Farrah Khan is the executive director of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights and she was recently diagnosed with a rare and aggressive type of cancer, neuroendocrine cervical cancer.
In the Globe and Mail article authored by Khan, she discusses her experiences of homophobia in healthcare:
As I moved into adulthood, homophobia profoundly impacted my experiences within the health care system. During a routine exam in my 20s, my first doctor in Toronto asked if I slept with men. I told him I had in the past, and he scoffed to the resident stationed at his side: “See? Most women who become lesbians sleep with men first.” When I shared in another appointment that I wanted to explore my options for getting pregnant, the doctor told me that since I am gay, I should adopt. The same reason was given when he tried to dissuade me from having a Pap smear – since I was no longer having sex with men, he felt it was unnecessary. Experiences like this slowly eroded my trust and comfort in sharing information freely with health care providers. I felt I couldn’t trust the health system to protect me.
Khan also discusses the wider issues of embedded healthcare disparities and the healthcare system’s reluctance to engage with discussing and prioritizing the sexual health of the LGBTQ2+ community. The effect of her cancer diagnosis has had a profound effect on her life and worldview:
When I first got the news, I naively suggested to my doctor that treatment be scheduled for the fall. I had a lot of work travel planned before then. After years of putting things on hold with pandemic cancellations and becoming a parent, I was excited to jump back in. But getting a cancer diagnosis is like your life’s hard drive being wiped clean. Suddenly, personal priorities vanish, along with family plans and work calendars. Our culture is great at rewarding the grind and a dogged commitment to work, but cancer reminds us that we’ve got it all wrong.
You can find the Globe and Mail article here.
In the accompanying image – Farrah Khan, right, and her spouse Kristyn Wong-Tam are pictured at a hospital appointment.