As a society, we are taught from a young age to believe that racist, classist, sexiest and other such acts of bigotry and discrimination have been purged from society and the public consciousness as a whole, and are rather remnants of a more primitive, less educated state. However, as ubiquitous and idealistic as this belief is, it is a romanticized construct established by the hegemonic power structures which have, in turn, established a false consciousness within society and an erroneous understanding of the discrimination and inequality that currently pervades culture. This construct is exemplified, with eerie eloquence, in the story of baby Bay, a baby girl born to partners Krista and Jami.[i] Upon Bay’s first check up at six days of age, it was discovered that their agreed upon doctor, Dr. Roi had decided to refuse to take Bay on as a patient as a result of her mothers’ sexual orientation.[ii] The birth of a child is generally an overwhelmingly joyous event, one that is pervaded by themes of exultation, jubilation and glee. However, in the case of Bay, her first exposure to the world was one riddled by overt heteronormative, heterosexist and marginalizing scripts.[iii] It is in relation and response to such overt and blatant examples of the detrimental and destructive influence that heteronormative and heteropatriarchal power structures have on people’s lived experiences that a critical analysis and adjudication of these systems is needed in order to bring about vitally needed change.
It is easy to look at this example as an isolated incident in which an individual doctor acted in accordance to her own personal beliefs, and by doing perpetuated heteronormative and heterosexist rhetoric. This example is, however, illustrative of the greater non-inclusionary paradigm and systemic issues which ruminate about the medical system. The case of Bay is illustrative of the systemic and insulated heteropatriarchal, heteronormative and cisgender rhetoric that is situated in the current medical system, particularly in the American Medical Association (AMA) ethos.[iv] [v] The AMA code is one riddled by ambiguity and seemingly apparent contradictions. On one hand, it actively prevents discrimination based on sexual orientation or preference; that is, a physician is unable to negate treatment on the grounds of one’s sexual orientation.[vi] [vii] However, a physician can withhold treatment if they feel that the patient’s character is at odds with their own ethical, spiritual or moral principles.[viii] [ix] First and foremost, this established clause in AMA rhetoric re-enforces the established power structure, and in turn neo-liberal, classist and educational scripts as it confers an unequal power relationship between doctor and patient. That is, in order to obtain treatment and help, at times in dire circumstances, one may be required to conform to normalized and standardized scripts, in order to obtain help. This apparent choice that a doctor has, in regard to being able to selectively choose who is eligible for care, further exemplifies the institutionalized nature of patriarchal, cisgender, heteronormative power structures in the medical system and culture as a whole.
As troubling as this is, the larger concern lies in the degree of insulation and allotted protection and manipulation that exists, at every level of society. In the case of baby Bay, the right of Dr. Roi to refuse to take her on as a patient, was understood in accordance to her rights as a physician as allotted by the AMA.[x] However, this justification doesn’t hold true – that is, Bay was refused treatment based on association, rather on an apparent character flaw, as dutifully noted by Bay’s mothers, in that she has no known sexual orientation at this point.[xi] Thus, the idea that Dr. Roi was within her right to refuse such treatment in accordance to AMA protocols is erroneous, but rather illustrative of the continual protection that the heteronormative, heterosexist system allots in an attempt to secure the perpetuity of the pervading ideology and power structures.[xii] What is even more irksome and exemplary of the insulated nature of the established ideological apparatuses is the qualification that Dr. Roi gave Fox News when asked to comment on the events which had unfolded in respect to baby Bay, with her citing doctor patient confidentially as her inability to comment on the case, even though she blatantly refused to take Bay on as a patient.[xiii]
This case exemplifies not only the institutionalized heteronormative and heterosexist scripts that persist in the medical system but further poignantly determines the insulated nature of the cultural hegemony that pervades society. Critical analysis of the iconography and prescribed righteousness and sanctity allotted to the medical field is necessary in order to be able to aptly and accurately understand the disparaging and disenfranchising mechanisms which adversely affect individual’s lived experiences.
[i] “Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same-Sex Couple’s Baby,” myFOXdetroit.com 18 Feb. 2015.
[ii] “Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same-Sex Couple’s Baby,” 2015.
[iii] “Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same-Sex Couple’s Baby,” 2015.
[iv] “Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same-Sex Couple’s Baby,” 2015.
[v] America, American Medical Association, AMA Policies on LGBT Issues, H-65.992 Continued Support of Human Rights and Freedom.
[vi] American Medical Association, AMA Policies on LGBT Issues.
[vii] “Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same-Sex Couple’s Baby,” 2015.
[viii] “Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same-Sex Couple’s Baby,” 2015.
[ix] America, American Medical Association, AMA’s Code of Medical Ethics.
[x] “Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same-Sex Couple’s Baby,” 2015.
[xi] “Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same-Sex Couple’s Baby,” 2015.
[xii] “Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same-Sex Couple’s Baby,” 2015.
[xiii] “Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same-Sex Couple’s Baby,” 2015.