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Be out or not to be

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by zephyr_97, Jun 11, 2002.

  1. zephyr_97

    zephyr_97 Member
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    Hi All,

    I am not sure whether to hide my sexuality in the application process, since medicine is still a conservative field. The trouble is that I was involved in a lot of LGBT events on campus. My premed advisor left it open to me and I am just curious what you guys think. Thanks and good luck applying...

    Z.
     
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  3. smid

    smid Member
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    OK, let me preface this by saying I'm from the Bay Area (not as conservative as the rest of the country, maybe)
    That said, I think that if a significant portion of your EC involve LGBT activities then you ought to say something. To me, it seems that you wohn't want to go somewhere where you are not accepted, am I right? I mean sometime I just figure that if there's a school I don't get accepted into then it probably wouldn't have been a great fit.

    On the other hand, you don't want to close any doors, so if there are other ECs to put down in lieu of the LGBT ones, maybe do so and save the LGBT for the secondaries or interview if it comes up.

    Tough decision though.

    Good luck!
     
  4. Spiderman [RNA Ladder 2003]

    Spiderman [RNA Ladder 2003] Platinum Member
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    do not say it to the AdComm, It will you. It is their bussness what "team" you should to chose.
     
  5. cjt615

    cjt615 Member
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    I think this is a really good question, and no doubt one that has come up for a few SDNers. I struggled a lot with this question at the start of the '01-'02 application cycle...I actually wrote two separate personal statements, one that was completely open and a different one that did not mention that aspect of my life. Ultimately, I decided that for my own mental health and well-being I could not hide such an enormous part of myself when presenting what was in theory supposed to be an accurate, whole picture of myself to the admissions committee. Also, my sexuality has influenced major aspects of my life, and has had a significant impact on my decision to become a physician, and so the statement which was open about it was the better one. Also, I decided I did not want to attend a school that would have any sort of problem with it, so it served a kind of "weeding out" function for me.

    This is a very personal decision. I certainly don't reccommend mentioning it off-handedly, or melodramatically (i.e. "poor me I've faced such bigotry", etc.), but if being gay truly has impacted your decision to become a physician, then my advice is to not hide that part of yourself.

    The result...8 interviews, 4 acceptances. I am sure that my sexuality has in no way impacted this outcome, positively or negatively. What helped was being honest and open, portraying an accurate and clear picture of myself, which allowed me to write a really good personal statement. It made for some pretty interesting interviews, too...about half of my interviewers mentioned it in some way and asked me related questions, so make sure your are comfortable talking about it with total strangers---interviews are stressful enough without adding any more discomfort!

    Hope this helps.

    CJT
     
  6. jot

    jot

    though i'm hardly advocating being a martyr, and i don't think it will make you one, it is utter bs if you feel intimidated into not writing about it. i know on my campus some people spend a lot of time with the gflba (can't remember what the acronym stands for - sexual diversity group) and do some awesome stuff like aids awareness, service events, education, and other generally positive things, and it would be a travesty to feel like you have to hide this. the advice above (who understands the conflict better than i do and has firsthand application experience with the med process) is really appropriate, use it if it has a place. goodluck.
    -jot
     
  7. paean

    paean Senior Member
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    Also coming from the fairly liberal Bay Area, I say don't risk it unless it is why you want to be a doctor. I had to make the same decision on my application on two counts, sexuality, and a not visible physical disability.

    I had to put a reference to the disability on my applications to explain my unusual transcipts, against the advice of my premed advisor and faculty I know at a local medical school. I didn't discuss sexuality at all, because I see applying for medical school as a time where you show all the things that make you who you are professionally, and not personally. While it feels like you are hiding something, for most of us, ultimately sexuality will have little influence (not none, just little) on our careers. If you feel that your sexuality defines you professionally, don't hide it, lying (rather than just omitting) will probably weaken your application.
     
  8. paean

    paean Senior Member
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    The schools where my disability came up as a topic in the interview or secondary rejected me, or put me on the bottom part of the waitlist. Those where it didn't come up accepted me, or put me on the middle or top of the waitlist. Despite the open mindedness of many medical students, adcomms have lots of older faculty members who were raised with different ideas of diversity, and may not be open to the idea that someone who is queer, or disabled (yes, they are very different in terms of impact on your life, but I find I get very similar reactions from people who are neither when they learn I am one or the other, so I think it's a useful comparison) or otherwise not entirely mainstream, would be the best addition out of the 20-100 other applicants competing for your spot. I think that unless it stregnthens your application, you should keep quiet until you are accepted. And then, please, let everyone know, so that eventually applicants won't have to be afraid of intolerance from the members of the adcomm.
     
  9. Spiderman [RNA Ladder 2003]

    Spiderman [RNA Ladder 2003] Platinum Member
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    I was saying that "it will kill your appplication:
     
  10. Spiderman [RNA Ladder 2003]

    Spiderman [RNA Ladder 2003] Platinum Member
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    Why do you have to walk around and tell anyone that you are GLBT anyway?
     
  11. ramkijai

    ramkijai Member
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    I do not think you should hide it at all. It has obviously been a big part of your college activity. By downplaying it you are not only not being true to yourself but taking away a quality that AdComs will consider when they look at the diversity of their medical school class. Class diversity is a very important thing at many schools and everyone is looking for what it is that you can add to the student body mix. Will it hurt you at some schools? Possibly. Will it help you at others? Probably. Will you feel better about being open and out? Most definitely. Good luck!
     
  12. Mr. Z

    Mr. Z Senior Member
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    ramkijai, i have to disagree with you. One applicant should not be admitted over another just because they are gay and it will add to the diversity of the class. Plus, why would adcoms view gayness as a diversifying (right word?) trait? Is there something special about you because you choose to have relations with members of your own sex?

    Do heterosexuals put on their applications what their preference in mates are? Sexual orientation should have absolutely nothing to do with the application procedure.
     
  13. zephyr_97

    zephyr_97 Member
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    Thank y'all for your responses.

    cjt: yup, the main reason for coming out is that I want to go to a med school where diversity is valued. A kind of self-selecting process for me as well. Complication arises in a more traditional setting, such as Duke where I received my undergrad degree. The way I portray myself on my application is not self-pity, but because of all the experiences that I went through myself (being an Asian immigrant and not having a lot growing up), I want to work to improve healthcare access and quality of care for those who come from a disadvantaged background as well. That is another reason that I might apply MD/PhD, with a PhD in public health so that I can help at the national level.

    jot: yup, I did help with the campus LGBT group to plan educational events for health and healthy living that are specific to LGBT needs. And I also presented at NC Gay Men Health Summit. And those are on my post-secondary experiences.

    paean: I am sorry for your experience. I'd say it is their loss not to emphasize diveristy because I learn a lot from people different from me in my undergrad years and I certainly appreciate schools that encourage and promote diversity. Coming from LA and went to school in the South, I think I have been brainwashed into conservatism. :)

    Spiderman: The decision to become a doctor for me is intimately affected by events and people in my life. I don't think I can separate myself from my professional work in that I can't make gay jokes with collegues and go home all fine about it. Not that I will be all out about my sexuality like the activists you see on TV, but that I know the principles of respect and personal space.

    ramkijai: And yes! I am comfortable talking about it because I had a difficult undergrad years where I had to watch my bounds. Most of the time I felt that I am losing part of myself when I have to deny that part of me.

    I know that this application process is not easy and is just a foreshadowing of things to come. But if I don't be as honest and present myself as completely as possible, I feel that I am doing injustice against myself. That's why I am also applying as disadvantaged. Wow, I didn't realize that there is such drama in my life. If you guys have more to post or PM mw, feel free. Best wishes,

    Z.
     
  14. colorado_1

    colorado_1 Member
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    i can' tell you what to do i'd just tell you what i'd do. hmmm. tough one but i wouldn't say a word about it. i say this in the interest of true equality. nowhere on my application did i mention i was hetero. it doesn't matter if they presumed i was. it never came up. i just don't think it's wise to hand adcoms bullets they can shoot you with later (even if they call them something else when they reject you.) le them find their own ammo. just a sidenote, i was careful not to seem "preachy" about any of my beliefs in my personal statement. physicians don't wear their sexuality on their white coats, period. i will treat female patients. . . professionally. my gender and my sexuality will have no bearing on my patients and if i were on an adcoms i'd be put off by anyone who did . . . unless . . . unless your sexual preference is driving you towards a niche in medicine you see needs filled. for instance, if you were planning a career in infectious diseases and said it was an area that would be benefited by someone who could get better compliance among his/her patients due to similar life experiences or something like that. . .
     
  15. Bounty

    Bounty 1K Member
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    Hi Zephyr
    I definitely dont think you should hide it, especially b.c you spent a lot of time in college working on LGBT issues. I think if you were sitting in your room a year or two from now, looking back on the application process, you would feel unsettled if you had left out those activities on your app since they were such a big part of you. I also am from LA and I also went to duke undergrad and I applaud you for being involved there. I worked a lot with the Healthy Devil on Sexual Health Education and we sometimes had people from LGBT come talk to us. I was always amazed by the gay and lesbian students at Duke who were out and proud and active on campus. It was not an easy school for that sort of thing.
    Anyways, you probably wouldnt want to go to a med school that would deny an acceptance because of your sexuality right?
    Bounty
     
  16. ramkijai

    ramkijai Member
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    Mr. Z,
    I am not saying whether or not AdComs should consider sexual orientation but I can tell you that diversity of experience is very important to medical schools. This pertains not just to scientific or clinical experience but life experience. Schools DO consider gender, race, age, plus sundry other background characteristics as they put together their classes. Since Zephyr asked if he should hide something that is an important part of who he (or she?) is I said no because it may in the long run be an asset.
     
  17. ramkijai

    ramkijai Member
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    I just read some of the replies above.

    zephyr: from your reply it looks like you have made your decision and I look forward to seeing you in med school next year.
     
  18. whozshoe

    whozshoe Member
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    In response to Mr. Z. I can certainly understand your remark "Do heterosexuals put on their applications what their preference in mates are? Sexual orientation should have absolutely nothing to do with the application procedure." Indeed, why should sexuality have anything to do with the application procedure? It shouldn't, if it doesn't have any significance pertaining to the applicant's motivations, activities, etc. However, since being non-heterosexual profoundly affects the lives of others, it is only natural that they include it in their application. If your being specifically straight profoundly affected your life and your interests, then by all means maybe you should mention it!
    Anyway, just thought I'd share my thoughts. Thanks again for listening, and good luck everyone!
    p.s. ucsf - quel surprise - has a packet of being out on med school applications that you can obtain by emailing: [email protected]
    or you can check out their website at:
    <a href="http://www.ucsf.edu/cge/lgbtr" target="_blank">www.ucsf.edu/cge/lgbtr</a>
     
  19. dr. bc

    dr. bc Junior Member
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    zephyr...definitely be true to yourself!
    I was not "out" on my application, but mainly because I didn't come out until later in college and wasn't involved in many significant organized LGBT activities. Had I been, and had they shaped more of my college career, I would have included them.

    Best Wishes! Happy Applying!
     
  20. paean

    paean Senior Member
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    Zephyr, my main reason for worrying about putting your sexuality on the application is that one bigoted adcom member might be the one to read your application, and despite the overall emphasis on diversity at the school, you don't get in. I don't know if it will actually lead you to be accepted by diverse school, because of the luck involved in the process. But best of luck, and I applaud your courage.
     
  21. FunkDoc

    FunkDoc Daddy Mack
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    zephyr_97,

    i agree w/most everyone on this thread. i think it's so very important that you include your most signficant extracurricular activities, including your LGBT stuff--it's simply who you are and what has shaped you. you're beautiful, and you should be proud of it.

    as far as medicine remaining a conservative field, f. it, our generation is going to change things.

    good luck!
     
  22. Joe Joe on da Radio

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    the fact that LBGT persons still get stabbed and beaten to death today underscores just how different the social world is for those of gay orientation. as to why heterosexuals do not need to declare their sexuality, reverse logic shows that heterosexuals are not marginalized simply for their sexual orientation.

    to the extent that LGBT issues have shaped you, then do it for yourself, do it for the decades of hard work in getting gay civil rights to the table, do it for the gay minority communities who seldom have a voice for their healthcare needs.
     
  23. i say DONT INCLUDE IT....even though it is a major part of ur life...

    there are more conservative than liberal and open minded school....remember the objective now is to GET Into med school.....and not necessariy the most "diverse".....

    it is difficult getting into med school, and you are ruining ur chances by slashing them in half...not a lot of schools are understanding like UCSF, so u might exclude urself from a lot of schools.....I think you should come out if u feel ike it, once ur in med school and not before it...

    best of luck to u...
     
  24. Clearly, opinions on this matter are as varied as the individuals on this board. However, I find it frustrating that there is a belief that discussing one's activities in college is on parallel with discussing sexual habits. No, heterosexuals do not have to "come out" on applications because there is a belief that everyone is straight AND is it unlikely that someone participated in a "heterosexual students and friends" activity in college or volunteered at a "straight medicine clinic". Unfortunately, being GLBT is stigmatized and activities/clinics and the like need to exist to give people a safe haven. So, if you worked at Fenway Community Health Center in Boston, you essentially out yourself without even trying. As a lesbian and a soon-to-be medical student, I can say that I was as out as I needed to be without hiding either my extracurricular activities or my parter of 7 years.

    While it is true that there are many conservative medical schools, the goal for me was not actually to simply get in to medical school somewhere, but rather to get in somewhere that I could continue to lead my life without judgement and harm to myself or my partner. I don't think imposing that criteria on my medical schools harmed me. I wasn't planning to move to the deep south anyway (for example). I certainly don't flaunt my sexuality, but it is not a matter of bedroom activities when I apply for a job or graduate school. It is simply an issue of living openly and honestly. I don't go out of my way to include it on an application, but if counseling gay/lesbian youth makes someone think I'm gay, then so be it.

    So, to zephyr_97 and all of you dealing with this issue, do what fits for you. There is no right answer, but do not be afraid of what lies ahead if you choose to come out during the process. If a school doesn't want me because I played rugby or because I went to school X or because I'm gay, so be it. I'm better off somewhere else.
     
  25. Zack90

    Zack90 Senior Member
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    Another one here with firsthand experience.... I listed my HRC (Human Rights Campaign - a national GLBT orgnaization) activities in the AMCAS application experience section - and also included it on my resume that I sent with most of my secondaries. I did not mention it within my personal statement since I feel my sexuality doesn't define who I am - it's just one small aspect and didn't fit within the entire thrust of my essay and why I want to be a physician.

    As others have noted, keep in mind, the medical establishment is still rather conservative. For example, while on interviews, I was asked if I was married (by MCPHU), if I had children (by UMDNJ-RWJ), how old I was, and other similarly related questions at other schools. I'd bet the interviewer was trying to determine if I was committed to medicine and if I had the strength, time, energy, etc. to succeed. Technically, these are all inappropriate questions - but, it didn't matter to me since I wanted to make sure I fit with the school as much as they wanted to know if I was a fit for them. I answered these questions honestly. And particularly, I talked about being a 30-something gay man, having a partner for ten years, and our new child (born to us this past year). I don't think this hurt my chances. However, I was face-to-face with the interviewer and could judge his/her reactions, thoughts, etc.

    I apologize this post is so long... Bottom line: you are the only one that can judge when, how, what you want to say about your sexuality. And, as others have noted, I would side with saying less within your personal statement unless your sexulaity has had a profound impact on your life, simply list your experiences (there are many straight folks who are involved in GLBT activities too), and being "out" at the interviews at the appropriate time.

    In the end of this very random process, I was accepted to several schools, withdrew from the waitlist at a couple schools, and was lucky enough to turn down a couple of interview invites. Good luck! (And let us know what you decided and how you thought it worked for you)
     
  26. zephyr_97

    zephyr_97 Member
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    Thank you all for your lovely support as shown in your posts. I will be cautious with my personal statement and have finished the secondary experiences in which 4 are LGBT-related. I have decided that if, by chance, that a conservative member on the committee read my application and decided against me because of my sexual orientation, then it is that school's loss. Like most of you said, it is a personal decision. And I applaud those (whozshoe, dr. bc, m2006, and Zack90) for their courage in not letting the system define you.

    Now as I narrow down my choices of places to apply, where is less homophobic according to your experience/knowledge? The list that I have include (in no particular order): Duke, UNC, all UCs, Hopkins, Minnesota, UChicago, UMichigan, Harvard, Yale, Case, UWashington, Pittsburg, Jefferson, Tulane, USC, Columbia, Cornell and NYU, and maybe UPenn, Stanford, and Dartmouth.

    Thanks again,

    Z.

    ps. I am a guy :)
     
  27. Trajan

    Trajan Senior Member
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    Why not list on the AMCAS app your extracurricular activities relating to homosexual causes and leave it at that. Not everyone who is active in GBLT clubs on campuses is gay, so simply explaining your work for various social causes should not be equated with you flaunting your sexuality. That being said, I do not think that discussion of the details of your own sexuality has any place in med school admissions.

    Let me also ask a question to everyone here. I was president of the College Republicans at a very prestigious (and very liberal) New England college. What are the chances that an adcom would hold that against me? I'm including it in my application--along with an explanation of how I stumbled into the position by default but ended up surprising everyone and myself by reviving a defunct club and raising awareness of the state of free speech in the academy--but I'm still wondering if anyone thinks it could come back to haunt me...
     
  28. jlw2004

    jlw2004 Member
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    IF something is a big part of your life, don't try to hide it, but don't make a big "in-your-face" deal about it either. For example, I was told not to bring up the fact that I'm a mom with 2 young kids on my application or in my interviews. The general consensus from advisors was it was admission suicide. I decided that being a parent and setting an example for my daughters that "you can do anything you want" was a big part of why I wanted to go to medical school, so I didn't want to be anywhere that would reject me because of that and put it in my personal statement. I was accepted at 2 schools (of 4 I applied to) and am pleased with the family friendliness of MCPHU (which is a very diverse school in just about every way -- you might want to consider applying here).
     

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