I am sure I have served more LGBTQ patients than I realize, in my experience in my midwest setting the patients tend to keep it low key. I have found that I have to listen closely for cues such as use of the word partner which is more common to hear than the use of significant other, spouse, wife or husband, although use of wife or husband is becoming more common to hear more openly where I am at.
There is one patient in particular who had a significant impact on my chaplaincy and my own personal transformation. This was a young gay man with a significant new diagnosis. He was an incredibly faithful young man, seeking to connect deeply with his faith, struggling to figure out where he fit within his church tradition that gave him two choices be celibate and allowed to fully participate in the church and ministries he was a part of already or live fully as a gay man and not experience the full fellowship of his church. I spent most of my time with him listening deeply and being present to the deep pain he was in as he tried to figure out how to live his life authentically. This was several years ago and I don’t know what happened to him, but hearing his pain and struggle changed me and was the catalyst for my transformation to knowing the only loving, God embracing response is full inclusion.
I find that more recently many of my interactions have happened more at the end of life and in difficult traumatic death situations. Here I have found that much of my role has been to work to affirm and make sure that the partner/spouse is fully included at the bedside. One recently was a couple who was engaged to be married soon, tragically the patient died I found myself encouraging the living partner to share with me about how they met, what they had hoped for their future together and affirming her important place as she seemed to be more set aside from the other friends and family of the patient.
One of the issues I sense that may be an important one for LGBTQ persons is that of the need for DPOA paperwork to secure the place of the partner as decision maker – particularly in situations where there may be family rifts and state law has blood next of kin laws as decision makers unless other wise stated by a DPOA.
Personally I try to walk with caution when I am ministering to this population because I know I do not have enough of an understanding of life journey they must walk as a marginalized person. I am very aware of my privilege as a married, heterosexual white woman.
I feel like in many ways I don’t even know what I don’t know so don’t really even know what questions I should be asking here.
On the journey,