Notes from the nation’s capital, where love won

In my intersectionality as a family physician, a patient (we are all patients), member of and advocate for the LGBTQ community, ally, Washington, DC resident (all of these in no particular order), here are a few points from Washington, DC.

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2016.06.11 Capital Pride Washington DC USA 06064 (View on

Love won this weekend

DC Capital Pride (@CapitalPrideDC) was held on schedule, safely, and with all humans respected and represented. The organizers did an excellent job. I am proud that Kaiser Permanente Mid-Atlantic States (@KPMidAtlantic) was visible as a platinum sponsor for Capital Pride as well as Capital TransPride (@TransPrideDC).

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The world is learning to love better

There was a time, I have been told, when Washington, DC’s first night clubs to allow same-sex dancing began to thrive because the police simply couldn’t arrest people fast enough. In 2016, the President of the United States acknowledged their central place as spaces of refuge, empowerment, and connection to community.

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There was also a time when a transgender woman would be arrested for using the restroom aligned with her gender. In 2016, the security guard who accosted a transgender woman using the aligned restroom was arrested, by a police officer who is herself transgender (the excellent Sergeant Jessica Hawkins).

In my medical professional world, just 3 years ago a transgender woman would be told that her health needs wouldn’t be met and she would just have to live or die in her identity. Now, a transgender woman I know (of several) is being asked to teach the health system, not about being transgender, about leadership and innovation. And she’s getting medically supervised, evidence-based care 😃 .

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The 20th Century was a long time ago; it’s not coming back

I regularly encounter people who are of the mind/attitude/behavior, explicitly endorsed or not, that we are still living in the 20th Century. It’s impressive to me that people still cling to that notion, but then again one need not go far to see that we’re living in a new century.

Washington, DC is really at the vanguard of living in a new millennium. It’s the most protective in policy of LGBTQ humans in the United States. More protective than California. Whenever I leave the district, I have to do a double take every time I see a gender segregated single-stall restroom.

If you want to study resilience, study the LGBTQ community

The LGBTQ community understands resilience. The drive to live as one’s true self is among the most powerful in human existence – so powerful that when denied it can overcome a person’s will to live. And also so powerful to create the most effective social movements of our time. I recall being at a White House Champions for Change event around environmental stewardship when a panelist said to the audience, “If you want to see effective organizing, look to the LGBTQ community.” And he was right.

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Jerome Pohlen said it best in the children’s book he wrote (Thanks for publishing my photo, in this lovely book: Gay & Lesbian History for Kids, by Jerome Pohlen):

First, the LGBT community has never given up on a struggle, even if it took decades to achieve. And second, in the end, they always win.

That’s because love always wins.

A few suggestions

Look 3 feet away from you as well as 3000 miles away from you

What is your environment like? Are people enabled to live as their authentic selves? Are people targeted for assisting others or advocating for equality?

Targeting happens in various ways, sometimes explicit, sometimes more insidious.

The most dangerous environments are the ones where people say, “That doesn’t happen here.” If people think it doesn’t happen, start a conversation about what’s happening, because it’s happening. The science demonstrates the more objective people believe they are, the more biased they behave.

I have seen and experienced all forms of the above. It’s humbling, it’s terrifying, it’s empowering.

One pleasant discovery I have found is that by a factor of about 1:1000, the person who I least expected to be curious about this community and their health wiped away so much animus from so many others with a simple expression of kindness.

I felt it this weekend from the texts, notes, tweets I received from people. It really is amazing what one person can do to help another.

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Look inside yourself

We’re all human and have biases that are sometimes explicit and sometimes hidden within our unconscious, that affect our behavior. You deserve to know about these biases so they can be modulated.

Test yourself at Project Implicit. There’s a gay-straight implicit bias test. I’ve shared my results on this blog.

The results show that indeed I am human.

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Those are my notes from Washington, DC. Enjoy the photographs, questions, comments in the comments (of course).

Our generation of physicians came to health care with a dream that we’d be able to change everything so that every human could achieve their life goals. It’s totally happening, and we have a ton of allies joining us in the future. 

And, we won’t be stopped. 

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Ted Eytan, MD