A panel of LGBTQ military veterans discussed the political and social issues faced by past and present veterans who identify as LGBTQ in the Michigan League Tuesday. .
Three veterans of various military ranks and branches were present, including Captain Michelle Yi, a Business graduate student, Staff Sergeant Lacy Jones, Dentistry junior, and Specialist Necko Fanning, an LSA senior who moderated the panel.
Fanning asked the panelists what can be done to make society more welcoming to members of the LGBTQ community.
Jones said she came from the deep South and was a Southern Baptist Christian. She explained the community was not very accepting of LGBTQ people.
“I would like to see a safe space for individuals that may be struggling with any form of spirituality and accepting their identity, which can be a really challenging thing in and of itself,” Jones said. “Finding a Christian organization that is accepting of the LGBTQ+ community and doesn’t consider gay people to be an abomination can be a battle. As I came to the dental school, the first question I asked the president is what his thoughts on gay people were.”
Yi said when learning about issues surrounding LGBTQ veterans, it’s necessary to listen to people’s individual stories.
“It is important that we acknowledge that people are different but knowing that we are all united by the same thing through leadership,” Yi said. “As a representative of my unit and the country, I feel that the best plan is to over-communicate leadership and treat all individuals as people.”
Fanning discussed what it means to be a man in the LGBTQ community.
“Hypermasculinity is an issue in the military as it is predominantly male,” Fanning said. “Some of those issues butt heads with having an LGBTQ+ identity pretty fiercely.”
The panel addressed how to adapt classrooms at the University of Michigan for veterans and LGBTQ identifiers. Yi said it’s important professors promote inclusive environments and encourage students from marginalized backgrounds to speak out.
“It is so small, and I feel that I get to express my identity in so many different ways,” Yi said. “Professors need to amplify the voices of people who are typically underrepresented, in and out of the veteran LGBTQ+ community.”
Jones said as a junior in an undergraduate program at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, she is able to address specific health concerns in the dental field that specifically affect the LGBTQ+ community.
Jones said the Alliance of Inclusion has added a new plan to promote LGBTQ+ health at U-M by allowing self-identifying LGBTQ+ dental students to wear rainbow stickers on their ID badges. The badges are designed to help patients feel comfortable discussing sexual orientation-related oral health concerns.
Jones said she had dealt with medical discrimination herself. As a young adult, she struggled with endometriosis, a painful disorder where uterine tissue grows outside of the uterus. Jones said doctors refused to consider her request for a hysterectomy because she was too young.
“I’m not sure if the discrimination I faced was because of my gender or sexuality, but going to your OB/GYN and having them suggest a new form of birth control, but saying ‘I’m not having sex with men and don’t need birth control, so hence, can we do something else because I’m not using my uterus as a lesbian?’” Jones said.
She said after several years and talking to many different OB/GYNs, she was finally able to find a doctor who was willing to listen to her and give her the procedure she was asking for.
“It took probably five years for one OB/GYN to finally say, ‘What are your thoughts on a hysterectomy?’” Jones said. “…I’m like, ‘finally!’ Because I personally didn’t want children, and I didn’t have any need for my uterus.”
Fanning also said the Ann Arbor VA Healthcare System was more welcoming to him as a gay man as opposed to other locations he has been to for medical care.
“I would rather drive five or six hours to Ann Arbor for medical care than to go to the Chicago VA,” Fanning said.