By Chris Hardy
Content warning: harsh language, distressing scenarios
“Oh, look at that cute little baby!” I said, walking through the halls of the hospital. No sooner had the words left my mouth when the guttural cry of a complete stranger snaps me back to reality, with words that I have heard all too often: “Fucking faggot.”
How lovely. Exactly what I wanted to hear on that Wednesday morning, right between ward rounds and my regular morning coffee.
The shock of being called such a name never wears off, no matter how often you have it thrown at you. Whether it is out of a car window, in a club, or just walking down the street holding your partner’s hand, it still leaves a hollow, cold sensation running through you and a fear of what will happen next. Will they just move on? Will they spit on me, throw their drink on me, hit me? In that moment, all possibilities are considered and feared over.
Don’t get me wrong though. We all develop a thick skin, especially as medical students. We are constantly being yelled at, abused, and underappreciated by both patients and colleagues alike. Falling to pieces every time someone is mean to you is just not practical. But to have such an integral part of your identity, a part that you may still be coming to terms with, be attacked is devastating. Some attacks are not as openly hostile, like the double take of people when you walk down the street and the deliberate lack of questions regarding relationships at the dinner table, but are still just as damaging.
I am in the GP clinic, talking with a patient about a mundane issue that was quickly resolved in the first 5 minutes leaving the next 25 for small talk. Same sex marriage comes up, and I cringe internally. The patient’s face crumples into a grimace and the familiar arguments brought forward; what will it lead to, gays are diseased, God doesn’t agree with these choices. The once quite pleasant patient is now a hatred-spewing entity who disagrees with a core part of my being. I look impartial and listen like we are told to do, until the onslaught is over and the patient returns to their normal state. “Now then, what about you? Have you got a special girl?”
People are often shocked when I tell them about what has happened to me just because I am gay. Some don’t believe me and think I am overdramatising things: “Surely that is a thing of the past? No one thinks like that anymore!”
Wouldn’t it be nice if that were true? Wouldn’t it be a much happier world if we just didn’t care about this stuff and let people live? Such a cliché and I legit feel like a dick writing it, but we can all have a dream. I would really just be happy with some more queer representation in the curriculum or a focus on the unique issues surrounding queer health to be honest. It is impossible to change people’s minds, but it is possible for us as future doctors to help make the world just a little bit less shit for those who are different.
Don’t assume someone’s sexuality or gender identity, don’t assume they aren’t struggling, and don’t assume that you will never encounter queer people. We exist, we are your friends and patients and colleagues. Don’t forget about us.
Featured image from Pixabay