By Marcia Quackenbush, MS, MFT, MCHES | June 26, 2015
Senior Editor, ETR
It has been a momentous morning. My wife and I took an early hike. We were out on the trail when we got the text from @HRC about the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage. “Reply w/pics to show how you’re celebrating,” they asked.
We grinned. We cried. We took a selfie out there in our little patch of wilderness. And not surprisingly, we both began a survey of our lives, and this struggle, where we’ve been and this place we’ve come to now. Change is powerful stuff, for a person and for a nation.
I moved to San Francisco when I was 19 and came out within months. A lot of confusing things in my life fell into place once I figured out I was a lesbian. I started doing some volunteer work in the women’s community and soon had a good network of supportive friends.
It was an exciting time. It was also challenging in all kinds of new ways.
Work? I got a job as a typist for an insurance adjuster, and then discovered that the man I replaced had been fired for being gay. I really needed that job. I hid so much of my character there that when I left after three years, the staff talked about what a quiet, soft-spoken person I was. Over my entire life, no one who has truly known me would ever describe me this way.
Safety? There was a period of time when I carried a hammer while I walked from my parked car to my house at night—sometimes a distance of several blocks. Gay men and lesbians were being beat up in my neighborhood, and I’d decided I would not go down without fighting. (I am a total wuss—this was really a response about terror, not strength.)
Health? When I saw health care providers, they would ask what I used for birth control. I would tell them I was not sexually active. That wasn’t true. But I didn’t feel comfortable saying I was a lesbian—I worried that I wouldn’t get the same quality of health care, or that they would just throw me out of their office.
One lucky day, someone told me I could get free services at the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic and that they were totally cool about gay people. For the first time, I was able to respond to that question about birth control honestly: “I don’t need it. I’m a lesbian.”
I had a fabulous nurse practitioner who exclaimed, “Oh, that makes me so happy! My lesbian patients are always the healthiest. They get fewer STDs and they just seem to take better care of their health.” She went on to share the safer sex guidelines of the day, let me know I was still at risk for STDs and tested me for chlamydia.
In his remarks this morning, President Obama said, “When all Americans are treated as equal, we are all more free.” I would add, “We are also all healthier.”
Truth is an essential element of health. People need to feel safe enough to speak honestly with family, community and health care providers about their lives and experiences. This is basic for both health care providers and consumers—a necessary step to the choices that best protect ourselves and our community, and allow us all to live our fullest, most vibrant, healthiest lives.
So I welcome justice. I welcome fairness. And I welcome our nation taking this next big step towards honesty, understanding and the enthusiastic welcome of our wonderful, beautiful, richly diverse population.
Marcia Quackenbush, MS, MFT, MCHES, is Senior Editor at ETR, and she is feeling very emotional today! She can be reached at email@example.com.