In recognition of Pride month, Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) celebrates the LGBTQIA+ community and the important contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex and asexual people in medicine and beyond. As a university that values diversity, inclusivity and respect, we will do our part to uplift LGBTQIA+ voices and graduate healthcare professionals who will serve as allies.
Breaking free from lifelong labels and judgment is RUSM third-semester student Jess Bauer. Still contemplating pronouns, perhaps they/them though using she/her, Jess considers herself gender fluid, but is beginning to find comfort in her self-discovery.
“I’m a mixed bag,” she said, noting her Latina roots and Jewish heritage. “I have always been automatically categorized because of how I look and how I was raised. It was reinforced that I’m a woman and that’s it. People like labels but I never fit into a label. It’s stressful to be told who I am. I just want to be me. Gender fluid is the most open thing I can be because it’s not restricting. I can wear guy clothes or girl clothes and it’s not saying I’m a man or a woman.”
Growing up in New York, friends and family called her Jessica, though she preferred the nickname JB and has now found that ‘Jess’ is easygoing and neutral. She first realized her passion for medicine as a young teen in middle school when she noticed others needed her help. “I was going through a lot and told my feelings were invalid. Others were in a lot of pain too and weren’t getting help.” That discovery led Jess to become a lifeguard in high school, an emergency medical technician in college, and most recently, assisting in a local emergency room.
Jess joined a medical fraternity in college and learned about RUSM during a campus presentation. “It seemed like they really cared about me as a person in the interview.” This semester, she volunteered to serve as treasurer of the RUSM LGBTQ+ Alliance, whose members collaborate with medical health leaders to advocate for LGBTQ+ health equality. “I was hesitant to join last Fall but it’s really inclusive,” Jess said about the Alliance as well as the Mind-Body Medicine (MBM) organization. “MBM has been very accepting and supportive. It’s great to be able to share your mind and not have someone comment on it.”
One area Jess would like to explore through the LGBTQ+ Alliance is developing a training program for future obstetrician-gynecologists (OB-GYN) who ask about sexual history. “It’s always like I have to come out to a new person because they automatically assume I’m sleeping with men,” she said about her OB-GYN visits. “Then I have to explain how I remain safe. I am teaching a new person the basics every time I have an appointment. It would be nice if physicians already knew so I could be treated the same.”
When asked what Pride month meant to her, Jess said it’s a feeling — “like my heart is being hugged. It makes me feel loved and included.” Jess enjoys outdoor activities and finds art therapeutic — drawing what she sees and painting what she feels. “I draw and paint when I feel a certain way and I have that spark that I want to capture.”
For those who may be exploring their identity, Jess advises, “it’s not something to stress about. Do whatever you feel comfortable with. At the end of the day, people who care about you will stay and those who don’t will leave. Do what’s best for you.”
RUSM is establishing a search committee to hire a leader for its new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion office, which will support a well-rounded community incorporating race, culture, gender, sexual orientation and other social identities.