2023 | Volume 24 | Issue 2

We were seen and we see you


We were seen, and we see you

Dr George Forgan-Smith

Author: Dr George Forgan-Smith

When Disney released the movie Encanto, the marketing team was ready with a full range of toys based on Isabella—the tall, beautiful, ‘perfect’ character. 

You can imagine their surprise when poor Isabella was left on the shelf. Kids didn’t reach for her; they wanted toys based on Luisa, Isabella’s bigger, stronger sister. At the same time, Instagram was filled with beautiful young girls with curly hair and glasses thrilled to see themselves on the screen—'Look mum, I’m Mirabel!’

On Saturday, 25 February, I joined 60 other doctors to celebrate LGBTIQ+ pride by marching in the world’s largest celebration of queer culture—WorldPride.

Huge kudos to the group Pride in Medicine who tackled the logistic nightmare of organising floats, doctors, costumes, choreography and more. To their credit, the liaison team was able to connect and bring on board all of the medical colleges of Australia bar two. This was a huge amount of work, but was it worth it? Absolutely! Let me tell you why.

On Saturday morning, we were hosted for breakfast by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS). For many doctors, this was the first time they had met their interstate colleagues. Friends from medical school were reunited, it was a chance to network and meet peers from across Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. Finally, we saw each other. We met our ‘Familia Madrigal’.

To be honest, I was genuinely touched the event was hosted by the RACS. I had often felt alone and isolated in my surgical terms. To see this College, move forward offering support, not just money but ‘seeing’ their LGBTIQ+ members as important is heartening. 

I was thrilled to have the support of the RACGP. Marching proudly with us was CEO Paul Wappett. His enthusiasm was front line with his represented doctors. My college saw me, all of me.

Together we laughed, we did emergency operations on costumes, we danced, we cheered. 

The moment we entered Oxford Street, there was a huge roar. To see the people smiling, waving and cheering us on lifted us higher, giving the energy to dance the full four kilometre parade with smiles from start to finish. 

It fills my hear with the hope that one special person saw ‘us’ and decided, ‘yes, I can be a doctor’. Perhaps a struggling student deciding to finish their degree or a person who’s been too afraid to see a doctor will seek out an LGBTIQ doctor because they now know we are here, and we care.

Of course, there will be detractors. I noticed one commenter on an article about the event note their disappointment in ‘political involvement’ and not giving ‘to their members’; to you my friend, may I remind you I am a member. We are all members. We stand shoulder to shoulder, and for just one night, we were seen, and we looked amazing!

For me the benefits have been immense. I have been able to meet colleagues who can help me train in skills that benefit my community. Were it not for this event, we may not have met.

My patients saw ‘me’. Every 500 or so metres, I was so thrilled to see a patient smiling, waving and some, screaming ‘Dr George, Dr George’. Lots of hugs. We will both head home knowing we are cared for, loved and represented; we were seen.

So, when I returned to work—I’m not going to lie—my 50-year-old bones got a workout, but the joy has lifted me. I wish my 60 other colleagues the best for today and, indeed the rest of their year. 

Today we are a family, and the WordPride weekend was our celebration. We are a special family, part of a special community. For every strong Luisa ophthalmologist or beautiful Mirabel surgeon, we are a family, and like Familia Madrigal, we serve our community with love, passion and, dare I say it, beautiful costumes, and amazing dancing. We saw you, all of you.