Editorial by Patricia Grayhall for The Seattle Lesbian
The box lay unopened in my various closets for forty years. Then, while downsizing I took out the journals and letters and began reading. The memories and feelings flooded back. As I relived my personal journey in the late 1960s and ‘70s—an illegal abortion, coming out as a lesbian, a woman training to become a doctor—none approved by society, I realized that my experiences have relevance beyond the personal, especially now.
Making the Rounds: Defying Norms in Love and Medicine is the result of taking charge of the narrative of that turbulent period to make sense and meaning of seemingly random and chaotic events influenced by the culture of the time. Here is the story:
Defying expectations of a woman growing up in Arizona in the 1960s, I fled Phoenix at nineteen for the vibrant streets of San Francisco, determined to finally come out as a lesbian after years of trying to be a “normal” girl. My dream of becoming a physician drew me back to college in Arizona, and then on to medical school in conservative Salt Lake City.
Though I enjoyed a supportive friendship with a gay male colleague, I longed for an equal, loving relationship with a woman. But my graduate medical training in Boston, with its emotional demands, long hours, lack of sleep, and social isolation, compounded by the free-wheeling sexual revolution of the 1970s, made finding that special relationship difficult. Often disappointed but never defeated, I battled on against sexism in a male-dominated profession and against discrimination in a still largely homophobic nation, plunging into a life that was never boring and certainly never without passion.
Acclaimed lesbian author, Katherine Forrest who wrote Curious Wine had this to say:
“Memoirs like Grayhall’s are important to us. The larger culture has owned the narrative forever and rendered us inconsequential if not invisible. Our untold stories need to be out there, and a story like Grayhall’s from a woman of her achievements is a vital contribution to our community and history.”
Seattle has been my home since 1984. Today in Washington, I would not have to travel to Nogales, Mexico to have an illegal abortion at age 19 in someone’s bedroom, but would have greater access to birth control, and safe options of care. Unlike in those states now limiting a woman’s right to control her own body and criminalizing miscarriage and abortion.
The experience of becoming a physician has also changed dramatically. Since Title IX, women now comprise over 50% of medical school classes in the US rather than the 5% in my class. Women now have female role models as professors and physician mentors in residency training. With more female physicians the culture of medicine (and patient outcomes) has changed for the better.
In many parts of the US queer youth now have more support from teachers, parents less fearful for their future, people like us in the media who are not living tortured, miserable lives and don’t have to die or go back to men at the end of the story. There are more opportunities to meet others outside of the bar scene. We can now marry those we love.
Finally, I now have the freedom to write my story and have it published, so that my experience as a woman, as a lesbian, and as a physician can become part of a more complete history of our shared humanity.
Positive changes occurred on the shoulders of women who broke through societal barriers to achieve their dreams and live authentic lives. I hope my book will inspire others to do the same and keep up the fight for equal rights and freedoms for women and queer people today. Recent political events and the overturning of Roe v. Wade remind us that our gains are fragile. We could lose more of our rights and freedoms and return to earlier dark times if we let a culture of misogyny, hate and intolerance for differences prevail.
If you would like to learn more about please visit my website at PatriciaGrayhall.com.
I invite you to celebrate my book launch at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park on October 11, 2022, at 7 PM where I will read from and discuss my book in conversation with Donna Cameron. For more information: https://bookshop.org/books/making-the-rounds-defying-norms-in-love-and-medicine/9781647422738