A Pride Month Q&A with Jen Brull, MD, VP of Clinical Engagement
How do you celebrate Pride and what does it mean to you?
I celebrate Pride pretty much everyday! My circle of family and friends is full of LGBTQ+ people. All of them help me grow my understanding as an ally and push my acceptance boundaries in wonderful ways. As a rural Kansan who grew up in a town of 250 people, I had my first friend who outwardly identified as gay when we were both freshmen in college. My heart is always inclusive – my brain still gets tangled up sometimes in the small-town-biased history of my upbringing. I am working hard to catch up and keep up with those who best exemplify inclusion. My oldest child just shared with us a pronoun change to they/them, which meant that acceptance of the generic concept moved immediately into the personal space. Our entire family (from siblings to grandparents) is working to help each other make the switch and sorting out how to manage challenges around the way the grammar sounds in our brains.
Want to know the most wonderful thing? A change in pronouns didn’t change anyone’s love.
What can people in health care do this Pride Month to raise awareness about important issues that impact the global LGBTQ community?
I typically try to impact awareness at the local level. For me, it is about the little things I do everyday – and the conversations those little things lead to – that slowly create change in the community around me.
Here are a few ways you can show your support:
- Wear a pronoun pin.
- Celebrate Pride Month with visual demonstrations of support. (I always get a Pride rainbow pedicure in June, and our clinic has rainbow/glitter face masks that we give to anyone who would like to wear them.)
- Share the story of how Pride touches your life.
What are some strategies clinicians and medical staff can follow to promote a positive and healthy environment for colleagues and patients who are LGBTQ?
Most important of all, we need to speak up when we encounter any negative bias and also assume good intent and willingness to change/grow whenever possible. One of my patients noticed that I was wearing a rainbow face mask and made a comment that I should “be careful that people didn’t think I was part of the gay cult.” Initially, I had a very emotional response – I felt angry and disappointed, especially since this was one of my favorite patients! I took a deep breath, refocused on good intent and shared that I would be honored to be considered an LGBTQ+ ally.
I also shared that some of my favorite humans are LGBTQ+, and that I love them not in spite of that, but because of that, and that I personally find value in the rich diversity of people everywhere, including ways that he was different from others in our community. His response indicated that he had not expected me to feel that way, and the fact that I did made him begin to consider the issue differently. It was one small step in the right direction.
Is there an important memory, anecdote, or experience as an LGBTQ individual or ally you’d like to share?
I started wearing a pronoun pin a few years ago on my clinic name badge. In my little rural Kansas town of 2,000 people, patients often ask me “why are you wearing a button that says she/her?” And that gives me the opportunity to share that while I look like my preferred pronouns, some people don’t, and my wearing the pin lets people know that they’re in a safe space to talk about preferred pronouns and ask to be gendered the way they like. I love the opportunity to share this information in a part of the country that is otherwise sometimes blind to LGBTQ+ issues.