What students say about the Gay & Lesbian experience at YSM

Joe Rojas

To be honest, I wasn't thinking much about what gay life would be like at Yale when I decided to come here. I had no idea that Yale had the reputation for being the "gay Ivy." I had never heard the old motto, "One in four, maybe more." All the same, I came to Yale because I felt this was a place where people genuinely cared about each other and wanted to see each other succeed.

Five years later, I can say how true this has been. There has never been a time when I didn't feel absolutely safe and comfortable being who I am. Everywhere you turn, people are there to support you, from the dean s and administrative staff to your classmates and professors. In many ways, Yale is a bit of a utopia -- a bubble of sorts, where people from diverse backgrounds come together and thrive. I can't think of a better environment in which to learn the art of healing.

-Joe Rojas, YSM '11

Billy Lockhart

I have lived in Brooklyn, NY for the last 12 years, essentially my entire adult life. Moving out of New York City to Connecticut last year, I didn't know exactly what to expect. I knew gay marriage was legal here, but I definitely had some reservations about what I perceived to be the conservative culture of the medical profession and the Ivy League. Naturally, I wondered how I would navigate my identity as a gay man at this school and in my future work environment. Mostly, I assumed that I would have to answer these questions on my own.

But, Yale and New Haven have been a pleasant surprise. What I've been so impressed with is the resources that Yale has provided to help me grapple with these questions, resources that I never imagined would be available to me. Socially, I never expected to feel as if my circle of LGBT friends and acquaintances would have grown as exponentially as they have here in New Haven. Student life here includes a constant calendar of LGBT social events. If I'm not hitting the books too hard, I can mix and mingle with my intellectual peers from across the graduate schools. Honestly, I like to think that I am building a network of contacts with future leaders of the LGBT community across the fields of Law, the Arts, and the Sciences. By far, the most personally relevant programming highlight for me this year has been a an informal lunch series in which LGBTQ Faculty from the School of Medicine talk about how they negotiate their identities in professional settings like the clinic and the classroom. These conversations pass on wisdom and advice to me that is not only extremely practical, but also strengthens my confidence in my future success as a doctor.

The LGBT population is notoriously under-served and discriminated against by the health system, and has predominately worse health outcomes than the straight population. What we students in the Gay/Straight Medical Alliance--inspired in part by the support of allies in the administration--are attempting here now at Yale School of Medicine is to spearhead training of a doctor who is sensitive to the needs of their LGBT patients. We are currently initiating curriculum reform and additional training to the benefit of LGBT patients. At Yale, I have learned to consider my role as a doctor and patient advocate within the larger fight for LGBT equality. And it's only my first year! I'm really proud to be a part of this school, and excited to see what the next 3 years hold.

-Billy Lockhart, YSM 2014

Benjamin Margolis

As I made the decision to attend medical school at Yale rather than a Manhattan medical school I thought I was making a social sacrifice. I convinced myself that all the incredible and unique aspects of a Yale education were worth “giving up” spending my early twenties as a gay man living in Manhattan. While there is no doubt that New Haven will never live up to NYC in terms of numbers of gay bars, clubs, or population of LGBT people, I can honestly say that no sacrifice has been made. The Yale graduate LGBT community is incredibly vibrant, diverse, connected, and focused on inclusiveness. The certainty that the people you meet here in New Haven are bright, interesting, unique, and passionate about their professional goals is something that has made my interactions with all students here insightful and motivating, and certainly extends to the LGBT community. Between an LGBT graduate event calendar, mailing lists, “Big Gay Parties” at the Yale graduate bar, and making friends with people from other graduate schools, I have been continuously surprised at how well rounded and fulfilling LGBT life is at Yale.

- Benjamin Margolis, YSM 2014

I knew there were a lot of great reasons to come to Yale but I had no idea that one of the top ones would be that it's great to be queer here. There is support coming from every level, from top administration to faculty to the student body, and I have yet to have a moment where I've thought twice about saying "my girlfriend..." With LGBTQ activism, I've experienced nothing short of a truly incredible outpouring of collaboration and resource-sharing amongst the nursing, med, PA, and public health schools. In this year alone we worked together to bring in expert clinicians to train us in primary care for non-gender conforming people, had lunch with faculty mentors, and assisted each other on curriculum development in our different schools. I'm a nurse practitioner student--we have a small school and an even smaller queer student population. But I've never felt anything but surrounded by support.

-Lola Pellegrino, Yale School of Nursing, 2012

Overall, Yale is relatively gay friendly. The great news is that with a little motivation, it is possible to increase visibility and awareness. I'm a nurse practitioner student and found a massive hole in our education regarding LGBT issues. Over the past two years, I've brought in speakers to provide trainings on transgendered healthcare. I've also worked with the faculty to incorporate LGBT issues into the curriculum. Another peer at YSN has developed multidisciplinary LGBT health sciences list serve. I think the queer community is gaining strength and support with each passing year. Fret not- there is a queer community here!

-Kelly N. Washburn, RN, Yale School of Nursing, 2012

Jorge Ramallo

I made a decision to be open about my sexuality from the start of first year (unlike my undergrad experience). I found nothing but love and support from my classmates and the administration. Not only did they accept me as one of their own, but they supported my efforts to include more LGBT issues in our curriculum and supported events such as coming out day and pride.

The Gay-Straight Medical Alliance was right here to welcome me and my other LGBT classmates when we arrived, eager to show us what New Haven had to offer and offer themselves as mentors with whom we could confide in case we needed any advice (not necessarily exclusive to LGBT-related issues). We created a community and worked together to expand it to other graduate and professionals schools here at Yale.

The Office of Multicultural Affairs is a great resource for all LGBT students and applicants; they have showed their unwavering commitment to their LGBT students and to help expand our recruitment efforts and programs to make Yale one of the most Gay-friendly medical schools in the country.

-Jorge Ramallo, YSM '13

You know, I thought for about a minute about NOT coming out. I mean, sure, I'd been out for over 6 years, I'd helped run the queer student alliance at my undergrad school. But this was different. This was medical school. This was my career. But after serious consideration, my activist self won out. I decided to take the risk, if for no other reason than to educate future physicians -my classmates- about gay lesbian and bisexual issues.

I put on my favorite earrings (the ones with dangling pink quartz triangles) and bought a new set of freedom rings (six small metal rings, painted each color of the rainbow, which symbolize gay lesbian and bisexual pride). I strung the cold metal ID chain through the rings, popped my brand new ID in the plastic case, and hung it around my neck.

It happened on the first day, during the Diversity Workshop. During a self-identification exercise, my classmates and I were each invited to join a group that we identified with. Among the choices were the expected ones: Male, Female, White, Black. In addition, there were a few others: Jewish, Economically Privileged, and of course, Gay Lesbian and Bisexual. I headed straight ...well... directly for the sign. I came out to my entire class, as well as half of the second year class, the dean for students, and the Chaplain himself!

And wouldn't you know it? I was not alone. Furthermore, I did not receive a single negative response. And to this day, I have not received a single negative response, from fellow classmates, from faculty, from attendings. Quite the opposite in fact. My experiences being out woman at Yale have been surprisingly positive. As the Office for Minority Affairs began to rework itself into the current Office of Multicultural Affairs, my views and the views of other lesbigay students were solicited and respected. Sexual Orientation has been included in the nondiscrimination clause of the Yale Physician's Oath.

- A.J. Babineau, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, YSM '98

I felt dizzy. I had spent a few minutes of every day the summer before beginning Yale Med wondering what 'coming out' would be like this time around, envisioning so many of those classic conversations among my new peers: 'well, actually...' or 'I Have something to tell ...' More than that, I was both anxious and emboldened by stories of Conservative Medicine--- the homophobic guffaws in the operating room, the embittered, forever-closeted resident who has no pictures, no rings, and never brings his/her partner to the Winter Bash for fear of being written out of prosperity and achievement. Finally, sure, there were a few reassuring words in the Anti-discrimination Statement, but would the Dean shiver, would a hopeful mentor squirm, when the truth was transmitted?

So, with this sampling of summer broodings, I was given the opportunity to come out of my entire class of 100 in one instant. Was I crazy? Perhaps I was, but I made the split second decision and I presented myself as a gay man at a break-the-ice workshop on the third day of medical school (I wasn't alone-- I stood with two women who came out in their own ways). And I really haven't looked back with regret.

Coming out continues, of course, but studying, conversing, learning, maturing, and living in this student environment has made being a gay man a relatively easy kind of person to be, and more importantly, has imparted me with the confidence to approach unknown waters (like third and fourth year of medical school!) with less fear and more self-respect. Return to students or home

- Daniel Kamen, YSM '98