Recently, a woman visited my office for the first time for an ultrasound examination. I picked up the request form from the front desk, and, as I approached the waiting area, called out her name.
Two people immediately looked up at me: a young lady who was obviously pregnant, and beside her, someone who initially appeared to be a young man. Our gazes met and I greeted them and invited the pair to my office, but found myself doing a double-take and revisiting the pregnant woman’s companion’s appearance.
The attire and demeanour were that of a young man, but the person clearly had feminine breasts. I realised that the person was not a man, but clearly a “butch’’ (woman with a masculine appearance) lesbian.
From their body language and energy, I could tell that the two have a close relationship. The patient informed me that the other young lady is the cousin of her soon-to-be baby-father.
During the ultrasound examination, while engaging the ladies in conversation, I asked the woman accompanying the patient if she gets harassed because of her looks. “Nah, man. Me a bad gyal, you know,” she cheerfully responded. “When did you realise you were like this?” I enquired.
She told me that ever since she was a child, she liked girls. She could not recall any instances of molestation or grooming, stating that this was always her preference, and that she just loves females. “Me, too,” I responded, before giving her a vigorous high five.
She confessed that she has never been with a man and has no intention of ever doing so. I asked her what type of women she likes, and she told me definitely “femme” (feminine and girly) showing me pics of her ex and her current girlfriend.
“These women are beautiful. Yow, my girl, me a go tek weh yu gyal!” I said, as I looked at a pic of her spouse, and we both laughed.
My empathy for, and support of, the LGBT community is well known, and I have been simultaneously praised and vilified for my stance. Those who support me understand my motives. Those who chastise me are annoyed that I could be so tolerant of these nasty, dirty, stinking “sodomites’’. By the way, lesbians are less likely to contract STIs (sexually transmitted infections) and cervical cancer than heterosexual women. Just saying.
It is conversations such as the one described above that have taken me to the place I am at now. It is easy to denigrate, condemn and dismiss people we deem to be weirdos and sinners based on our assumptions about them.
But when you sit in front of someone, make eye contact, feel their energy and simply allow them to tell their stories without judgment or self-righteous interjections, there is a lot you can learn.
My job affords me the opportunity to do just that, and in doing so, I have learned a lot. I have learned that there are many more lesbians around us than we realise. Many are butch and their orientation is apparent, but there are also many who are femme and are pursued by multitudes of men who have no idea that they are barking up the wrong tree.
I have also learned that being a lesbian is not something these women choose. They are just attracted to women, and I absolutely get that, as I am, too, and it was never something I chose. I just found myself liking the way women look, sound, feel, move and smell.
Their stories have evoked powerful empathy in me. Lesbians are human beings like the rest of us and desire companionship, love and intimacy. They seek it and they find it with other women. Because of the way we are socialised, many of us reject these relationships and the people in them.
But when I reflect on the conversations I have had with my lesbian patients over the years in my practice, I realise I have no reason to discriminate.
Conversely, I have good reason to speak out against bigotry towards these ladies and to defend them. After all, they are vulnerable. For example, there are no laws to protect them from being discriminated against regarding housing or employment. I have heard accounts of these women being verbally and physically assaulted, rejected by their families and thrown out of their homes. Many of them are hurting, being vilified for something they can do little about.
Nowadays, when I see lesbian couples in my office, my reaction to them is similar to that towards heterosexual pairs. Like heterosexuals, they, too, will have issues in their relationships, but the love and attention shown to my lesbian patients by their partners is usually no different from that shown by a loving man to his wife or girlfriend.
By the way, lesbian women report more sexual satisfaction and orgasmic frequency than heterosexual women in their relationships. Another fun fact.
Love is a beautiful thing. When two humans share such a bond, and are not hurting others, who are we to judge them?
• Michael Abrahams is a gynaecologist and obstetrician
—Courtesy the Jamaica Gleaner