This will be the 21st year that Kaiser Permanente employees and physicians have taken part in the San Francisco Pride Parade.
When the San Francisco Pride Parade kicks off on Sunday, June 28, 750 employees, physicians, friends, and family members are expected to be part of the Kaiser Permanente contingent. Each person has his or her own reasons for marching. Two Kaiser Permanente employees and a physician recently shared their stories.
Ed Chitty, RN, HIV Patient Care Coordinator, Kaiser Permanente San Francisco
When I first started working for Kaiser Permanente in 2002, there were not a lot of health care organizations marching. Kaiser had just 150 people in the parade — mostly people working in the HIV module and people from San Francisco. We were small in number, but proud of who we were, who we worked for, and what we were doing for the community.
I walk with my partner, Jeremy McClain. We’ve been domestic partners since 1997 and married since 2008. Over the years, I’ve encouraged our doctors, nurses, medical assistants, therapists, and members of our HIV Advisory Board to march with us. For a long time there was a stereotype that if you marched, you were either gay, lesbian, or transgender — but that’s changed.
Now on parade day, when I see the Kaiser balloons, the float, people cheering, and my colleagues marching — I get goose bumps. It makes me proud to be part of an organization that has been so supportive of this important event.
Tom Cieszynski, Senior Manager, Medicare Strategy Analytics, Program Offices
My dad did not come out until I was in college. I can only imagine the toll it took on him to keep a secret for 50 years. Now he’s out in the open and married to a wonderful man.
We went to the Pride Parade together three years ago, and it was an amazing experience. That was his first, and he was so happy. It meant a lot to him to be marching with me and to see that I work for a company where our CEO and hundreds and hundreds of employees and families come to the parade.
This year, my wife and three boys will come with me because I want to share it with them. There’s such a high level of happiness there. It’s a wonderful event.
Mihal Emberton, MD, MPH, Adult and Family Medicine, Kaiser Permanente San Francisco
My wife, Raelyn Ruppel, was the first woman I had ever dated, and within weeks I knew this was the person I needed to spend the rest of my life with. We became domestic partners and had a big wedding in 2007. We got our marriage license in 2008, on the first day you could legally marry a same-sex partner in California. It was also the day Raelyn drove our belongings across the country to Ohio, where I was to start my residency.
We suffered a lot of discrimination in Ohio. The residency program said they would provide health care coverage for Raelyn, but it was a six-week battle to get her covered. She wouldn’t hold my hand when we were in public because she was afraid it might spark violence. The experience turned me into an LGBT advocate.
When I started with Kaiser Permanente four years ago, my wife had health coverage from day one. When we went through prenatal care and had our baby, we were treated as a family, and that was really important to us.
We watched the parade last year, and we’ve been asked to be on the Kaiser Permanente float this year. When we join the KP contingent on Sunday, I’ll be thinking that it’s wonderful to be a part of an organization that’s so outwardly supportive of my family, and about how far we’ve come as a society.