By: Andrew Shaughnessy
It’s hard to describe what it feels like to be admitted into a hospital as a gay man in Missouri. As an advocate for the community, I understand my legal rights and am equipped with the tools I need when I walk into a hospital. Though as a patient, a ‘normal’ person, the tables all of the sudden seem to flip and my anxiety begins to appear.
Walking into a hospital this week for a procedure, I asked myself ‘will the welcoming desk, be just that — truly welcoming to me and my loved one?’ This line of question though unconscionable to most, is the reality that comes with being a LGBT patient in Missouri.
Here, like in most States, it is perfectly legal to be fired from your job, denied access to housing, and public accommodations simply because of who you are. If you are wondering, this also includes being denied access to health and social service organizations as well. As I walked into the hospital, arm-in-arm with my loved one, I wondered if our experience was going to be like everyone else’s or will we be treated differently. At this point, we were no longer invisible.
Being a patient in a hospital, regardless of who you are, is stressful. We’ve all been there — fearing the unknown, waiting for outcomes, and praying that our loved ones make it back safe have occupied our minds before in these spaces. This stress is compounded when you are a patient who is out like I am.
For gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender patients it is often times easier to remain invisible because of this fear. LGBT folks remain closeted for fear that we could be treated differently, or even worse that our care could be compromised because of it.
Yesterday, I walked arm-in-arm with my loved one into a hospital and I left for the first time feeling like I truly was welcomed. This feeling is huge for me and gives me hope that we can be out and not fear — even in Missouri hospitals.