Thursday, October 11, 2007


Twenty years ago today, the first National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights was held. That day is probably best remembered for the inaugural display of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. One year later, October 11, 1988, the first National Coming Out day was observed to celebrate the March one year earlier. I was just a toddler at time.

For me, coming out has been an ongoing process since my junior year of college. It wasn't difficult for me to accept, but I found it hard to tell that first person. How was one of my best friends going to react? The fear of rejection was strong, but I knew that if I was going to continue in these friendships, I needed to be completely honest and open. I needed to be my whole self. Thankfully, that whole process was very positive.

My experience as an LGBT medical student has been mixed. I was out on my medical school applications and was asked about an LGBT group I was involved with in undergrad during one of my interviews. Some LGBT students choose to hide this kind of information on their applications, but I decided I didn't want to be at a school that didn't want me.

Once I decided to attend my current medical school, I set up a meeting with a faculty member to address some of my concerns about being an LGBT medical student. Did the medical school have an LGBT group? What were LGBT students' experiences like during the clinical years? Was being openly LGBT going to negatively affect my medical education experience? The faculty member's advice was, "It shouldn't matter, but I would just keep it a secret -- like don't ask, don't tell."

I've had several uncomfortable experiences during lectures, where a professor will tell a joke at the expense of the LGBT community. Most in my class laugh, some have no visible response, and some, like me, have that "I can't believe they just said that" look. Do I say something then? Do I confront the professor after class? Do I send them an email telling them I thought their joke was inappropriate? I end up not saying anything because (1) I don't want to come off as hypersensitive and (2) I don't want to be singled out. I already feel like I don't really belong, so why add to that feeling.

I'm out to all of my friends at school, which was a must. I don't believe you can really know and trust someone if you're hiding something. You're always going to keep some distance, which is not what I want in my friendships. As for others in my class? Some have asked me and I've answered affirmatively, but it's not like I've made an announcement. There's no need for that.

Basically, I'm just trying to live an open, genuine, authentic life. I've been doing it since my junior year in college, 7 years ago, and I don't see why I should have to stop now.


DC Med Student said...

I wanted to share with you part of an email I received from a friend. I think it fleshes out what I was trying to convey.
Neither one of us are expected to right all the wrongs, solve all the problems, address all the evils. What you can do is prudently move your way through your present situation and allow your future success to create opportunities for your contributions -- to any cause you choose. At that point you will be positioned and equipped to make a difference. Right now, you can concentrate on getting to that place.

DC Med Student said...

A public "Thank You!" to all those who wrote emails. I really appreciate it. :o)

ramsey said...

live an authentic life, not a fraud...

Anne said...

Be proud of who you are. Stick up for yourself and don't let anyone belittle you. Being Jewish is similar - I can laugh and joke about it, but I'll be the first to go on a tirade (gently) about how kosher food is not blessed by a rabbi. You sound like a good example of a healty, smart, leader - that's all it takes.

Anne said...

healthy. . .oops

Sofia said...

as a future-med school applicant,
do you think that any of the other 2 schools in the DC area are any better at addressing LGBTQ student issues? Or do you think most medical schools are pretty much in the same boat in this regard? Obviously, depending on where you are in the country people may be more/less accepting, but do you think there are any schools that are making a concerted effort to be more welcoming?
- sofia

The Lone Coyote said...

DC--great post. I've been behind on blog reading lately, or I would've commented sooner.

Sofia--AMSA has some great resources you should check out, including a list of GLBT students that you can contact at different schools. Some schools do make an effort to be welcoming. At my school there is a GLBT welcome dinner each year, quarterly potlucks, and a mentoring program. But even with that there is still crap you have to deal with because medicine is conservative overall. At least if the admin seems to be making an effort, you can hope that they will take seriously complaints you do have in this regard.

DC Med Student said...

Ramsey, Anne, LC: Thanks for the support! It means a lot.

Sofia: I'm not sure about the other schools here in DC. I would take The Lone Coyote's advice and check out the AMSA resources. You can also check out the list of student groups at different schools to see if they have an LGBT group. As TLC said, medicine is conservative, so challenges will be faced for some time to come. All the best to you!