Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered (GLBT)

Medical Students of Canada




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        Our mission:



  •         raise awareness of GLBT health issues among Canadian medical students
  •         educate future physicians in competent quality healthcare for GLBT patients
  •         dispel the stigma, misconceptions, & stereotypes of GLBT people in society
  •         combat the anti-gay prejudice, heterosexism and ignorance in medicine


  •        provide a sense of community for GLBT medical students and physicians in Canada
  •        share knowledge and resources on teaching and advocacy materials
  •        support GLBT med students and physicians who're coming to terms of their sexual identities
  •        network with other GLBT health professionals, health educators and activists

Our statement on sexual diversity & acceptance in medical schools:


(modified from the original article by Louie Chan and Justine Dembo, published in March 2004 Issue of The Pulse, the U of T Medical Student Newspaper) 


“The Morality of Prejudice:
Calling for Acceptance of Sexual Minorities in Medical Schools”


In October 2003, former University of Toronto President Robert Birgeneau released a public statement calling the university community to celebrate its sexual diversity in the same manner it celebrates cultural and ethnic diversity (go to to see the full statement). “I believe that as an institution of higher education, we have an obligation to show leadership in areas where the general public may lag behind,” Birgeneau wrote. In addressing the issues of gender and sexuality, “we cannot let controversy or inflexible opinions deter us from raising awareness and promoting understanding," he wrote. "We must set a precedent for the rest of society by recognizing – and celebrating – our diversity as one of our greatest strengths.” Birgeneau recognized that homophobia still exists on campus.  He stated no member of the community should feel like any less a member due to sexual orientation or gender identity.


However, the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) medical students remain challenging. Accounts of family disapproval, fear of ostracism, depression, and even suicidal thoughts have highlighted the health hazard imposed upon LGBT med students from societal prejudice. Negative attitudes affect the daily lives of LGBT med students: we can tell that some classmates are avoiding us after finding out that we are gay. We often hear students making “jokes” with references to the stereotypes of LGBT people, such as teasing athletic female classmates to dress up “like a lesbian;” or joking about students of the same gender sharing the same bed during MedGames. Such insensitive remarks imply that being LGBT is undesirable, and causes those of us who are not comfortable to openly challenge those stereotypes to feel extremely uneasy and further marginalized. Obviously, this stigmatization is putting an extra burden onto LGBT med students.


Every time we disclose our identity, we risk prejudice and contempt from fellow classmates; but if we hide it, we are assumed to be heterosexual and we would feel invisible. Of course the subject of sexual orientation does come up when med students socialize: questions like “Do you have a girlfriend?” automatically assume attraction to the opposite sex. When we bring our partners to the social functions we have to worry about being the subject of disapproving looks and whispers. And for those who hide their identity, they must be conscious not to talk about their same-sex partners even though their partners are an important part of their lives.


For these reasons, a new group has formed for Ontario LGBT med students to discuss the common challenges we face and to develop strategies to increase awareness of LGBT issues in medical schools. For instance, we asked the Faculty to join the inter-university campus-wide Positive Space Campaign by putting up posters with an inverted rainbow triangle, which combines three common images for pride and remembrance in the LGBT community: (1) the rainbow flag; (2) the inverted pink triangle of which gay prisoners were forced to wear in the Nazi concentration camps; and (3) the inverted black triangle of which "anti-social" women, including many lesbians, were forced to wear in those Nazi camps.


We are concerned that some physicians’ judgments about LGBT individuals will affect the way they provide care to these patients, thereby breaching the professional standards of altruism, compassion, and equity. These physicians who believe that all gays are sinful and promiscuous and that the so-called “homosexual lifestyle” can be “cured” often did not consider all the facts and our history of oppression; and any negative attitudes that linger in the society would still perpetrate the homophobia that traumatizes countless hate crime victims like Matthew Shepard. Prejudice hurts us all: It not only hurts those targeted for marginalization, it also robs those doing the hating of their full humanity; because such disapproval compromises human integrity by pressuring people to treat others badly, which are actions that are contrary to their basic humanity, and by preventing people from appreciating all forms of diversity in the society. Therefore, medical students should value the opportunity to come together in an environment where all are free to affirm and celebrate our differences, and to learn about how our differences impact us as people and as future physicians.



Another article that speaks to our missions:


By: Nina Ghosh, MD, University of Western Ontario, Class of 2005

(Originally published in the CFMS 2005 Wellness Package)

          There are a wide range of thoughts, actions and emotions that constitute homophobia. Despite a seemingly sensitive and tolerant era in medical education, research shows that homophobia exists and is active among medical students and professionals.  (3)  Homophobia may take several forms that could affect the psyche and career path of the medical student:  from a
careless remark or joke that demeans a homosexual patient to denying gay, lesbian or bisexual students admission to medical school or marking them down during training on the basis of their sexual orientation.  It may occur covertly as a refusal to refer patients to a gay doctor or overtly as denial of a residency position to a homosexual or bisexual doctor.
         In 1994, for instance, the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association conducted a survey to medical professionals and students in an attempt to quantify homophobic attitudes in the medical environment.  (4)  One fifth of the respondents reported being denied referrals, one third had
experienced “verbal harassment or insult by their medical colleagues” and two thirds feared that homosexual and bisexual doctors would risk losing their practices if colleagues learned of their sexual orientation.  These results indicate that many gay medical students and professionals face, not only the usual challenges of medical practice, but also the challenge of feeling less accepted and even discriminated in their work environments.  
         Despite medical curricula emphasizing a non-judgmental, culturally and socially sensitive approach to patient care, as much as one third of homosexual doctors have come face to face with explicit anti-homosexual remarks. (5)   The fact that a large proportion of doctors fear losing their
practices if colleagues were to discover their sexual orientation means that medical professionals feel pressures in addition to the normal pressures that accompany the practice of medicine.  Gay doctors encounter societal pressures to conceal sexual orientation and to live with the emotionally scarring consequences of ostracism and the prospect of being unable to live in a fully liberated manner.  
         Fortunately, there is evidence that negative attitudes towards homosexual and bisexual doctors are improving.   A comparison of a study conducted by Mathews et al in 1982 to a parallel study conducted in 1996 showed that fewer doctors in the 1996 doctors would deny admission to medical school to highly qualified homosexual applicants (4% vs. 30% in the 1982 study) (1).   Furthermore, 35% fewer doctors in 1996 would discourage a homosexual or bisexual doctor from becoming a pediatrician.  Finally, 91% of the doctors surveyed in 1996 indicated they would refer patients to a gay psychiatrist colleague whereas only 57% of doctors surveyed in 1982 would
refer to such a doctor.  These results indicate a definitive shift in the attitudes of doctors towards their gay colleagues over the past few years, probably reflecting increasing societal acceptance of homosexuality.  It also means that being gay has much less of an impact on professional acceptance
than it did in the past.
         Improvement in attitudes towards gay medical students and doctors is also evident in extracurricular services.  Support services for gay, lesbian, and bisexual medical students and residents, while not universal, seem to be increasing.  (5)  A 1994 survey of 185 homosexual and bisexual medical students from 92 medical schools found that 70% of the students had a gay,
lesbian, and bisexual support group at their school. Nine of the medical schools had an official liaison for gay, lesbian, and bisexual students (up from four in 1990). (6)   Clearly there has been recognition in many medical schools that gay students need support from professionals that recognize the special issues that they must face.  As the current generation of medical students enters the working environment, hopefully there will be a more accepting, freer environment for gay doctors to reveal their sexual orientation.   What is clear, however, that more needs to be done before an environment of tolerance and open mindedness becomes a universal and
unquestionable reality in medical practice

         Several studies indicate that the key to improving the gay doctor’s own openness and honesty in the health services is a more explicit attention of medical education towards homosexual and bisexual health issues.  Makadon suggests incorporating such teaching in all aspects of training. (5)  Several studies show that medical students who are acquainted with a gay man or a lesbian have better attitudes toward them.  
         Burke et al suggest that when and where it feels safe, lesbian, gay, and bisexual doctors should join others in the workplace in the casual, honest conversations that pertain to career, family, and personal choices. (6)  They stipulate that these informal conversations provide a great aid to physician well-being and that a reciprocal listening ear by other doctors to this shared
information contribute to a positive and friendly environment.    In circumstances of a real or perceived threat to livelihood, family, or personal safety upon coming out, Burke et al suggest tolerance and patience within the homosexual and bisexual doctor community.

 (1)   Ridson, C, Cook, D, Willms, D.  Gay and lesbian physicians in training a qualitative study.  CMAJ.  ; 162(3):  331-4.
 (2)   Rose L. Homophobia among doctors. BMJ. 1994 Feb 26;308(6928):586-7.
 (3)   Brogan DJ, Frank E, Elon L, Sivanesan SP, O'Hanlan KA. Harassment of lesbians as medical students and physicians. JAMA. 1999 Oct 6;282(13):1290, 1292.
 (4)   Gibson G, Saunders DE.  Gay patients. Context for care. Can Fam Physician. 1994 Apr;40:721-5.
 (5)   Oriel KA, MadlonKay DJ, Govaker D, Mersy DJ. Gay and lesbian physicians in training: family practice program directors' attitudes and students' perceptions of bias. Fam Med. 1996;28:720
 (6)   Burke BP, White JC. Wellbeing of gay, lesbian, and bisexual doctors. BMJ. 2001 Feb 17;322(7283):422-5.




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This website is sponsored by Diversity in Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto. We would like to thank Alia Qureshi Emili for the original website creation and design and the University of Toronto for providing us the webspace. The materials found on this website do not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Toronto