Lesbian Sex & The City: The Emotional Rollercoaster Of Being A Lez In The Dark Throes Of An STD Scare

If you’ve just been told you have HPV, Carrie Lezshaw is here to tell you to calm TF down, babe.

Hi! Carrie Lezshaw here to tell you that you’ve probably had or will have HPV. Don’t freak out—it’s literally fine I promise—but let’s talk about it.

If you’re a woman who sleeps with women, the gynecologist can be an awkward experience. I’m sure you all know the drill:

“Are you sexually active?”

“Yes.”

“Use condoms?”

“No.”

“Birth control?”

“No.” *Confusion and awkwardness ensues. I hide under my paper gown and want to disappear.*

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I don’t know about you, but if I say I’m sleeping with women, my old gyno (I broke up with him) would get all weird and act like I overshared. Out of all the years I went to him, he never offered me any safer sex practices. So it’s not surprising that when I had irregular pap results, he handled it in—in my opinion—a really sh*tty way.

Because I love and care about you, my dear queer, I’m going to admit it: I have had HPV. And now I’m fine! So, if you’ve just gotten the news from your doc, and you’re freaking out, know that it’ll probably be gone in like, 6 months. Knowing accurate information definitely eases the stress. GO’s resident sexpert, Corinne Kai says, “The most common STI is the human papillomavirus (HPV). Nearly all sexually active people have had it at some point in their lives! Most cases go away on their own, but severe cases can cause warts or cervical cancer.”

I got a phone call at 8 PM in my graduate poetry workshop. I have had all types of fun gynecological problems to do with my incredibly painful periods and ovarian cysts. I even had a fibroid once! I also have run the gamut of hormone tests for PCOS because I’m hairy AF—but it turns out I don’t—I’m just Italian. So when I got the phone call, I wasn’t particularly worried. When I called him back, he was SO DRAMATIC. Like, knowing what I know now, I can’t believe he was this extra.

“You have HPV. I’m sorry.”

“What? What even is that?” I had no idea. If I had the knowledge I have now beforehand, I probably would’ve been like “K.”

“It could lead to cervical cancer. You’ll need to come in for a colposcopy. Call the office tomorrow. I just wanted to tell you.”

I couldn’t even drive. I felt like I just got stabbed in the chest. When I got home, my dad was waiting at the screen door.

“The doctor called looking for you and said it was urgent. Are you okay?”

Now that my stupid gyno blew up my spot and worried my father, I couldn’t say I was okay.

The next day, I called the office to schedule the colposcopy. They said they couldn’t get me in for a month. I got in the car immediately. I walked in there like a straight up psycho. When the front desk woman told me I couldn’t see the doctor, I screamed “I’m Carrie LEZSHAW. Don’t you know who I am?!” Just kidding.

But I did push past her and bust open the door to my gyno’s office.

“You’re going to talk to me about this. NOW.”

He drew me a convoluted chart that made no sense to illustrate my chances of getting cancer. He couldn’t tell me what kind. He couldn’t tell me how I might’ve gotten it. He couldn’t tell me how to cure it.

“Use condoms,” he offered, even though I had been telling him I don’t sleep with men for years. AND HPV can still be passed during hetero sex with a condom. So, he was being doubly idiotic.

“You need to give me accurate information about what is going on with my body,” I said. I was on the verge of tears.

He put down his papers and took off his glasses.

“Okay, ask me your questions.”

“How was this passed through sex with women?” I asked.

“I wouldn’t know about that…” he shifted uncomfortably. “It’s like Catherine Zeta-Jones’ husband. He got throat cancer from giving oral sex to men. HPV is how she knew he was cheating.”

I’m not kidding. That’s exactly what my gyno said to me.

“Okay, but I’m not Michael Douglas or Catherine Zeta-Jones,” I said.

“You should disclose to partners,” he said, still not telling me how it is spread or what can be done to prevent it.

I couldn’t help but wonder… do any doctors know WTF they’re talking about?

“Can I finger a girl? Can I go down on her? Is the risk in just scissoring? Where is the HPV located, specifically?”

And, dear reader, he had no f*cking idea. He gave me an HPV pamphlet (that was extremely heteronormative). I called an STD hotline from the parking lot. They didn’t know either.

I know (I hope) that I’m funny but I have to get real serious here for a sec. Because I had no information or support, I fell into the deepest state of anxiety and depression I’ve ever experienced. I stopped sleeping. I was anxious all the time. I felt dirty. I thought my dating life was over. I didn’t have sex for 10 months. I truly wanted to kill myself, and I’m not exaggerating. If I would have simply had the information and the facts, I would’ve avoided a lot of suffering.

I was given a colposcopy. I lived in fear that I had cancer, but what was worse—to be honest—was the fear of not having sex. After the colposcopy when my gyno told me I needed a biopsy, I switched gynos. When I got there, the new gyno wanted to see me in her office first. I braced myself for the worst. I took a Xanax in the bathroom.

“Sweetie, you don’t need to be here. I looked at your chart. You don’t need this. It’s unnecessary.”

I thought I was hallucinating. “What?”

My mom still wanted me to get the biopsy (I wonder where I get my paranoia from). In the exam room, I was shaking so bad I couldn’t get my jeans off. I was hysterical. My doctor came in and took my hand.

“You’re okay, you’re okay, you’re okay,” she kept repeating.

She told me about how over-screening can be harmful and said I can come back in six months to see that the HPV went away, then after that, I could go back to annual pap smears. My old gyno said every 6 months and wanted to scrape out my cervix any chance he got.

If I didn’t switch doctors, I would be living in fear and misinformation. Plus I’d have my cervix unnecessarily torn at. If your gyno sucks, switch. Seriously. It makes a world of a difference.

I’ve researched HPV tirelessly (the only two realistic articles I could find that were not vague medical jargon not applied to real life are here and here). I wanted to contribute another essay that isn’t vague medical jargon either. Simply to let a reader know they aren’t alone. If you’ve just been told you have HPV and shakily googled it, I hope you find this essay. And know you’re going to be fine. Trust me, I had to go a therapist over this. I’ve had 3 clear paps since this traumatizing experience, and I weep tears of joy and relief every time. I am serious when I say I have PTSD.

I might as well tattoo HPV across my knuckles with how much thought I’ve given it and how much it’s affected my life and you know what? I’m still confused. Though my new gyno is a hell of a lot more informative, I still don’t entirely understand how it’s passed, what it means, or if it’ll ever come back. All I know is I’m relieved I don’t have it anymore. But it shouldn’t be like that. So let’s keep talking about it, together.

If this happens to you, know you’re not alone. Make sure you have good friends to talk to, a gynecologist that isn’t an asshole, and accurate, realistic information/advice from the internet (easier said than done). You may choose to abstain until your next clear pap, have strap-on sex with a condom, or your partner may be like “K everyone has HPV, whatever.”

Since I’ve been vocal about it, a lot of my friends will call me when they get the phone call from their gyno. The attitude among my straight friends was, “No disclosure necessary, use a condom, he’ll never know if he got it from you because there are no tests for men.” Ah, to be straight!

I think this was a lot more traumatizing for me because of my queerness. I couldn’t just slap a condom on my problem and ignore it. If I passed it to a partner, they could be tested for it. It could affect their cervix.

Now that the whole ordeal is over, although I’m better, I still feel like the information is a little unclear. Does everyone have HPV and just not say anything? It sure seems like it. Was I the only one that tortured myself over it and abstained from sex? I don’t know. But what I do know is having a doctor that will answer your questions and respect you is so important. I didn’t have any lez out there to tell me it was fine. Lucky for you, Carrie Lezshaw is here to tell you to calm TF down.

Next Monday we can get back to the fun stuff (and I promise you I have some good, juicy dating material) but today, we had to get serious. Cause I care about you, babe. And I want you to know you’re not alone.