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.
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.