Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Gay People Have Hearts Too

Yesterday morning, while I was surfing Facebook, I found a short video by the Cleveland Clinic titled "If We Could See Inside People's Hearts."  Curious, I clicked on it and watched.

The four-minute video takes place in a hospital and depicts a variety of people in different roles, such as medical staff, patients, and family members.  Throughout, people go about their daily business, and we are made aware of what's going on inside their hearts via captions that appear near them.  For example:
  • An older African-American man, sitting in a wheelchair, is pushed into the entrance of the hospital, with the caption, "Has been dreading this appointment.  Fears he's waited too long."   
  • A young, bald, Asian fellow walks down the hallway, with the caption, "Wife's surgery went well.  Going home to rest."
  • A sickly woman, sits in an upholstered chair, tubes running into her body, with the caption, "Day 29.  Waiting for a new heart."
  • A middle-aged man brings his wife a cup of coffee, with the caption, "19-year-old son on life support."
  • A woman and a girl walk down the hallway and stop to pet a seeing-eye dog, with the caption, "Husband is terminally ill.  Visiting Dad…for the last time." 
No question, the video is beautiful and poignant and deeply moving, sending the clear message that, when we see someone–anyone, anywhere–we have no idea what's happening to her, what she's dealing with at that moment, what she feels in her heart.

The point is captured at the beginning of the video in a quote from Henry David Thoreau:

Could a greater miracle take place
than for us to look through each other's eyes
for an instant. 

As I sat watching, I looked for the presence of gay people, wondering if scenarios affecting them directly would be included.  Sure, any of the scenarios I saw could happen to a gay person as much as to a straight one.  But I wondered if, along with acknowledging other minorities, the Cleveland Clinic would acknowledge gay and lesbian people as well, and the life-altering situations specific to them?  

No, it did not.  I did not see, for example:
  • A father sitting by a hospital bed, holding his son's hand, with the caption, "Dying from AIDS."
  • A man walking down the corridor, his head down, with the caption, "Husband killed in a car accident."
  • An older man, talking to a doctor, with the caption, "Male life partner of over fifty years just had a heart attack."
I realize the world isn't just about gay people or being gay.  I get that.  And no one is saying that we, as gay people, should get special treatment, in any way, shape, or form, just because of our sexual orientation.  

But how progressive, and respectful, it would have been if the Cleveland Clinic had acknowledged the existence of gay and lesbian people, and had shown they have hearts to see inside too.  If it had used this opportunity to prove that, in matters of the heart, gay people are no different from anyone else?

If you wish to see the video in its entirely, please click here.    


  1. Dear Rick,

    I watched this video and of the 26 scenes I found 10 scenes that (to me) appeared to be gender specific (ie husband/wife) and 16 scenes that (to me) appeared to not be gender specific. In other words, there was no indication whether the person was straight or gay.

    I agree with you when you say “the world isn't just about gay people or being gay” but I disagree with you about the clinic acknowledging the existence of gay and lesbian people. I think they did that quite well when 16 out of 26 scenes were not gender specific.

    You can't say one one hand “no one is saying that we, as gay people, should get special treatment, in any way, shape, or form just because of our sexual orientation” and then on the other hand say how “progressive, and respectful, it would have been if the Cleveland Clinic had acknowledged the existence of gay and lesbian people.” That would be expecting special treatment.

    Some observations to consider....

    The elderly man being wheeled into the hospital; is his partner of 50 years unable to accompany him to the hospital because he has to take care of things at home first and will be there as soon as he can?

    Perhaps the woman who got a divorce did so because she had been denying her sexuality for the past 40 years and is now beginning a new chapter in her life.

    Perhaps the young man 7000 miles from home is waiting for his partner of 8 years to arrive at his bedside.

    And the young woman nearing the end of her 12 hour shift....can't wait to get home to her wife and relax for the next 4 days she has off.

    Every scene that wasn't gender specific I can, very easily, in my own mind, imagine the people in either gay or straight relationships.

    You're right, it's not all about being gay or straight. It's about people. And when gay and straight people start forgetting about the labels, then and only then, is real progress be made.

    In matters of the heart we are all people.


  2. What a thoughtful response, Loretta. I appreciate you taking the time to write it.

    Unfortunately, I don't agree with everything you wrote. As open-minded and accepting of gay and lesbian people as I know you are, you might well make the assumption, in non-gender specific instances, the people depicted could be talking about either an opposite or same-sex partner, but not all people would. And that is the very reason why I wrote this post.

    I think for gay and straight people to forget about the labels, as you recommend (and I agree with, by the way), straight people need to continue being reminded, as often as is necessary, that gay people exist and are no different from them in all matters related to the heart (which is anything human). And gay people need to know they won't be marginalized by not being acknowledged or included.

    I'm not saying the Cleveland Clinic should have gone out of its way to include gay and lesbian people. What I am saying is, there would have been absolutely nothing wrong with, as I wrote, 'A man walking down a corridor, his head down, with the caption, "Husband killed in a car accident."' It's not screaming gay, but it's definitely showing these two men were married (in a State in the US where it's legal–why it isn't legal in all States, I have no clue), in love, and one of them has just had to face the same tragedy a straight couple would have to (with the same emotional effect).

    I'm not about labels either, believe me. But, Loretta, in your own progressiveness, you are ahead of a good many. Not everyone is where you are. And, until that happens, gay and lesbian people must be obvious to the mainstream whenever the opportunity arises (otherwise, the mainstream can remain in denial that we're here). And all the many ways in which we're similar, as opposed to different, must be emphasized. Then, and only then, will labels go away.

    Thanks again for your comment. And, on behalf of gay and lesbian people, thanks for the example you set. We appreciate your open-mindedness and support.