(another chapter from The Brides of March: Memoir of a Same-Sex Marriage)
One Bad Experience
It was over a month later that we had our first jarring experience. It was our pediatrician—now our former pediatrician—who was seeing Duncan for a bizarre incident when, for no apparent reason, he fainted in class. The doctor, who I had liked previously, examined him, looked in his eyes, tested his reflexes, prodded him in the stomach, and declared him fit as a fiddle.
During the examination, the doctor asked how much television he watched, and she was thrilled that he watched almost none (pediatrician’s love this), high-fived him, and we would probably have gone away content, except that Duncan said, “We’ve seen more television lately, because of the news, and being on the news,” which meant telling the doctor that we’d gotten married; no big deal, I thought. She smiled, said she’d wondered if she’d see anyone she knew on the news, and that she hadn’t seen us.
Then I told her, casually, that the protesters had really upset Duncan. She stiffened, saying, “Well, they have a right to their opinion.” I didn’t know what to say; that was true, and no one had tried to stop them. The one man had held a sign, unimpeded, and the other had screamed vile things at us, coming within inches, scaring us, and we said nothing. The doctor went on, speaking directly to Duncan. “You’ll just have to think about it for yourself, over time, and decide for yourself if you think they’re right or not.”
Duncan was confused. He’d heard the protesters; how could she be asking whether or not he agreed with a person who was yelling, “Why don’t you marry your dog?” The nurse, who was in the room during this episode, chuckled, and said, “I think you’re going over his head. He’ll get it in a few years.” As if he was a little child, and not a twelve year-old with a brain.
Angry now, I told the nurse, “I think he’s already had the opportunity to show the courage of his convictions.”
We hastily concluded the visit, and I stewed on it for a week.
I thought about the assumptions the doctor and nurse seemed to imply. That Duncan wasn’t allowed to make up his mind for himself and was being goose-stepped toward gay liberation, and that the protesters were somehow oppressed by Duncan’s feelings. Did the doctor really imagine that what upset him was a difference of opinion? That the protesters had stood there silently? That they’d chanted, “No gay marriage,” or even, “Save the sanctity of marriage for straights,” statements that would have upset no one and expressed the same political or moral viewpoint? Did she feel that Duncan wasn’t allowed to be upset that someone had screamed hate at his parents, for hours, while we waited peacefully to take advantage of the Multnomah County Commissioners’ decision? That somehow the protesters’ rights were being denied, despite this being the first time in Multnomah County, and almost the country, that we have won on this issue?
We decided to change pediatricians. While she has every right to a differing opinion, would we want a doctor who, from her position of authority, suggests to our son that he question our equality?