Liam Farrell: Play up, play up and play the game

General practice is a broad church, with room for all body shapes, varieties and temperaments.

This is usually a good thing for our patients, as it gives them a choice. If they want a leisurely, throw-another-log-on-the-fire chat, they may prefer to see my partner. If they want it quick, I’m their man. It’s not that I want to rush them out, you understand, it’s just that I’m so eager to see the next patient.

The same goes for sexuality; my father’s house has many mansions. I’m vaguely heterosexual myself, but not absolutely certain. When I was young and beautiful and enjoyed experimentation, some Cossacks whistled at me once, and I have hazy memories of someone with long hair at Woodstock; I had the kind of body that appealed to both persuasions.

But our hierarchy may not be so flexible. A senior member of the RCGP was recently criticised for advising membership candidates to act ‘less gay’, when presenting for examination: deepen your voice, stand straighter, comb your hair, walk like John Wayne and talk like a redneck.

I think the criticisms were unfair; this was simply giving candidates a helpful steer. The upper echelons of medicine have never been known for their liberal tendencies, and when we are young and vulnerable we have to follow the rules and play the game. If that means acting like a square for a few hours, it’s a small sacrifice to make. Once inside the golden door we can let it all hang out, baby.

But our increasingly heterogeneous profession can also make things a bit confusing. Recently a young colleague introduced me to his partner, which I found rather ambiguous.

‘Practice or bedroom?’ I had to ask. I like clarity, because one is then less likely to cause unintentional offence; intentional offence is much more satisfying.

‘Both,’ he said, as the two of them shared an intimate smirk. ‘We like to practise a couple of times each day.’
That’s cool with me. I always like to think I am down with the kids, and I believe sexuality should remain a private affair.

Behind closed doors, it’s just me and thousands of people on the internet.

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