In 2012 I was sitting in a hire car in Akureri, Iceland, stealing a local hotel’s WiFi, in order to check my email and elatedly discover I had been accepted into orthopaedic training. I recall the eerie midnight-sun dusk of the moment, and the glacier behind me. In 2014 I gave my first presentation at a national-level conference. I recall the feel of the lectern and the heat of the lights. In March 2022, I mingled at AAOS with LGBTQ+ identifying orthopaedic surgeons, residents, and medical students for the first time in my career.
The lapel pin will be treasured, and the conference-centre chic of the rectangular room, round tables, and bain-marie luncheon will be stored in mind, but at the forefront of my memory will be the warmth, acceptance, and optimism emanating from each and every individual in attendance and the group as a whole.
Attendance at the AAOS Pride Ortho Luncheon in 2022, I consider as significant for me as each of those other key events in my career.
I practice as an adult and paediatric orthopaedic surgeon in Melbourne, Australia, with subspeciality training in Limb Reconstruction and Paediatric Oncology. Orthopaedic Surgery in Australia faces the same multitude of diversity challenges seen in the United States and elsewhere, and fortunately, this has now been recognised with the Australian Orthopaedic Association developing a Diversity Strategic Plan after careful consultation with members and the community.
I can perhaps speak for my experience. I acknowledge my privilege as a white male: Being able to ‘hide’ one’s diversity is an advantage in arenas such as orthopaedic surgery. The potential barriers and discrimination faced by women and other groups manifest differently, as such diversity may be less easy to hide. Coasting along, however, works only to a point. When does ‘not announcing your gayness’ become hiding it? When is the ‘right time’ to ‘come out’ in a workplace, particularly when every new rotation, brings with it the same issue over and over again? Tell them too soon, and you may be accused of being evangelical about it; too late, and other’s assumptions have implicated you in a lie you never wished to commit.
I found this a difficult balance to strike during training, and a lot of this has to do with the intensely hierarchical nature of our profession. I am much more confident in my identity and the way in which I display it now, as an Attending, and I see my role in Pride Ortho as one of helping others navigate this journey.
Being ‘actively out’ in my profession, to me, means using my partner’s pronouns (he/him) freely, and unlearning my habit of constructing entire conversations without ever using a pronoun. It means using my experience to appreciate other forms of diversity, each one unique in itself, and assist in dismantling systemic barriers for others. It means wearing my Pride Ortho badge on my lapel, not just for me, but for my colleagues, my juniors, and my patients.
Authored by: Dr Stewart Morrison MBBS FRACS(Orth) FAOrthoA
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