On June 28 the University of Colorado School of Medicine’s Center for Advancing Professional Excellence (CAPE) hosted the third installment in its virtual community event series “Being _____ On Anschutz Medical Campus.” The goal of the series is to connect with the Anschutz community and amplify diverse voices through candid conversations with members of underrepresented groups. Previous events centered on the Black and AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) communities.
Coinciding with Pride Month, this month’s event was titled “Being LGBTQIA+ On Anschutz Medical Campus.” The six-person panel included a variety of CU Anschutz students, faculty, and staff discussing issues affecting the LGBTQIA+ community both on campus and in health care overall.
Below are some of the topics covered during the event, along with quotes from the panelists. As part of the event's community guidelines, the moderator asked participants to agree that “what is shared here stays here, and what is learned here leaves here,” including refraining from sharing the names of specific speakers.
The use of personal pronouns in professional settings.
“I noticed a massive change in how people perceived me when I started using my preferred name on Zoom and adding my pronouns. It’s like a whole new world.”
The difficulty of deciding whether and when to come out to colleagues regarding gender identity and sexual orientation.
“There’s always the question of whether it’s appropriate and how much I should come out to different groups of people. It’s so dependent on whether I feel like I’m in a safe place. With my colleagues, I take a moment to pause and ask myself, ‘If I was cis or if I was straight, would I have any problem sharing this piece of information, or does it just feel like an overshare because I’m afraid people are going to be uncomfortable?’”
Bi-invisibility and bi-erasure on campus.
“When I say I have a husband, people immediately assume I’m heterosexual, even though I actually identify as bisexual. So, that's something that I'm constantly educating people about.”
Avoiding unconscious biases and assumptions.
“I think we’re lacking in really challenging our assumptions of heteronormativity. One example of how this has played out in my life on campus is that there’s an assumption that LGBTQIA+ people are childless. My children have my last name, so when my wife has shown up for doctors’ appointments with our children, she’s been asked if she's the nanny.”
Approaching conversations about gender identity, sexuality, and relationship status with patients.
“I always introduce my name and pronouns first and avoid making assumptions about their pronouns. Usually if you introduce yourself, others will feel more comfortable to do so too.”
“We need to be mindful of directly asking someone what their pronouns are when it could accidentally out them, especially with children and teenagers in front of their parents, who may not be accepting.”
Denoting gender, sexual orientation, and relationship status on medical forms and records, particularly EPIC, the software CU uses for patient charting.
“When used correctly, EPIC has great functionality for inputting patients’ pronouns and gender identities. I think the hard part is getting people to use it across all areas of clinical practice. Hopefully, we can build connections with people in regard to how to use EPIC appropriately and effectively.”
The pressure to educate others about LGBTQIA+ issues and the need for allyship training.
“Sometimes when you’re the only LGBT person in the room, other people think you’re the expert on all of these decisions and what everyone needs to know and what everyone needs to do. That's a lot of pressure because I can’t represent anyone else in this community aside from myself.”
“It’s almost like you want to carry a book around for people and say, ‘OK, before you ask me any questions, read this book,’ so that I don’t have to keep explaining what this identity means.”
The benefits of having “out” providers, faculty, staff, etc.
"My first day in the Colorado School of Public Health, my professor openly identified herself as part of the LGBTQ+ community, and tons of students did that as well. It set the tone for our entire program of being honest with one another.”
“I’ve had both positive and negative experiences being a patient as an LGBTQ+ individual, and it’s helped me be aware that families can feel very scared in a room with a medical provider, and they can be very nervous about what to share with them. There are things you can do to help families feel more at ease, and being part of this community has allowed me to know what it means to be an ally.”
Health disparities affecting the LGBTQIA+ population.
“I want people to know that there are some real health disparities for people in our community — both kids and adults — especially when it comes to mental health. If you want to be a good medical provider, you have to understand how to treat the population, because we are faced with obstacles that our heterosexual and cisgender peers are not.”
Intersectionality of LGBTQIA+ issues with those of other groups.
“As a person of color within the LGBTQ+ community, there’s a component of intersectionality that people overlook. The LGBTQ+ community goes across all cultures, races, ethnicities, and nationalities. But people also need to understand that there's more to someone's identity than just being part of the LGBTQ+ community.”
How individuals can be more supportive of the LGBTQIA+ community.
“If you feel comfortable, I invite you to add your personal pronouns to your Zoom profile and your email signature. It’s something that shows a lot of inclusion for our community.”
“I think a lot of people feel uncomfortable with pronouns, so they try to avoid them much as possible. If you've never used ‘they/them’ pronouns before, just try it. It’s like learning a new language, and you’re going to mess up — we all mess up, and that’s OK. When you make a faux pas, just say, ‘I’m sorry. Would you mind telling me how I can address you best?”’
In addition to CAPE, panelists recommended the LGBTQ+ Hub (part of the Central Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Community Engagement) as a primary campus resource for members of the LGBTQIA+ community and their allies.