My scrubs may be blue, but my uniform is rainbow. When I’m in scrubs behind a clipboard, I am representing myself to my clients and colleagues not only as an advocate for pet health, but as a member and advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. Tolerance, inclusiveness, and celebration of diverse identities and expressions are necessities to me; I work for pets just as hard as I work for these values. When I’m gathering medical histories or vital signs, I carry my education about the importance of inclusivity and diversity to the clinic every day. My identity may be a part of my uniform, but the diversity bonus extends beyond just representation.
The diversity bonus means extending beyond representation and into participation. As a person with an often otherized identity, my active engagement in the dialogue about diversity and inclusion in veterinary medicine with my colleagues, allies or otherwise, is an important one. Veterinary medicine needs to become a safe space universally, and my diversity bonus grants me a position to bridge the gap between veterinary medicine and social progress.
The Diversity Bonus award carries an abundance of meaning to me. With a rocky coming-out, 6 years ago, I would have never imagined this kind of scholarship was even possible. To be celebrated for a part of me that I spent so many years feeling so ashamed for is such an overwhelming feeling. It validates the newfound pride I feel now. As president of the CSU chapter of PrideSVMC, I am lucky to be surrounded by a supportive, proactive, passionate community of allied and LGBTQ+ vet students that share my fire. Whether it’s advocating for pronouns on hospital badges, organizing Safe Space training for students, or crafting pride-flag face masks for the teaching hospital staff, I find myself supported in all my endeavors to help promote inclusion in veterinary medicine and beyond.
The only passion that matches the one I feel for veterinary medicine is the passion for celebrating pride in diversity. It is still a punishable crime to be LGBTQ+ in more than 70 countries around the world, 13 of which practice punishment by death. Even in the US, as many of us know, our rights are still contested in our schools, jobs, courtrooms, and even hospitals. Particularly for trans women of color, physical violence against identity is not just a fear but a reality. The fight for equality is far from over.
We must continue to demand acceptance and tolerance. An award like this one goes beyond tolerance, as a celebration like I have never felt before. I’m hopeful that this celebration is something we can spread beyond veterinary medicine. Communities like PrideVMC foster that hope within me. As Abby Stein, Jewish and transgender rights activist, has said in my favorite quote, “Tolerance is for things like lactose and nuts. Not people. People, we celebrate.”
PrideVMC is grateful to Merck Animal Health for supporting the 2020 PrideVMC Diversity Bonus and Intersectionality Awards.