Guest column: Adding insult to injury

I hurt my knee in December of 2010 while training for biking and racing season. After two months of intense pain, I went to a physical therapist. Treatment helped mitigate – but not eliminate – the pain. June hit and I still had not healed and was missing out on great biking weather. Some friends recommended that I try a different physical therapist, suggesting the difference in methodology could fix my knee. Someone recommended one of the most prominent clinics in Logan – my friend Adam worked there – so I called and made an appointment.I arrived on a Wednesday afternoon and began filling out paperwork. At the top of the first sheet lounged an ever-present dilemma: the question of marital status. The clinic had only two options – married or single. I wrote “domestically partnered” off to the side because technically that is the category I fit into, having had my commitment ceremony just five days prior to my appointment.The appointment went well and I was impressed by the physical therapist with which I worked and the methods and techniques he employed. Toward the end of the appointment, various aides massaged the injured muscles to help loosen them. It was busy in the clinic and Stephanie the receptionist came to work on my leg while the regular aides helped other clients. She saw my ring and asked if I was married. I hesitated, ultimately deciding between what was easy (saying I was married) and what was true (that I was not). I chose the latter. Stephanie just nodded and went on, blathering about whether or not she wanted to live in Star Valley with her in-laws for the next 30 minutes while she worked on my leg. The visit soon concluded and I went home, satisfied that I had spent my money well. Through the weeks that followed, my leg continued to improve.A few days ago, Adam contacted me, asking me if I told Stephanie whether I was married or not. I told him what had happened and he said Stephanie and the woman in charge of billing had been talking about peculiar paperwork that had come through recently. A client had written, “yes” instead of circling the given marital status options, which then lead to a discussion of the man who had visited a week prior and had written “domestically partnered” next to the options. The two discussed how “yucky” and disgusting homosexuals and their lifestyles are and moved on. This all happened within earshot of at least – but probably not only – Adam, who also happens to be gay.When Adam informed me of what happened, I was furious. What was I supposed to do? This was the first clinic that was actually helping me heal after seven months of trying to get better. Should I continue going, and have someone who thinks I am filthy and disgusting touch me? Would she even deign to do so, at this point? Could I trust that I would be receiving the best care possible, when the staff was prejudiced against me? How many other staff members would she talk to about me? Would the other staff eventually dread seeing me walk into the clinic because they had to help or even possibly touch a gay man?What did I do to deserve this kind of treatment? I don’t expect, and have never expected, anyone to change their moral or religious views on homosexuality, but frankly, I didn’t ask them to do any such thing. Did treating me with kindness and dignity, or at the very least civility, require that they compromise any of their beliefs or opinions? Absolutely not. I deserve and demand to be treated equally by the law, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, profession or any other identifying quality that I may possess.I am not the only one adversely affected by this prejudiced act: Adam, standing right there, had to listen to colleagues that he sees and interacts with on a regular basis decry a characteristic that he and I have shared from birth, something that characterizes us not by choice, but by fate. He said that in his younger years he would have been seriously impacted by what happened. Who wouldn’t? Further, who’s to say any other of the clients or staff present weren’t impacted by their idle words? I think that’s what hurt me the most; not knowing which other members of the staff had been part of the conversation or had been talked to. Were they disgusted with me too? It made it incredibly difficult to even want to go to the clinic again, wondering if staff members were sitting there, crossing their fingers, hoping that they wouldn’t have to help me heal. I wanted to just quit, not go back and just deal with the pain.Members of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning) community do not ask for your morals or your opinions, we ask for your respect and honestly, we shouldn’t have to ask for it. It should be provided to us automatically because we are human beings. With feelings. With families who love us and worry about things like this – or worse – happening to us. Nobody would want their child treated so poorly because of some characteristic they had no control over, like eye color or height. It would be agony to know your child felt uncomfortable seeking health care because he or she had red hair or because they stuttered, or because they were gay and were afraid that it would affect their treatment.I didn’t choose to be gay, but what if I had? What happened to me would still not be OK, on any level, in any city.When I spoke with the clinic’s owner, she was saddened and upset by the behavior of her employee. She assured me that corrective action would be taken and that her staff would have some diversity training, but I still had a hard time returning to the clinic after the incident. It felt like I was walking into a room where everyone had been talking about me, you know, where the room suddenly becomes quiet and nobody makes eye contact with you. Should another gay person enter her clinic, I hope that he or she won’t receive the same treatment I did.Growing up gay in Utah was difficult: you worry what people think of you and how they will treat you. It’s always so refreshing to travel outside the state and discover that generally people are kind and don’t treat you differently because of whom you love. Even as an adult, I have an automatic mental cringe response in social situations when people learn of my orientation, which is a sad by-product of situations like this.The aide in the clinic contributed to an unhealthy environment for myself and her coworkers, yet situations like this continue to happen in school, work and church situations across the state and the country. Until we, as a culture, reliably react with kindness, minorities – sexual and others – will continue to cringe. They will continue to hide.

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