In the midst of our multinational 2010 Pride festivities, I feel compelled to share my coming out story and how I continue to represent the LGBT community in my veterinary practice. Happy Pride!
As I came out of the closet during veterinary school, way back in 1997, I had to prepare myself for the reaction of classmates with whom I already shared significant history. I considered the reactions of my 105 (or so) classmates, as we had been hitting the books together for two years at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. Would they shun me now that I identified as an out gay man? Fortunately, no, they did not.
My coming out process started between the second and third years of vet school. From an early age, my parents taught me the value of living life honestly, so I ultimately had to make the choice to either continue to hide or recognize my sexuality. Fortunately, the truth was seemingly a non-issue to the majority of my classmates, friends, and family members. Overall, my transition from a heterosexual to homosexual burgeoning veterinary professional was rather uneventful.
Upon graduation, I navigated uncharted territory in having “the discussion” (if needed) with potential employers. I matched to an internship at Friendship Hospital for Animals in Washington, DC without an interview and had not visited the facility. As a result, I started my internship somewhat blind to the attitudes my employer and coworkers would exhibit regarding my sexuality. As Washington, DC is a progressive city, the topic of my sexuality was, again, uneventful.
Being gay is not the first topic I discuss with people I meet in my day to day personal and professional encounters. I definitely do not suppress my sexuality and will not lie about my personal life just to appease someone else. I feel as though being gay is just part of the complex mixture of personality traits that makes me who I am. As a result, I never felt as though my sexuality threatened people, which may have contributed to my drama-deficient coming out experiences.
When I moved to West Hollywood to work at TLC Pet Medical Centers, Inc., my sexual orientation became partial reason for which some clients sought out my veterinary services; many LGBT clients prefer having an LGBT veterinarian. My need to come out to clients and coworkers was non-existent, as my presence as an unmarried, thirty-something, professional male in West Hollywood, by default, categorized me as more likely to be gay than not.
Now that I have my own house call business, California Pet Acupuncture and Wellness (CPAW) Inc., I get to know my clients on a personal basis in the confines of their homes. Ultimately, we establish camaraderie in the process of managing their pet’s health conditions. The line between our personal and professional relationship often becomes blurred and, inevitably, we share aspects of our lives besides our fondness for their pet.
I feel fortunate to not have to be concerned about my clients’ reactions when I mention that I share a home (and an amazingly resilient dog, Cardiff) with a same sex, romantic partner. Not having to go about my work day with the concerning undercurrent about how my clients may react to my sexuality permits me to readily establish professional relationships and provide my patients with the best care possible.
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