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Patricia Grayhall on Defying Norms

19 Sep Posted by in Guest Writers | Comments
Patricia Grayhall on Defying Norms

For decades, I was passionate about the science and art of medicine and then the prevention of occupational and environmental disease due to chemical exposures. I love teaching medical students in small groups using case-based learning.

Since I’ve retired from medical practice, my passion has been writing. Learning the craft: how to create a scene, dialogue, sensory detail, and the body experience of emotion. I love the way writing allows me to control the narrative of my life, to see the arc of my many transitions, and to appreciate the constants such as resilience, friendship, and love in all its many forms.

One of my goals is to encourage queer people to write about their lived experience and tell their unique stories.

The hottest genre now is the romance novel. The people are all young, gorgeous, and physically fit, women hold positions of authority and power, and the sex is always rapturous. This is great as an escape and wishful thinking and I certainly enjoy a good romance novel from time to time as well.

However, what is lacking are memoirs by LGBTQ people truthfully telling of their personal lived experience, warts and all, especially during times of societal transition. Brene Brown once said that “One day you will tell your story of how you overcame what you went through and it will be someone else’s survival guide.” When we tell others about how we overcame our challenges, we can inspire them, especially because our stories are real, not imaginary.

When I was taking courses in memoir writing at Hugo House, I heard a story from a young queer woman about how she overcame living with domestic abuse in her same-sex partnership, a subject not much written about until Carmen Machado published In the Dream House.

To take my own book as an example, there are hardly any true stories or memoirs of ambitious women who go against current expectations of a woman to enter a male-dominated profession and come out as lesbian during times when society disapproved of both.

My 1970s struggle is as relevant today as ever as the gains we’ve made–in overcoming misogyny and homophobia, assuring women’s control over their own bodies, as well as queer acceptance and same sex marriage–can easily be reversed as we have seen recently with the radical right Supreme Court.

LGBTQ people, especially of my generation, need to tell their stories and let younger people feel on a visceral level what it was like before Roe, before Title IX, before more widespread acceptance of sex and gender variability and all the diverse ways human beings love one another. They need to know how we fought for those changes, and how we cannot take progress for granted and must keep pushing for it.

So, I would like to set up a workshop for LGBTQ aspiring writers in Seattle, to facilitate the writing of LBGTQ memoir so that our voices become part of a more complete history of our shared humanity.

Patricia Grayhall is a medical doctor and author of Making the Rounds; Defying Norms in Love and Medicine as well as articles in Queer Forty and The Gay and Lesbian Review. After forty years of medical practice, this is her debut, very personal, and frank memoir about coming out as a lesbian in the late 1960s and training to become a doctor when society disapproved of both for a woman. Patricia lives with the love of her life on an island in the Pacific Northwest.

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