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UK doctor who told students to act ‘straight’ — fights back

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  1. Hmmmmm not sure what to make of this? I guess I can see what is getting at and perhaps her choice of words were not well chosen?

  2. It is sadly hard to disagree with her. Institutionalized prejudice are very strong in our society.

  3. Anyone who can’t see that she is right has their head in the sand.

    1. She may be right – but aquiescing to it is also burying your head in the sand.

  4. While she was indeed right to advise them the fact that she had to do it in the first place just shows how narrow-mindedness and prejudice is festering at all levels. Some people will say “that’s life I’m afraid” but that still doesn’t make it right. Personally the only thing I care about is whether the doctor or surgeon is good at their job and it seems education doesn’t always offer immunity from ignorance.

  5. As an ex-NHS Nurse, I completely agree with Dr Coales… camp behaviour is labelled as unprofessional while “straight” behaviour is seen as professional. Gender roles are clearly defined and “patrolled” by the majority. The NHS loves people to be in boxes so that they can more easily be “managed” and processed. I have had heated discussions where some Doctors have stated that some gay people aren’t really gay, they just enjoy the sex!

  6. Dr. Choi seems to have become involved in a rather unusual form of whistle-blowing.

    Let’s hope it shakes the Royal College up a bit!

  7. The answer is not to hide one’s sexuality but to fight back against overt prejudice. This “advice” to students to closet themselves is just as damaging as the prejudice itself.

  8. SHE isn’t the one who should be investigated… Whether we like it or not, our mannerisms define us to others. Even a large majority of gays dislike overt campness… Why should anyone else be different?

  9. You can’t fight these organisations if you try to be invisible.

    1. She’s not saying to lie about being gay – she’s saying you shouldn’t act camp during this integral process.

      Campness is not an attractive trait to anyone or any organisation. Etiquette matters in the workplace. If I spoke in the fife dialect I’d be treated the same. OTT campness is not a good way to behave.

  10. Completely agree. At the end of the day it is just about jumping through hoops to get through that assessment. If it works then clearly there is a problem with the people making the decisions. But until their prejudices can be changed why not just make those changes for the exam and get through it.

    1. Precisely

    2. One day though future generations will be embarassed by this. Personally I can see similarities between this and a black person in Alabama in the 1930s being told to avoid a “white only” cafe in order not to “stand out” or “cause waves”. Well obviously I can see some major differences but the overall message is the same, “we don’t accept people different to us here”. Hopefully one day we will cringe at this story and others like it in the same way we hang our heads in shame about racism.

  11. Hmmm, ” too overtly gay”?
    I wonder how much just the right amount of overtly gay would be and how would you know?
    Sadly, I’m sure she’s right about the institutional anti-gay prejudice in the RCGP though.

  12. This is an issue the GLBT community needs to know more about.

    I just assume medical professionals will treat me well but have no real idea whether I am in fact getting the best medical advice/ treatment.

  13. vincable1986 26 Sep 2012, 9:58pm

    By playing into the real problem like this it only further promotes that problem! Fire her and the biased graders!

  14. The only thing she is guilty of is a self-serving circuitous argument to try and wriggle of her own hook. She’s the one who perpetuating stereotypes.

  15. “The greatest barrier to racial and sexual equality is institutional denial. Working in NHS hospitals, I learned the phrase “be a grey man”,

    So do you advise Black, Asian or Oriental students to act more white?

    If they have an accent do you advise them to learn to speak with an English accent?

    Probably not!!! So stop speaking rubbish!!!

    1. I thought being told to modify an accent was fairly common-place.

    2. Since she dropped her own oriental surname, I guess she WOULD do that.

      She isn’t WRONG to say prejudice exists. But she is wrong to make it seem that the gay/ethnic/wrong sex/wrong accent, etc. needs to change, not the system.

      More gay working class ethnic women doctors on the exam panels should sort it out.

      1. Paul Brownsey 27 Sep 2012, 10:48am

        Yes, if course the system needs to change.

        But that is no help to the candidate who is being interviewed here and now. Is she or he to lose their chance of professional advancement because some people are working to achieve a change that may be some years down the line?

    3. Actually – coming from Essex and on a law degree I have to work on neutralising my accent to avoid the subjective bias of Law firms classing me as “common” or “uneducated” despite my CV suggesting otherwise. I would imagine it is the same in the NHS for doctors recruitment. She is the expert on doctor recruitment so her opinion would be more correct than an outsiders.

  16. Her intentions seem to be good. But I’d it’s a pity she couldn’t show a little more regret about giving such advice, treating the symptoms and not the cause. If she were sincere, she might advise the Medical Council to be more inclusive. Speak truth to power for goodness’ sake.

  17. Royal College… the ball is in your court…

  18. She has a very valid point and, as stated by others if you can’t see that then you really are caught up in the I’m gay and proud militant brigades mindset.

    I am gay, I am not ashamed of it but at the same time I don’t see the need to make it so flipping obvious to everyone I meet like some do. I don’t mince, call everyone babe or Hun, wear makeup, flap and scream like a teenage girl. It’s all an act, such behaviours do not come naturally to anyone. We all know guys like this and such behaviours, if that is what she is referring to have no place in the work setting. A professional role such as a doctor carries with it a level of responsibility and personal and professional conduct. The same expectations are applied heterosexual doctors as well. Overt displays of behaviour or language of a sexual type nature would not be acceptable either. I don’t mean sex particularly but who they pulled, their conquests or other talk that is not relevant to the job.

    1. The fact is though gay men are judged more for acting “gay” than straight men are from acting “straight”, that’s obvious. What do you think all that macho posturing and often juvenile behaviour by straight men is all about? It’s funny how when straight men go out on a night drinking, ogle women and end up fighting in the street how people don’t accuse them of “shoving their sexuality in our faces” in the same way they do with gay men. Talk about double standards. Some men are just naturally more camp than others and personally when it comes to the medical profession all I care about it whether they are competent. We need to takle the prejudice not excuse it.

      1. Robert in S. Kensington 27 Sep 2012, 1:02pm

        I agree with you, Chris. People forget that if it weren’t for camp men and drag queens many of whom paticipated in the Stonewall riots in 1969 there would have been no gay rights movement as we know it. Like it or not, effeminate gay men have every right to be who they are. I”m not ashamed or embarrassed by them. The problem isn’t with them but the deep seated institutionalised homophobia and bigotry in the medical profession and in society as a whole, especially among the mainstream homophobic cults who are mostly responsible if you look at where this all originated from over the centuries.

        1. Absolutely and the message that society is sending here is that gay men or men who exhibit more “feminine” qualities are worth less than supposedly “masculine” men. Never mind the actual knowledge or capability of these people oh no, we should just judge their suitability for the job on how much they fit the stereotype of a “real man”, that’s how these people think. Actually if you look at the most brutal acts in history and the most violent societies on earth virtually all of them have been a result of overwhelming male dominance. In today’s world the Scandivanian countries sit on top (or near) in terms of human development, literacy and living standards. Then take a look at Islamic countries where women have no say in public life or even look at the Bible Belt in the United States. I truly believe that gender equality and LGBT equality is a civilising factor on societies.

          1. Completely agree with you Chris. Promoting Gender equality and gay rights is vital in wiping out stereotypes.

        2. Remember that the “diesel dykes” were there, too.

  19. Dr Coales is a woman in a male dominated world. I imagine she’s got a fair idea of what it’s like to face discrimination.

    If the trainee doctor gets through his assessment after failing before, does that make her advice wrong?

    1. An oriental woman in a white male dominated world. She knows discrimination alright! Her advice is very Sun Tzu. Why lock horns with the homophobic assh_s when you’re just a trainee? They have the upper hand and could crush you. Go around them. When you get to a better battle position, then you can kick their ass.

    2. “Dr Coales is a woman in a male dominated world. I imagine she’s got a fair idea of what it’s like to face discrimination.”

      As a trainee doctor she sailed through her assessment by wearing a false glued-on moustache and nobody guessed she was a woman.

      1. Did that comment really deserve thumbs down?
        I mean it’s the sort of advice she is giving, hide and pretend to be something you are not if you want to get through.
        Apply that logic to the rest of your life and you will be in the closet forever.

        1. Ooh! and another thumbs down, how odd.

  20. The medical profession is a breeding ground for bigotry and prejudice, and those who deny it are either part of the system or naive to a point they should seek medical advice themselves!

  21. Maybe someone should tell het to act Caucasian. This is ridiculous. Of course you don’t want to act like a silly queen in front of your professors but this is a test measuring clinical skills not about passing as a heterosexual. It’s aburd advice. It’s about time some of these Ivory Tower bigots actually experience people living in the real world.

    1. Is it as you have defined “acting like a silly queen” of effeminate mannerisms that is the problem ?

      It is was not so long ago that special education specialists would try and teach children with effeminate mannerisms to try and suppress them with the aim of being better accepted by peers. Then it was realized by the professionals that this was cruel and unjust as it didn’t work and it made the children feel ashamed of themselves.

      1. or going further back forcing left handed kids to work with their right hand with corporal punishment for using left hand, or using the right hand badly.

        Nikki she was advised to act caucasian she dropped her oriental surname on her CV to get past the subjective bias at the original stage – thats the hardest part because you can in no way defend yourself there.

  22. I think her heart and intentions are in the right place. Unfortunately her focus is in the wrong place.

    Her focus should be on rehabbing the bigots and not in teaching the oppressed to pander to the bigots.

    1. I couldn’t have said it better.

      As I said before; inconspicuousness of difference is a product of societal acceptance, not vice versa. (I wish I knew how best to put that in layman’s terms.)

    2. Rehab the bigots? Ideal, but really, what are the chances of the bigots having a change of heart (by examination time)? It’s akin to insisting on marching full gala, in an open field, head on against an enemy when you are obviously out-gunned (trainee vs. head doctors) – noble but not very smart. Is it so bad to teach the trainees some guerrilla tactics to get around the enemy without getting killed (career wise), so they could move on to better ‘battle’ positions (where, hopefully, they can make a more substantial change in the system)?

      1. I happen to know from experience that bigots CAN be rehabbed but it takes courage and effort. I’ve personally converted a few myself, including my right-wing, fundamentalist Christian, Mississippi parents. Too often people take your view that bigots are unmovable and use that as an excuse for not doing the work. It’s the easy, and lazy, way out and it’s also the ineffective way out. If you ignore, surrender to, or pander to, bigots, they win.

        I would have a whole lot more praise for Dr. Coales had she produced just ONE example of what she is doing to change the atmosphere of bigotry WITHIN the medicinal establishment WHILE she’s teaching students how to navigate within it meantime. She’s had many opportunities to do just that since this story broke but so far she hasn’t produced a single example. I can only assume that she doesn’t have a single example to produce. Perhaps she hasn’t considered working to change the source of the problem.

        Hopefully she now will.

        1. To be fair to the good doctor, western medicine and western doctors are not taught to treat sources of illness; they are taught to treat and mitigate symptoms. This is why I left traditional western medicine, returned to school and became a doctor of oriental medicine.

          It seems that Dr. Coales applies this same training to addressing social ills treating and mitigating the symptoms of the problem instead of curing the cause.

          1. Great comment, I think you’ve nailed it.

  23. I think the student who was failed because he ‘acted too gay’ should sue the college. It is the examiners who fail students due to their homophobic and misogynist views are the ones who need to be named and investigated.

  24. Quite frankly I find the words and actions of Dr Coales very concerning. When reading her rebuttal of the criticisms made of her I found myself sort of understanding her viewpoint. However, when I then thought about her motives for writing the book in the first place and the reason why so many of her readers would willingly listen to her, I couldn’t help feeling she is being somewhat disingenuous. She appears to be using her professional position and status purely to meet her own commercial interests (and perhaps also for financial gain). Applicants will happily absorb her advice without questioning this, because their overriding desire is simply to pass their exam. What I find particularly disappointing is that since writing the book, she seems to have take a righteous stance in somehow having highlighted the institutional prejudices of the RCGP, of which she is a member of Council. If she is so ashamed of this practice, why has she not used her influence to fight for change?

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