Oh, that’s just horrible.
Robin Wilson-Beattie: … and then yeah, and she got her million dollars.
Dr. Liz Powell: You don’t sue someone because they gave you a cold, because they kissed you
and they had a scratchy throat.
Robin Wilson-Beattie: Thank you.
Amp: They didn’t know.
Robin Wilson-Beattie: They didn’t know.
Dr. Liz Powell: And a lot of people who have HSV don’t know it. You can have asymptomatic
shutting where you have the virus in your body but it comes to the surface of your skin at times
that you’re not aware of. There are a lot of different things. And I think the stigma that we have
all reported running into with our doctors is the same stigma that culture has. That there is this
idea of STIs as making you dirty or bad or bad people have STIs. That means you do something
Robin Wilson-Beattie: The nasty woman’s disease.
Dr. Liz Powell: And the thing is, when we look at the research, I think it’s like almost half of the
population has HSV-1 and another third has HSV-2.
Robin Wilson-Beattie: Yes.
Dr. Liz Powell: So the majority of people have some strain of the herpes simplex virus. They
just may not know it. And when we look at over the life span, the majority of folks are likely to
catch at least one of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis at some point during their life.
Amp: Oh yeah.
Dr. Liz Powell: And additionally, nonmonogamous communities have lower rates of
transmission of STIs than monogamous communities because we tend to be more on top of
barrier use, more communicative about STI testing. We do more frequent testing. So it’s – a lot
of the misconceptions that people have are just creating more harm.
Amp: And past that, just uneducated people trying to judge others for their STIs. And
personally, when I was first in a very long term relationship, my very first like gay relationship
ever was a few years long, I ended up getting herpes from my partner because we have

unprotected sex because we are in a long term partners but he was the only partner I had ever
had. So then later on when I found out I had herpes and I had outbreak like someone was judging
me and they were like, “Oh, you’re such a slut!” I was like, “Bitch, I’ve only had one sexual
partner ever. You are the second one.” It happens.
Dr. Liz Powell: And even if you are a slut like why does that matter?
Amp: Exactly.
Dr. Liz Powell: And again, herpes is a skin condition.
Amp: Yeah.
Dr. Liz Powell: HPV which is what they test for on cervixes and it causes cervical cancer but it
can also cause throat and mouth cancers, throat and tongue cancers especially, you can have
HPV on any part of your body. And there’s no way to test for it anywhere except on the cervix.
So it’s …
Amp: How are we going to know?
Dr. Liz Powell: How are we going to know? Right? I think that when we shame people for
giving us information about something that they’re giving us so that we can be make different
decisions and asses our own risks, we’re only shooting ourselves in the foot because the people
who give you shit for having herpes are in some ways encouraging you to not disclose it.
Robin Wilson-Beattie: Yeah, exactly.
Dr. Liz Powell: Which is shitty. We should be making space for people to be honest about sex.
And the same with medical professionals. If you are a medical professional watching this, I have
a class that I’m getting a spun up to provide continuing education units to doctors, it is so much
more helpful for you to ask people questions about sex and to like be as nonjudgmental as
So I have this friend and I’m pretty sure you know her too, Rebecca Hiles, The Frisky Fairy. And
she had a lung removed due to lung cancer at a very young age. And she also does kink and she
does nonmonogamy. And so, she has to ask a lot of different questions to her doctors about
things like if, “I’m getting tied up, how does that affect me only having one lung? What do I
need to be aware of? If I’m doing impact play, what do I need to be aware of since I only have
one lung?”
There are a lot of things that doctors need to know about us that we are doing with our partners
in the sexual and the relationship realm that we may not tell them if they give us judgment.
Robin Wilson-Beattie: Yes.

Dr. Liz Powell: So, for those of you who are going to your doctors, take a chance. Tell him the
truth. If they are jerks, find a new doctor if you possibly can. You can choose to educate your
doctors like the three of us have. But at the end of the day, it’s important that you’re able to be
honest with your medical professionals about what it is that you’re doing so that they can give
you the help that you need.
Amp: Absolutely.
Dr. Liz Powell: Anything else?
Amp: Don’t judge people. Everyone has STIs. Everyone catches things on occasion. That does
not make them a worst person or a worst lover or sex partner. And honestly, people that are open
about catching something and about their own health are so much better. Yeah. Those are the
people you want to have sex with. Not because they had an STI but because they were honest
about all of it.
Robin Wilson-Beattie: Yes, and open and aware.
Dr. Liz Powell: Yup. All right. Thanks so much for joining me.
Amp: Same to you.
Dr. Liz Powell: And I’ll see you all next time on Sex-Positive Psych. Bye!
Amp: Bye!
Robin Wilson-Beattie: Bye!

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