By Joan Grzybowski, DO, FACOFP

The decade of the ‘60s was a time of change. We were fighting a war that had our nation divided. The lack of equal rights of many of our citizens was showcased through speakers like Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert Kennedy and Harvey Milk, and through protests that were sometimes peaceful and sometimes fraught with violence. Our young people gathered in droves to a rock festival called Woodstock, which featured our most memorable bands and singers of that era.

In 1969, in Greenwich Village, New York, an iconic bar called Stonewall Inn existed for people who were normally ostracized. It was one of those rare places in New York that allowed the LGBTQI population to gather, celebrate and express themselves without fear of reparation or discrimination. It was a safe haven, until one night the police raided it. They arrested and jailed many of the patrons of the bar.

The incident that night sparked a movement. The LGBTQI community had been a relatively quiet group to that point in time, trying to survive in a world that allowed them to be fired for choosing to love a person outside of what was considered the norm. Family abandonment because of being gay in that era was a high risk, so few people were open and out. Marriage was not an option for gay couples, nor were shared health plans. In fact, being gay was given an ICD code for insurance purposes. Electroshock therapy was an accepted treatment option.

All of this led to a movement of change across the US. It was from the raid at Stonewall that momentum began, leading us to Pride Month, which is celebrated across the country in June of each year. During this month, cities place rainbow flags throughout communities. Events and parades are held celebrating the LGBTQI community and the progressive changes that have occurred through the subsequent decades.

We at ACOFP want to take this moment to reflect on the advances made and to point out that many health disparities still exist because of prejudice against populations because of their particular race or color, sexual orientation, geographic location or economics. Many other factors add to disparities of care, but that broad topic is for another time.

Today, programs exist to educate our faculty about diversity. A nationally known program called Safe Zone training is available in many of our medical schools. Some physicians include signs of welcome in their offices and waiting rooms so that the LGBTQI population feels more at ease as they initiate and continue care with their physicians.

Though most Pride parades and activities across the country have been cancelled this year due to COVID-19, we can all still take a moment to consider ways to help our patients and be more inclusive in our practices. Also, ACOFP has an LGTBQI resources page on its website, with useful links for family physicians as well as patients.

It is worth noting that each generation moves the meter a little further to a world of inclusivity.

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