‘We saw you, all of you’: Why college’s Mardi Gras role mattered

George Forgan-Smith

27/02/2023 5:03:14 PM

Involvement in World Pride took a huge amount of work – and was worth every bit of it, writes Melbourne GP Dr George Forgan-Smith.

World Pride
Scenes from the weekend's World Pride celebration in Sydney, including representatives of the RACGP.

When Disney released the movie Encanto, the marketing team was ready with a full range of toys based on Isabella, the tall, beautiful, ‘perfect’ character.

You can imagine their surprise when poor Isabella was left on the shelf. Children did not reach for her; they wanted toys based on Luisa, Isabella’s bigger, stronger sister.
Suddenly Instagram was filled with beautiful young girls with curly hair and glasses thrilled to see themselves on the screen: ‘Look Mum, I’m Mirabel!’.
Last Saturday I joined 60 other doctors to celebrate LGBTIQ+ pride by marching the world’s largest celebration of queer culture: World Pride.
Huge kudos to the group Pride In Medicine who tackled the logistic nightmare of organising floats, doctors, costumes, choreography and more.
To their credit, the liaison team was able to connect and bring on board all of the medical colleges in Australia bar two. This was a huge amount of work, but was it worth it? Absolutely. Let me tell you why.
On Saturday morning, we were hosted for breakfast by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. For many doctors, this was the first time they had met their interstate colleagues. Friends from medical school were reunited, it was a chance to network and meet peers from across Australia and New Zealand.  Finally we saw each other. We met our ‘Familia Madrigal’.
To be honest, I was genuinely touched the event was hosted by the surgeons. I had often felt alone and isolated in my surgical terms.
To see this college move forward offering support, not just money but ‘seeing’ their LGBTIQ+ members as important, is heartening. 
I was thrilled to have the support of the RACGP. Marching proudly with us was RACGP CEO Paul Wappett. His enthusiasm was front line with his represented doctors. My college saw me, all of me.
Together we laughed, we did emergency operations on costumes, we danced and cheered. 
The moment we entered Oxford Street there was a huge roar. To see the people smiling, waving and cheering us on lifted us higher, giving us the energy to dance the full 4km parade with smiles from start to finish. 
I believe in my heart of hearts that one person saw ‘us’ and decided, ‘yes, I can be a doctor’.
Perhaps a struggling student deciding to finish their degree, or a person who’s been too afraid to see a doctor will seek out an LGBTIQ doctor because they now know we are here, and we care.
Of course, there will be detractors. I noticed one commenter on an article about the event expressed their disappointment about ‘political involvement’ and not giving ‘to their members’.
To you my friend, may I remind you I am a member. We are all members. We stand shoulder to shoulder, and for just one night, we were seen – and we looked amazing!
For me the benefits have been immense. I have been able to meet colleagues who can help be trained in skills that benefit my community. Were it not for this event we may not have met. 
My patients saw ‘me’. Every 50 or so meters, I was so thrilled to see a patient smiling, waving and some, screaming ‘Dr George, Dr George’. Lots of hugs.
We will head home knowing we are cared for, loved and represented; we were seen.
Today I returned to work. I’m not going to lie: my 50-year-old bones got a workout, but the joy has lifted me. I wish my 60 other colleagues the best for today and, indeed the rest of their year. 
Today we are a family, and this weekend was our celebration.
We are a special family, part of a special community. For every strong Luisa ophthalmologist or beautiful Mirabel surgeon, we are a family, and like Familia Madrigal, we serve our community with love, passion and, dare I say it, beautiful costumes and amazing dancing. We saw you, all of you. 
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LGBTQIA+ Mardi Gras Pride

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Dr D McKenzie   28/02/2023 10:45:51 AM

What was the cost to RACGP members ? Did we hire the float or does it reside at HQ RACGP ? Will Gay Pride parade participation attract CPD points ?

Dr Suzette Julie Finch   28/02/2023 11:35:28 AM

Go George! ;)

Dr David William Baker   1/03/2023 2:31:10 PM

I'm very "proud" to be part of an organisation and a profession that is inclusive, I'd be very happy to find out some of membership fees went to support this great initiative.

Dr Jacqueline Yeoh   1/03/2023 5:59:42 PM

I too am proud to be a member of a profession that values and celebrates diversity and love in all its glorious forms. Thank you George Forgan for this beautiful and inspirational narrative of a joyful night that brought so many folk together - you are both seen AND heard!!

Dr George Edwin Forgan-Smith   1/03/2023 8:11:58 PM

Interesing questions Dr McKenzie. The float was funded by multiple colleges so it was not an RACGP float, it was the "Pride in Medicine" float which RACGP supported. The truck and all equipment was hired.
Interestingly I spent 6 hours in the marshalling area before the parade getting to know many other amazing doctors. There was *lots* of medical issues covered across gyne, surgery, psychiatry, public health and general practice. Topics including cancers, treatments, ways we can increase public awareness of health risks for various disease states. I was even able to start the first steps to be trained in detecting early cancers in men that are rarely spoken of.
For the price *I* paid for my flights and hotel, it was an excellent investment in my future medical training benefiting both my community and me. Def a win-win for this man. Could I claim CPD? Not sure yet but more than happy to document the topics covered for review :)