A Personal Reflection: How do you find the words when it matters this much?

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brent braveman's blog

Thoughts about occupational therapy, interdisciplinary management and living live to its fullest!

A Personal Reflection: How do you find the words when it matters this much?

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This is a very personal blog post today, but I hope it has a positive impact and brings a sense of support to some of our AOTA members and other members of the OTConnections community.

There has been a 3 year discussion thread on social justice and whether social justice belongs in our Code of Ethics. The rights of any single group of persons need not be discussed in order to debate the issue, but occasionally the topic of marriage equality as a human right is raised, as it has the last 3 days. I encourage participants to leave the topic alone, but I cannot ignore posts in a professional occupational therapy forum that advocate that human and legal rights should be denied to a portion of our membership and our citizens so I respond in the discussion.

Today it hit me in a particular way, so here goes…….

For once in my life I don’t have the words. I don’t have the words and it literally brought me to tears this morning. For almost 30 years I have worked in the profession of occupational therapy and at work have never once felt that I was treated differently just because of who I was. Yet here, on OTConnections in our public discourse, professionals have indicated that I am different and different in a way that makes me not worthy of the same rights and legal protections they have. I don’t have the words to make them understand and it brought me to tears.

In my personal life I get “it” for the first time. For the first time I understand why it is that people commit themselves to another for the rest of their life. I don’t have the words to explain that feeling, but I know many of you will understand, or want to.

Yet, imagine this…….

Imagine that person you have in your life now, or the person you may meet someday that you will want to commit to for the rest of your life and imagine that:

  • You may not have the right to adopt children in some states. It may even be very difficult to become a foster parent. You can't be the same type of family as everyone else without extraordinary financial and emotional cost.
  • If you have children and travel to another state you may have to worry about proving that you have the same rights as any parent to make critical decisions if they were to get hurt.
  • Because society does not recognize your right to marriage, your children may face discrimination, taunts, even violence.
  • You don’t have the right to put “that person” on your health care coverage and you need to work harder, plan more, make different decisions about today and tomorrow because you can’t.
  • If one of you gets sick you may not have the right to visit the other in the hospital because you aren’t married. You may not be able to make the type of medical decisions that married people make for their spouses without going to extraordinary legal lengths. You are aware that there have been cases when people have even been denied the right to see their dying partner or bury their partner by their partners’ family, and worse.
  • You don’t get the same financial benefits under our tax system and it is harder to plan for your future and old age. Your partner will not qualify for the same pension benefits after you die as the spouses of people you work beside every day.
  • You don’t qualify for the same type of leave if your partner becomes ill and you need to take time off to care for them.
  • You feel guilty that you can’t plan and take care of them the way your brothers and sister-in-laws plan to take care of each other. Some places you can’t even enjoy simple financial benefits like getting a family discount at a gym or the movies.
  • Because society does not formally recognize that your lifelong commitment is as meaningful as those who are legally married you also fear for your safety sometimes. You avoid doing things as simple as holding hands on the street because you are aware that sometimes, even within the past few weeks, other couples like you have been attacked, verbally and physically. You know that you could literally be hit over the head with a baseball bat for holding hands; for being in love.

The list of ways you are treated differently; the ways you are treated as “less than,” go on and on and on and on but it is hard to explain to some people who don’t have to give any of these things an ounce of emotional energy or thought JUST how much it hurts when they brush this aside.

I don’t have the words to make them recognize how ultimately the denial of the human right to marriage DOES affect your performance everyday as a worker, a home manager, a community member. It affects your performance as a volunteer, a family member and a “partner” which is the word you use because husband can’t be accurate yet and feels too hollow.

For the first time in my life, I get what it means to want to commit to someone for the rest of my life and colleagues I respect professionally are telling me that is a personal agenda, that it is just a Texas issue, that it has nothing to with my profession, nothing to do with occupational therapy. I don’t have the words to help them understand that it impacts almost every occupation I perform, and that brought me to tears.

It only lasted a moment though, just as I parked the car and now I am more ready than ever to continue working to make it all right; to make the world and our profession a better place.


  • I am with you 100% Brent and appreciate you sharing your emotions as well as your thoughts about this.

  • Brent

    I am with you.  I believe that real occupational therapy means being inclusive, and that our community must values all the ways that humans are.  I support you, your right to marriage and you right to be who you are.  Barb

  • Thank you for your eloquent and powerful words and your willingness to share them.

  • I don't come on to OT Connections much and I am so glad I did and happened along to your blog, Brent. I am sure it needed to be said, and shared, and I am glad that you were so eloquently able to convey it.

  • I agree, Brent. I'm with you too -- for you personally, but also for those who receive OT from our community. They deserve to have their roles as a significant other recognized & respected by OT and by the state.

    But thank you for sharing your very personal feelings.