Pride Week is coming up in my city, and as an early event, last week my medical school hosted a group of transgender individuals talking about their experiences and answering questions. Although it was a Friday afternoon and I was tired from being on call, I made an effort to attend, partly because I was interested in the session, and partly because as a queer person I feel a sense of responsibility to show up to all LGBTQ* events. The session was hosted in the same room as my first-year medical school class, and as I pulled open the familiar door, I felt something completely unexpected.
Now, before I continue, I want to give some back story. I came out as a lesbian when I was 16, and as bisexual less than a year later, so I have been out to the people closest to me for decades. I brought my same-sex partner to a work dinner over four years ago, and I have been answering people's awkward questions about swingers resorts and polyamory at work ever since. But when I was in medical school, having just returned to my home city after seven years away, none of my classmates knew. Because I was still dating men at the time, everyone operated on the assumption that I was straight, and I did nothing to challenge them.
So my first thought, walking into my old classroom, was a reflexive "I hope no one sees me here and figures out that I'm queer." Which...hello. A little late now. I work at a small university, and pretty much everyone who knows me also knows that I'm queer.
But there it was, nonetheless. An almost instinctive desire to hide. To pretend to be just like everyone else.
And it came up again last night. The new girl and I went to a theatre show together, which was hosted by the company with which I volunteer, and my first thought was that I needed to hide the relationship from my fellow volunteers.
My fellow volunteers in a left-wing theatre company.
There aren't a lot of spaces in this world that are more queer-positive than a theatre show, and yet that automatic response was still there. Even though I live in a country where same-sex marriage has been legal for 13 years and where the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects LGBTQ* individuals, I still feel anxious about being out everywhere I go.
If my patient finds out that I'm queer, will they want a different doctor?
If my doctor finds out that I'm queer, will she want a different patient?
Can I hold my partner's hand in this alleyway at night? In the elevator of my apartment building? In the grocery store?
I am so lucky and grateful to live in a time and place where my rights as a queer woman are protected.