When I was a budding family practice doctor, starting fresh in my internship after medical school, I had no idea what that year had in store for me. It was 1995, and I had matched with a great residency program in my hometown of Chicago, in the part of town they called “Boystown.” At that point, I was an LGBT imbecile without gaydar, dating men, and generally confused. As a naïve woman, I thought they selected me because of my brain capacity. NOPE. What was it that made me special? I was a clueless baby dyke who hadn’t figured it out yet.
So, in Boystown, the doctors that admitted to the hospital were mostly gay men. I had no idea. I never judged people by sexuality cues- actually, I never even thought about them. Looking back now, HAH! All the docs were very pleasant, mostly flamboyant men, who also were grads of the same residency program. Big Clue.
I started to figure all this out on call. I would be admitting my 5th AIDS patient of the night- another horribly sick gay man with fever, cough, and diarrhea. In fact, we had a full AIDS unit. It was usually sad, frequently humorous, and always challenging. I would call the doc at 3AM to talk with them about the patient. It became commonplace to have one male voice answer, just to rustle the sheets and sound like he was rolling over to hand off the phone to the doctor. Hello, newbie, this isn’t Kansas anymore.
I became friends with all the nurses. I still didn’t know I was a friend of Dorothy. Then I met a woman online. Now mind you, this was BEFORE the WWW! This fateful meet was in….”Sappho’s Café” on eWorld- one of the chat rooms on a Mac. I went in there to figure myself out, and to see why the one female nurse on the ward kept asking me out. What did she know that I didn’t??? Little did I know I had Dutch boy fingers.
So I fell in love with that woman online. By the time Gay Pride arrived, I was front and center on a float with her. There with my friends and my new love, I was liberated. They say I came out like a bull in a china shop. Did I ever.-
On rounds one day, our teaching attending asked the gallbladder patient from Holland, “Aren’t all the dykes in Holland?” He turned, looked at me and said: “Oh, sorry. Not all of them,” and he laughed. I nearly wet myself.
The next year, I was a senior resident. Medicine was SO different. The AIDS floor was empty. All the men with HIV were now on Protease Inhibitors. I saw the miracle….the Magic happen. Hospital AIDS care became a dinosaur. I saw many men die my first year. While losing them, I found myself.