Friday, September 9, 2016

Be an Ally

Why is Being an Ally Important?

Why is being an ally important to the LGBT community or any community that needs a voice?

I remember when I did a program at a hospital about sensitivity of working with people who have various disabilities such as using a walker or in a wheelchair.  During the open discussion someone in senior leadership said that they don’t have enough staff to work with people “like that.  “They” take extra time and the rooms are not meant to accommodate their equipment.

If I were in a wheelchair, I’m confident that those words would never have been spoken.  If you think that’s good, I disagree.  They need to be spoken and discussed.  If that VP carried her feelings out of the room and to her staff, it would be a ripple effect and the negative comments and feelings would reach a patient – somewhere.  Now that this is on the table we were able to discuss it, find the appropriate words she can share with her staff (who may feel the same way) and then make accommodations and plan appropriately.  The elephant in the room needs to come out for discussion and to learn what to do.  Keeping this bottled up helps no one.

The same with people who are gay or lesbian or transgender.  A bearded woman may make someone feel uncomfortable but isn’t it her right to grow a beard?  In healthcare it does matter because when toileting or body parts that are different on a male or female.  Should healthcare professionals ask men and women (who are presenting as one or the other) their last menstrual cycle, if they are pregnant or if they have had a prostate exam?  I know of a transgender woman asked her last menstrual cycle in an emergency room and instead of coming “out” she gave a date.

When people have been frustrated over questions and mistakes in pronouns their whole life or people who may seem insensitive to needs, it is the ally who can step up and help with the questions and education.

Yes, I will go to the bathroom with you and gently tell someone to mind their own business if they comment while you get angry.

Yes, I will help you with your wheelchair and ask people to give you room in the hallway. I will help you with your English or help get you an interpreter.  I understand that my friend doesn’t read well and I will help with the consent forms or admission packet.  As an ally, there are many places we can step up and help.  We need to be open to learning from those who want us, what they want from us and then do it.

To those who are living in the world that I don’t know or understand, I ask you to be patient and remember each person you meet does not know the lifetime of struggles you have had.  We make mistakes and may seem inconsiderate because we don’t know.  If you shut us out in your frustration, we will never understand each other.