Intolerance is still intolerable

Four years ago, almost to the day, I wrote a post about needing to be more tolerant of intolerant people. You know, the bigots, homophobes, racists, Islamophobes, condemning Christians, the KKK… The list goes on. Actually, scratch the KKK. No one needs to tolerate them, ever. Even the Doctor supported genocide when it came to the Daleks.

Being a doctor means I get to interact with a wide cross-section of society. This is both exciting and scary. I was excited to have my first lesbian patient (is this weird?) and be able to provide her with an open, non-judgmental space. (It’s probably weird). And it is scary when the brazen male patients decide they have a penis problem. (cue eye roll).

For the most part I deal with the ups and downs of this roller coaster ride. I bite my cheek when colleagues or patients are espousing homophobic ideals in group settings; I clip my words and give my best poker face when male patients make unsolicited and inappropriate advances. (This happens more often than it should).

But in a one-on-one setting with someone who is  uncomfortable with the homosexual lifestyle, I am far from tolerant. A colleague was relating an anecdote about his struggle to overcome homophobia, saying that sometimes he just has to refer a patient.

In one session he had with a male patient, the patient started flirting with him. And my colleague recalls being so upset – he had been told they have a gaydar, that they know who to flirt with and who not to, so why was this man coming on to him – he reacted like his manhood (personhood?) was threatened.

So I got angry, and I’m not sure I was very good at hiding it.

“It’s so funny,” I said to him, “that they don’t teach us how to react when a patient tries to hit on you.”

He didn’t know how to respond.

I was pulled in a lot of directions. First the blatant masculine privilege that means you don’t have to worry about a patient trying to flirt with you. Or if they do, flirtation is always welcome because the patient will be a woman. The heterosexual privilege of assuming that because a guy is batting for the other team he wouldn’t dare try anything with you.

Female healthcare staff have been dealing with unwanted advances for centuries, and I am a small enough person to say that it felt good to watch a man squirm for once.

But now that I’ve gotten that illicit gloating out of my system, how do I go about creating a more tolerant space for people who want to let go of their misguided beliefs? First of all, do I want to?

No. I don’t.

Gay people are here, they’re queer. Get over it.

All gay people are not trying to rape you. All Muslims are not bomb-toting jihadists. All black people are not here to steal your purses and live off welfare. Hijabistas are not inherently oppressed. Black people are not inherently inferior. Women are not inherently less capable than men. And not everyone has been waiting on you to tell them about your Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

People are just people, not the groups they happen to belong to. Good, bad, flawed, faking it, aggressive, shy, lazy, ambitious people.

It’s 2016. Acceptance is in. Get with the fucking times.