While attending Catholic school from kindergarten to grade 12, there was a large part of me that always suppressed the questions I had about my sexuality due to way the LGBTQ+ community was perceived by the Catholic church, the staff/students at my school, and society. I always felt different, but I never knew why. When I finally graduated, I decided to attend Queen’s University; a place where I finally felt free. It all made sense when I got to University and at 18 I was able to “come out”. I never made any big announcements or anything, I wanted it to just happen naturally. Aside from family and close friends who I told directly, if other people would ask, I would tell them. I’ve always felt like the idea of coming out should be a thing of the past, but unfortunately we don’t live in a world where this is possible yet.
After coming out at 18, I thought that would be the last of it and that I could keep sticking with the plan of it all happening naturally. But I was met with the sad reality of living in a very heteronormative world, where society assumes you are straight unless you tell them otherwise. This idea of coming out never ending came to light through new jobs, new classes, new friends, strangers, appointments, and more. But by far the most prevalent in the health care industry. One would assume that doctors would encounter many different patients from all different backgrounds, sexualities, and more, however my experience in the healthcare industry is one that was stuck in these same outdated heteronormative values.
In university, I encountered some severe health issues that required me to visit doctors constantly. Each week it felt like I was seeing a new doctor and trying a new medication to help “cure” my debilitating atopic dermatitis. I vividly remember doctors asking me if I was sexually active and when met with “yes” they’d ask if there was any chance of me being pregnant, when I told them “no”, they’d then ask if I was using protection, which I would answer “no” to again. They would then say, “well how can you guarantee you aren’t pregnant then?” At this point, they’d usually look very confused and the room would be filled with awkward silence. When the silence was just too much to deal with, I then had to explain to them that I had a girlfriend, which they would then be embarrassed for assuming I had a male partner to begin with.
I laugh about these awkward encounters and the looks on these doctor’s faces to this day, but the reality is that at the time, this hesitation of coming out to doctors and medical professionals was something I really struggled with at 18 and 19. I remember going to a doctor’s office once and when they asked me about my being sexually active, I apologized and said, “I’m sorry if this makes you uncomfortable, but I have a girlfriend.” I still cannot believe I apologized for something like that, but it really shows you how afraid I was at the time. It also shows how I’ve grown throughout the whole process and become more confident and comfortable with who I am.
In the last few years, heteronormativity in the health care system has not changed and it probably won’t any time soon, so instead I’ve changed the way I respond to it. I am proud of who I am and I no longer live in fear for being who I was always meant to be. Being a part of the LGBTQ+ community is one of my favourite things about myself, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I hope that one day we can live in a world where there aren’t these boxes that everyone has to fit in to feel like they belong. I hope that one day there won’t be such rigid expectations on people for the way they live their life. I hope that one day coming out can become a thing of the past.
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