If you have trouble understanding that sentence then you may find that, throughout your life, simple stuff generally confuses you. Don’t be alarmed to find out that most people probably think you are a twat. The likely cause of this is that you probably are.
You see, if even a layperson struggled to understand the above statement, I would be shocked. It’s not exactly a revelation is it? (PS Did you know that women and straight men can get AIDS too?). So to face such ignorance from a qualified professional took some beating.
Today I went to a Family Planning Clinic (Why? You might ask… lesbians can’t have kids can they?), to discuss why once a month I turn into Regan at the drop of a hat and cry at episodes of Jeremy Kyle. I meet with a nurse who is friendly enough.
She asks what I use for contraception and I politely explain that I don’t really need any – ‘I’m gay.’ ‘Brilliant,’ she replies, more than a little flustered.
On we go with the questions… ‘Are you pregnant?’
‘Err… no. Not unless my girlfriend has a big giant invisible cock.’ I didn’t say that though. I just shook my head.
‘Have you ever had a cervical smear?’
‘Yes,’ I reply, thinking that they were compulsory and remembering the dozens of letters I’ve had from my GP urging me to make sure I have regular smear tests.
‘Have you really? Why on earth would they do that? I mean, you don’t need one do you? How funny.’
At this point, my cervix probably blushed, it’s hard to tell, but my face certainly did. ‘I was sure that every woman over a certain age has to have a smear test.’
‘Really?’ Yes, that’s what the NURSE actually said to me.
‘I don’t think sexuality has anything to do with getting cancer.’
‘I suppose not,’ she pondered.
Now, forgive me for condemning this woman. She was pretty nice other than this and didn’t intentionally mean to make me feel hugely uncomfortable in what was a pretty personal and private meeting anyway. But I could not go so far as to say that her comments or attitude were harmless. Far from it – she directly implied that as a lesbian, I do not require regular, if any, cervical smear tests and therefore that I am not at risk from cervical cancer.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this is bullshit in its rawest form. It’s staggering that a health professional, whose job it is to inform vulnerable women about sexual issues, could be so discriminatory and ignorant at the same time.
Sadly, this isn’t an isolated case. Diva magazine did a feature on this very thing not that long ago.
According to this, statistics show that a woman’s risk of cervical cancer is cut by 84% if she has a smear test every five years, and 91% if she has a smear every three years. It’s estimated that NHS cervical screening saves more than 1000 lives each year.
A British Medical Journal editorial published in 2003 said: “An unfortunate perception exists among healthcare providers and women who have sex with women that they don’t need regular cervical smears… sexual intercourse with men is a powerful risk factor for cervical cancer. However, it’s important to counter the erroneous assumption that women who have sex with women aren’t at risk of catching human papillomavirus. Around one in five women who’ve never had heterosexual intercourse have human papillomavirus which is associated with developing high-grade cervical intraepithelial neoplasia” – in other words abnormal cervical tissue development.
So please, don’t ever be fooled into thinking that because you sleep with women and not men that you can’t develop cervical cancer.
It is more than just a myth. It’s a lie that puts lives at risk.