"I was outed by my healthcare provider. I know she feels terrible to this day, she didn’t do it on purpose…but it is how my parents found out. I still don’t feel comfortable enough to completely be vulnerable in disclosing what happened that day. Even though it has been years and I am much older than I was, it’s still one of those moments I still have a scar on and is something I will continue to work through. Typically, when you share this news with your parents, you work yourself up to it in your mind about what you’re going to do, what’s going to be the perfect timing, etc. Especially when you come from a background that views LGBTQ+ rights very conservatively. It makes it feel like you’re preparing for a court room case, trying to convince your family why you are the way that you are. It has taken some time for my family to accept me. I think they still hold true to their beliefs and the way they think, but they have at least stopped penalizing me and my relationship because it is with another man. They want me to be successful in whatever what I want to, but I think no parent ever wants their child to grow up in today’s society and how they treat the queer community. It can be very hard for them to know that their child might have to struggle, so I see where they come from.
As far as my experience in healthcare settings, it isn’t really my gay identity that makes me feel different, it is how I look. People see me, I am tall, I am not skinny, and I will always been seen as black before I get any other label towards me in the healthcare setting. I think that people can’t get past that fact before they can see other traits of me. I am very particular about who I chose to by my primary care physician. I think that, for some people, they can’t properly treat someone if they don’t fully acknowledge their implicit biases. Being black is an intimidation factor to people, there are certain stereotypes with being black…so even in the case that a person has good intentions, their implicit biases will ultimately effect how they treat me. For these reasons, my PCP is always someone of color or some ethnic background that isn’t white. It is easier for me to relate to them and I don’t have to constantly be worried about what their perspective of me is. My experience is so much better when I can genuinely be who I am aside from being black. Being black is something that is really important to me, but I also have multiple layers…just like everyone else…and I don’t want being black to be the barrier for a healthcare provider to get the proper information from me and my treatment plan.
Honestly, I am really a reserved person, I don’t have an extraverted personality. That way people can’t really, based off some stereotype, make assumptions about who I am. So even if my sexuality were to come up in a healthcare setting, I am both fortunate and unfortunate as I have experienced discrimination as a black man but not as someone in the LGBTQ+ community.
Black people, more than white people, are taught at a very young age how black they are. Unless you are very out of touch with your blackness, very rarely can you grow up and not be consistently reminded of what skin color you are. Not just by other people but by those in your inner circle, like your family. There are certain luxuries that white people get that black people don’t get, and we have to be reminded by our parents that this is the case so we can be safe and protected. The way we are perceived by others has been a lesson instilled in us since such a young age. For this reason, I think for most people, being black overshadows other parts of us, including identities such as that of the LGBTQ+ community.
As a medical student, I see that the culture must evolve. I have taken it upon myself to understand the responsibility that I need to really add something extra to the medical team, to the patient care, and to really make the patient feel safe and comfortable with me. One of the things I am glad that doctors are starting to implement, is making sure that sensitive questioning (sexual orientation), is now done with the patients’ friends or family outside of the room. If you look at the data, a lot of people who are outed by their healthcare provider are young. They don’t have the luxury of being out of the house, and they have some serious repercussions. Now, because I am a medical student and because of my experience, I feel like I have a duty to speak up against practices that could be harmful to a patient’s life. It is so important to speak up, despite the intimidation from residents and attendings who have the potential to determine your career, because it is worth it if it is in the nature of making the patients experience safer. I hope I can continue to speak up throughout med school. I want to plant seeds in the minds of those around me, planting seeds is so important and has a greater impact than we understand. Ultimately, it is all about putting the patient first, especially to preserve a patient’s respect and autonomy."
-Trey, Michigan (he/him/his)