Since my last experience trying to phone my primary care doctor’s office and get a refill amounted to a series of voice mails left by me, which received no answer and led to no renewed prescription, I took the doctor’s advice and today registered for their Internet portal. I looked over my records online and after scrolling down through “conditions” now deemed “resolved” was surprised to see the following category of “active” items:

Personal Health Conditions

The first listed was “never a smoker.”

That sounds legit.

The second listed was “Homosexuality.”

I wonder if my straight friends who are patients there would find a note proclaiming their Personal Health Condition of “Heterosexuality?”

While my sexual orientation is something my doctor knows about, I have never considered it to be a Personal! Health! Condition! in the sense that it merited a box of its own on a digital chart. List me as married, certainly, so that my wife may be contacted in an emergency, or be at my side in the hospital. Naming my orientation as a “condition,” however, strikes me as an unneeded risk to my privacy and an invitation to discrimination, which is legal in the state where I live. Because I trusted my primary care doctor, I also trusted the Physician’s Assistant and the nurses and lab technicians I have seen in her office. Now I wonder who diagnosed me as a non-smoking homo.

I also wonder what impact the information will have if I visit other providers in the large, corporate network in which my doctor practices medicine.

Where the matter stands in all 50 states.

Our marriage is legal, but it is also perfectly legal to discriminate against LGBTQ people in matters of housing, employment and public accommodations in the state where we live. The only anti-discrimination protection we have in Pennsylvania is in the area of public sector employment.

There is nothing stopping people from – oh, for instance, not bothering to return the call about my prescription for blood pressure medication, as happened last fall, perhaps not so inexplicably now.

By now you may be asking, why are you going to this doctor? Isn’t there another one around?

People form such questions all the time, asking why a person would want to buy a cake from someone who doesn’t like them, anyway? Why would you want to live in a house or an apartment owned by a bigot? Why would you want to work for someone who doesn’t like gay people?

Maybe it’s the only bakery in town.

Maybe it’s the only apartment you can afford.

Maybe it’s the only employer hiring someone with your skills.

Or maybe you just want to be ordinary and do the things other people do.

Maybe your best friends had a gorgeous cupcake tower from that bakery, and you want the same delicious result.

Maybe you want to live on a particular street or in a desirable neighborhood because it reminds you of home.

Maybe it’s been your dream – or is your calling – to do a particular job in a very specific setting, and it matters more to you than other people’s prejudice.

Churches and church people, of course, are exempt from the legal limitations. While some churches have their own policies against employment discrimination, and many welcome and affirm LGBTQ people, many more do not. They are free to discriminate all they want.

Some do it quietly, by putting down a candidate’s ministerial profile and searching through the pile for one from a straight applicant instead.

Some do it vociferously. They blame decline in the mainline church on gay marriage instead of stopping to think that their prejudice may be driving people away.

Some do it passive-aggressively. On the bleachers at the Little League field, there is a nice Christian mom who won’t even turn her head in our direction now that she knows we are gay. We give thanks to God for the other parents who treat us like normal people, people whose Personal Health Condition is not, I promise you, catching.

What can be catching is a change of mind and heart. We’ve seen it around marriage in recent years; any two adults can now pledge their lives to each other, can spend the same crazy amounts of money on flowers as straight people and can make the same mistakes, too. It’s all legal. Somehow the idea that our love is not harmful to others became contagious.

Now we need the same thing to happen around basic rights protected for others: housing, employment, public accommodations. We need people who are straight to talk to their neighbors, their co-workers, their family members and even their church family members.

We need you to speak up against bigotry and homophobia.

Ignite an epidemic of understanding that creates a personal health condition of acceptance for all people.

12 thoughts on “The Pastoral is Political: Personal Health Condition

  1. Wise and gentle words that lets your pain tell the experience of many of us. You have an uncanny ability to communicate both grace and edge. Thank you for voicing the experience of many of us!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Being LGBT is considered a medical condition when it comes to donating blood, as my son found out. So it may be noted as a “risk factor,” not as something discriminatory. On the other hand, “promiscuity,” with no designation of orientation, would be more valid as a risk factor.


    1. I have to disagree. I think designating someone as being of higher risk of STD’s because of their sexual orientation, therefore assuming that people’s risk taking behaviour is based not on personality or culture but on who you are attracted to, is incredibly discriminative.


  3. Great article! Sadly this behaviour is all to common, including here in Canada. In my sermons I say that if God can create 20,000 kinds of ants, she can certainly create more than two kinds of people. It certainly seems to wake people up.


  4. I can think of reasons why “homosexuality” might be in the record, but I find it strange that it’s a “personal health condition” rather than a demographic entry. For instance, it may be helpful to remind health care professionals to not ask about your husband. It might be useful in anonymized statistical data.But these sorts of uses may also be appropriate for marital status, which – I’m guessing – is not one of your “personal health conditions.”Being female may also be a part of such data and, obviously, have an effect on certain parts of your health care. Again, I’m guessing (and hoping) that your list of “personal health conditions” does not include “female.”

    So yes, it’s quite odd that your being in love with a member-of-the-same-sex (MOTSS, as we called it back in the ’80’s) doesn’t strike me as a health condition, unless it’s “Awesome! She’s in a healthy relationship! That’s a condition of some good personal health right there!”

    And I share your concern about who sees these records, and the choices people may make. Like gay and lesbian people, transgender people may choose not to disclose what’s going on in our lives – in the transgender community, this is called “stealth”. Because of the medical interventions many of us have, however, it makes more sense to have “transgender” listed as a “personal health condition.”

    What makes it more challenging (to put it politely) is that there are a handful of people who make it their business to out transgender people to their schools and employers. So those of us who are “stealth” (as I clearly am not) are at constant risk of finding themselves expelled or fired.

    And you make a very good point about the “why don’t you just go somewhere else?” question. There are perfectly rational reasons gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people should not have to go looking for the providers, businesses, and employers that have chosen to accept us.

    Further, it wasn’t that long ago that it was perfectly legal to exclude people based on race, or ethnic heritage, from business establishments. Sometimes people had to travel great distances to find someone to serve them, or had to accept substandard services because they weren’t permitted in the “good” places.

    If every / the only baker, if every / the only pharmacy, if every / the only grocery store has a sign that says you won’t be served, what do you do? The argument that “you should go to another business” assumes that there is a business that hasn’t excluded us.

    We do need legal protection. We also need for hearts and minds to change. We need allies to support legislation, and also to speak up against those who would claim that it’s a “Christian” thing to deny service to us.

    Hate is a societal health condition.

    Liked by 2 people

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