There are always people who surprise me by their belief systems or tolerance for others. The more educated an individual is, the more they are capable of surprising me. Recently, I have been not just surprised, but astounded by comments from one of my co-workers, a psychiatrist to be more specific. Some of the people who read this may actually know her, but just in case I will not name any names. Also, I hope this does not color negatively any opinions toward her. She’s still a wonderful psychiatrist and I still like working with her.
What is it that she surprised me with? Apparently she has a pretty significant misconception and negative bias toward GLBT persons and is much more conservative in her beliefs than I expected. She has done a very good job of keeping her personal beliefs from interfering with her job, I have to give her credit for that. I didn’t even know she had a bias against people who can be identified in the GLBT, sexually diverse/different, or pro-abortion, etc. groups until very recently. It does however make some of her comments throughout the last few years make more sense. For example, she was very surprised when a patient told her that she (the patient) had asked for the doctor who was the most tolerant of sexual deviancy and the front desk set her up with this particular psychiatrist. it probably had something to do with who had openings as well, but still, it was something that shocked the psychiatrist enough that she wanted to share her surprise with me (and another nurse) soon after the appointment was done with.
About 6 weeks later she shared with me her experiences at a conference she went to. It took place in southern California and there were many more GLBT professionals than she has ever interacted with. During the course of the three day conference she discovered that she could relate to just about everything the gay/lesbian men and women were sharing and even the way they shared their own stories. It was probably the absolute best conference for this revelation to occur at since the entire point was to discover how to actually hear patients and other people, basically let them share their stories without interruption. The participants could only speak one at a time and the ones who weren’t speaking could only listen, they could not comment except to the entire group after each exercise.
Mind you, the reason why this truly astounded me was because her nurse (the one for her outpatient caseload) is a gay man. It took me all of 5 minutes interacting with him to determine two things – he was gay and was an INTP in the Meyers-Briggs personality system. The second was just a nice thing to know, the first was just another thing to know so I could know how better to relate to him. However, this psychiatrist has worked with him for nearly two years and hasn’t a clue. When I mentioned my surprise to the other nurse he just shrugged it off as something he has seen before. People who don’t want to accept GLBT individuals are unaware of the vast number of people that are GLBT.
I do have to admit that while I’m surprised and honestly a bit disappointed to know that someone I highly respect has such a bias, I do have to respect how well she is able to separate her personal beliefs from how she treats and interacts with her patients. As far as I’m aware, she has never demonstrated any sort of negative, derogatory or unthinking behaviors towards her patients or in front of our other co-workers, especially when we are discussing patients. I don’t know how much our other co-workers interact with her regarding more personal matters, so I’m not sure if I’m either late to the party or someone she feels comfortable with and is willing to share such belief systems that are contrary to the norm within the agency we work for. Well, at least as far as I can tell that is. I could very likely be surprised by other people that I work with. In the same way though, I don’t believe it would decrease my respect for them for the same reasons. As far as I can tell they do not let their personal beliefs interfere with how they interact with our patients. That’s something to be proud of really. And they should give themselves a 4 on the diversity and tolerance/acceptance part of our self-assessment thingy. 😉
I do wish that everyone believed as I do – that as long as no one is harmed that any way of being and living and loving is okay – but I know that the chances of that happening in my lifetime are slim. However, I do hope that as we all learn more about each other, the more tolerant (accepting even?) we can all be towards others regardless of whether we agree with them or not. I think it would go a long way toward the world being that much better of a place to live in. When it comes down to it, that’s really what I want. I don’t want people to all agree with me, but I do want the world to be a better and more tolerant, and maybe even accepting, place. I also don’t think it’s too much to ask. Do you?