What's Up, Doc?

Do Doctors Feel Discouraged From Coming Out?

We don’t know about you, but our ideal doctor is a no-nonsense lesbian who will tell us exactly what we should do right, let us tell us all of our medical embarrassments without passing judgments, and will make sure we are taking care of our bodies so we don’t have to go to a doctor all that often. But, to be honest, we’ve never found that doctor and have always found it quite hard to find a gay doctor in general.

The New York Times published a piece by Dr. Pauline W. Chen that delves into the institutionalized homophobia in the medical establishment with wit and grace. As Chen recalls, while in her surgical training, a doctor reprimanded a group of them by saying: “Which of you idiots,” he growled at us, “gave my patient a homosexual dose of diuretic?”

Chen sites a recent issue of the journal Academic Pediatrics in which Dr. Mark A. Schuster, head of general pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Boston, “lays bare the experience of being gay in medicine and the constant struggle to ‘choose between being a doctor and being openly gay,’ and says Schuster “delivers unflinching, evenhanded descriptions of a profession that is committed to helping others, yet is also capable of treating some of its own as aberrant.”

Is this why we’ve always felt strange at the doctor’s office? Either we were warned to be wary of our pediatrician or we always wondered if our general practitioner was going to judge us for some silly indiscretion. It seems that our doctors feel just as uneasy and are struggling with just as many conflicts themselves.

Well, here’s at least one voice that’s saying: Please let us have openly gay doctors. It will make all of us just that much more comfortable dealing with our issues—and hopefully allow us to live longer, more productive lives.