Celebrating Pride In Veterinary Medicine
Across the globe, the month of June marks LGBTQIA+ Pride Month. Pride month is celebrated annually to honour the Stonewall Liberation/Riots which became a catalyst for the gay rights movement across the world on June 28th, 1969. The riots are now celebrated annually to honour the brave individuals who protested after the police raided Stonewall Inn (a well-known gay club) in New York.
Pride also raises awareness of injustices, improves societal attitudes, and encourages inclusiveness of the LGBTQIA+ community. Whilst attitudes to the LGBTQIA+ community are slowly becoming less marginalized, acceptance of homosexuality in society still remains sharply divided.
In this article, I celebrate LGBTQIA+ veterinarians who are and/or have paved the way for inclusion in veterinary medicine.
Dr. Jeffery Collins (he/him) and Dr. Herman Westmoreland (he/him)
Back in 1977, eight years after the renowned Stonewall riots, several queer veterinarians gathered together at an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) convention and discussed ways to find other queer veterinarians. Bravely, Dr. Jeffery Collins and Dr. Herman Westmoreland took it upon themselves to place an ad in ‘The Advocate’ (a well-known gay magazine). The ad announced the first gathering of the Association for Gay Veterinarians (AG Vets) which was held at the 1978 AVMA convention in Las Vegas, making them pioneers in the pride movement.
Dr. Joseph Kinnarney (he/him)
In 2014, Dr. Kinnarney became the first openly gay president of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
With his presidency, Dr. Kinnarney made a huge impact on many within the veterinary profession by demonstrating inclusion.
“I don’t see myself as a pioneer or a role model or as having shattered any ceilings… Unless someone asks me, I don’t think about being gay. It’s just my life. It’s who I am.” Dr. Joseph.
Dr. Sandy Hazanow (she/her)
Dr. Sandy Hazanow is the former president of PrideVMC (an organization that aims “to create a better world for the LGBTQ+ veterinary community” and empower queer veterinarians to be their authentic selves). Whilst president, Dr. Hazanow advocated diversity and inclusion in the veterinary profession. Sandy continues to serve on the PrideVMC Executive Board, whilst also practicing veterinary medicine.
Dr. Robin Downing (she/her)
Dr. Robin Downing is a founder and past president of the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management, and the owner of Windsor Veterinary Clinic and The Downing Center for Animal Pain Management.
I caught up with her last year, in a Blunt Dissection episode, where she openly recalled her struggles of being both queer and a woman in the 1980s veterinary industry, and how her dog stopped her from taking her own life,
“I felt like these experiences tempered me the way that we temper steel because tempered steel which is subjected to extremes of heat and cold, is stronger than steel which isn’t tempered” – Dr. Downing.
Dr. Dane Whitaker (he/him)
Dr. Dane Whitaker is the current president of PrideVMC. In his role, Dr. Whitaker promotes inclusion and acceptance for those in the LGBTQIA+ community through his talks on LGBTQIA+ issues within the veterinary profession.
According to Dr. Whitaker, “I identify first as a transgender man, and second as a transgender veterinarian. I am proud of this identity and of the unique position I am in to create change in our profession.”
In his free time, Dr. Whitaker also volunteers at several nonprofit organizations that support people living with HIV/Aids.
Dr. Sarah (they/them)
Dr. Sarah, otherwise known as @gaydogtor, is a trans-non-binary veterinarian who is using social media for the better.
Utilizing their large TikTok and Instagram following, Dr. Sarah educates their followers on everything from mental health in the veterinary profession, heartworm prevention, ways to express pronouns, vaccines, and funny anecdotes! Making their platform both accessible to bother veterinarians and pet owners in a fun lighthearted way.
Check out their Tiktok here.