In a world where Elton and David's Windsor wedding gets as much coverage as that of the future king and his mistress, it seems that straight culture is increasingly informed by, and at ease with, gay culture. Go to any town on a Saturday night and the proliferation of straight boys with boy-band, spiky blond hair is enough to confuse anyone on matters of what signifies being 'straight' or 'gay'. The metrosexual man (guys who identify as straight but aren't averse to a bit of Clarins) has happily surfed into the slipstream of gay men who have traditionally been at the vanguard of grooming and fashion. (Clearly, some gay men are as badly/well dressed as some straight men but there is a nugget of truth in the stereotype.)
So it makes sense that both straight and gay men (and in fact some women) will benefit from going to a gay-orientated health practice. Freedom Health, set up in June 2003 by Dr Sean Cummings, is the only combined general medical/aesthetic clinic in the UK with the primary purpose of treating gay men " although more of those metrosexuals are slipping through the door every day. As a general rule, a third of its resources are directed towards general practice (antibiotics for a sore throat, etc), a third towards sexual health and the final third towards aesthetic procedures.
'Although we set it up as a gay practice,' says Dr Sean Cummings, 'there's been the knock-on effect of gay men's friends coming in, which include men and women who hanker after a less stuffy approach to medicine and aesthetics. There are lots of other people who feel disenfranchised from the NHS because they share the same habits and concerns as some gay men. That may include recreational drug use, or aspects of their sex life that they do not feel comfortable talking about with their GP.'
Certainly, there are times when you need to talk man to man about such things without fear of reproach. And being palmed off with a different doctor every time you visit your NHS practice is not the making of a long-term trusting relationship with a doctor who knows you and your background.
'The other thing that we've noticed,' continues Cummings, 'is that whilst people want a more relaxed, non-judgemental approach, they still want the traditional ongoing relationship with one therapist who they can see consistently. …