Written by Dee Nessing
As we delve into LGBTQ+ History Month 2024 and reflect on the challenges and triumphs faced by LGBTQIA+ individuals in the medical field, we recognise that discussions surrounding gender identity and healthcare access may evoke personal emotions and experiences for some readers. We want to extend our support to anyone who may be navigating their own journey of gender identity or facing barriers to accessing affirming healthcare. Your feelings are valid, and you are not alone. If you find yourself in need of support or resources, please know that there are organisations and professionals available to assist you. We have included a few at the bottom of this blog. Remember to prioritise your well-being as you engage with this content, and know that you are valued and respected.
As we enter February, it’s time to once again shine a spotlight on LGBTQ+ History Month.
LGBTQ+ History month has always been an event celebrating the contributions of queer people to our society, whilst working to highlight the challenges we continue to face. This year sees the unveiling of a new theme; Medicine - #UnderTheScope, reflecting on the impacts made by LGBTQ+ people both past and present.
Since the dawn of modern medicine, queer scientists and doctors have made incredible
breakthroughs and technological advancements, as well as challenged the status quo and walls built to exclude them from the medical industry.
Figures from as Sophia Jex-Blake, who fought for women’s rights to study medicine, to Michael Dillon, the first trans man known to undergo gender confirmation surgery (and later, as a surgeon, helped other trans people to likewise receive gender confirmation surgery), serve as inspiring, historic icons who encourage us to push past the barriers presented to us.
Unfortunately, there are still hurdles faced by queer doctors and patients today.
With the ban on conversion therapy in the UK currently facing uncertainty amid concerns about the bill’s potential cancellation, and challenges in accessing gender-affirming healthcare becoming more pronounced, there appears to be limited progress in enhancing a system intended to safeguard the lives of LGBTQ+ individuals.
BMA’s 2022 survey of 2,500 queer medical students and doctors also found high levels of individuals having experienced prejudice and hostility for their identities, most commonly from senior doctors and nurses, with some even stating their considerations at leaving the medical field altogether.
Despite everything, there is still hope in 2024. Organisations such as GLADD (Gay & Lesbian Association of Doctors & Dentists), and the BMA (British Medical Association) have been fighting for the rights of both their LGBTQ+ staff and all queer people seeking fair and safe medical treatment within our health service.
GLADD and the BMA have been actively addressing concerns regarding government policies, advocating for positive changes, and engaging in educational initiatives for medical students to enhance the well-being of queer individuals within the medical industry.
Although there is clearly work that needs to be done to improve inclusivity within our healthcare system, BMA’s survey also found that an overwhelming majority of queer people in the medical industry believe that inclusivity has improved within the medical profession over the past five years, and that their colleges and peers were supportive of LGBTQ+ people, shedding a glimmer of hope for the years to come.
Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and compassion within the medical field. And as we move towards the future, we must do all we can to help support those fighting for our rights.
If you're struggling and in need of support, here are a few local and national organisations that can help. You are not alone:
Outreach Youth is a youth work charity that supports young people aged 25 and under.
Stonewall is a charity that provides information, support and guidance on LGBTQ+ inclusion.
The Source provides information and advice for young people in Suffolk to include many different topics.
GenderedIntelligence Expanding understandings of gender to improve trans lives.
To learn more on this year’s LGBT+ History Month, you can visit these links here;
To learn more about the work GLADD and BMA are doing to support LGBTQ+ rights within the medical field you can visit their websites here;