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Letter from Brussels: Are Gay Doctors Accepted More Than Lesbian Doctors?

by De Ket in Columns & Opinions , 28 November 2018

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar

Dear Neighbors to the North, I work in healthcare in Belgium, and know it through and through. A medical journalist and columnist with a very sharp and analytical pen whom I know, informed me that he would soon publish a column on a medical-professional website. He had spoken to a French-speaking lesbian specialist who works in a Brussels hospital and who complains about missed promotional opportunities, as well as the fact that there are hardly any lesbian doctors in Belgium.

You could read between the lines that she was not looking for a lesbian professional counterpart as such, but for a partner-doctor. Her story almost read like a contact ad.

However, she also had sensible things to say that for the outside world might sound crazy, but for insiders are not really earth-shattering. She said that she did know lesbian doctors, but that the majority of those women chose to marry a man to have children with. Personally, she knew only one lesbian doctor who had no problems with coming out. She alleged that in Belgium, there are no lesbian doctors.

This French-speaking doctor from Brussels has probably never bothered to look in Flanders. In the north of our country, there are definitely a lot of openly lesbian doctors and specialists. I myself can easily name a dozen. I would like to put forward the name of a lesbian doctor that allowed Flemish reality series “Topdokters” a peek in her day-to-day professional life as well as her private life. Prof. Dr. Inez Rodrigus is one of the most outstanding heart surgeons in Belgium, and associated with the University Hospital of Antwerp. Her partner even works alongside her, as a heart-lung machine operator. Dr Rodrigus is not the only one.

“Lesbian doctors often miss out on a promotion, just because of their sexual orientation. However, we do not have any children, are flexible and are eager to take over shifts,” is often heard. That lesbian doctors can also make promotions was clearly proven by Prof. Dr. Rodrigus. However, it is not the ambition of every intelligent doctor or specialist to want a professorship. This also holds true for men.

“Gay doctors are more accepted than lesbian doctors,” is another complaint. “Those gay doctors parade their adopted children on staff family days that are organised by the hospitals. They are not ashamed of their orientation.” I can confirm the latter. At the time the majority of Belgian hospitals were still in Roman Catholic hands, it was impossible for a homosexual doctor to come out of the closet. At least not openly. If there was any suspicion that a specialist was homosexual, he could forget becoming the head of the department, let alone have a seat on the hospital’s board.

Fortunately, this is now changed, not least because the Catholic sisters and brothers are no longer in control of Belgian hospitals. The discrimination of yesteryear was partly motivated by the church as an institution. Again thanks to the documentary series “Topdokters,” Flanders now has a homosexual Prof. Dr. Piet Hoebeke. He is not only a professor in urology connected to Ghent University Hospital, but was recently also promoted to Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ghent. If that is not a promotion, I don’t know what is. It is proof that gay doctors can climb the ladder.

That gay doctors are open about their sexual orientation, is, of course, a beautiful and positive evolution. This was quite different in the past. Not every homosexual hospital doctor has the ambition to climb through the ranks, but with some examples in mind, I know of a few that are out of the closet. However, they do not get any press coverage.

This lesbian doctor from Brussels may have her complaints, but professional life in medicine and care is not determined by being lesbian or straight. I do not think that focussing on her orientation is healthy. I do not feel the need to have gay co-workers, but I do feel the need to work in a balanced and professional atmosphere. Orientation has nothing to do with professionalism. I hope this brave lady will soon come to realize this, and that she will find her lesbian doctor-partner.

Yours sincerely,

De Ket



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