Sunday, October 2, 2011

Heterosexism vs Good Medicine

Apples and Oranges?
We are not all the same. As members of various groups and identities, we are all different. As a child I was culturally confused by this frame of reference. Growing up equal worth was confused with sameness, especially in terms of color and ethnicity. Blacks are the same as whites, Jews are the same as Gentiles. But the existence of divergent cultural norms and styles should not imply better or less than or negate the existence of genuine differences.

I am a writer now so I can't continue believing in didactic shorthand for the sake of simplicity any longer. While I recognize that each individual is as different as one snowflake from the next, there are shared values that groups possess. Women tend to be more emotionally attuned than men. Jews are more often secular and left-leaning due to a history of persecution in Russia and Germany. And LGBT folks of my generation (boomers) created a culture that tended to be progressive and based on the notion of chosen, not biological, "family." Fear of lesbians is still palpable in the fifity, and sixty-something folks of my generation. And, in a very real sense, queer, although equal to is not the same as straight.

In my recent search for medical providers a weird dynamic has emerged. I find that the men who are not assholes seem more capable of caring behavior toward females than heterosexist staight women. I'm not using the word homophobic because these are not women who would deride a lesbian on the street. They are simply women who do not want to be confronted with any indication that they might also harbor to many feelings of tenderness toward women who are not their daughters and that all of our sexualities fall on a continuum rather than into a category.

This situation often leaves me looking for male medical providers rather than deal with a nervous and uncaring stance from a female doctor, nurse, chiropractor or acupuncturist. It's a strange position for a lifelong feminist. Between me and my most recent acupuncturist there was a cultural gap you could drive a truck through. And I liked her. She is a mom who immediately showed me photos of her grown children. A woman who took on her husband's name. It was uncomfortable because the fact that she was totally unfamiliar with lesbian culture meant that there were no easy bridges between us.

Medical providers, even alternative ones are in the position of being required to physically interact with clients. It is imperative that either they are comfortable with touching people of all genders and orientations or they only treat certain groups.

That decision, when it comes to equal rights, opens up an abyss-sized slippery slope.