LGBTQI+ visibility and removing barriers

By Lauren Keatley-Hayes, Senior Clinical Pharmacist and Vice President PDA LGBT network

I work in a GP practice and my specialist areas of work are mental health and women’s health. I’m currently working with various groups and organisations advocating for the removal of barriers to healthcare for trans and non-binary individuals.

Barriers to care

There are so many barriers to healthcare for trans and non-binary people. Often this comes down to a lack of access to care that’s needed because providers just don’t know enough about the topic and can lack confidence in treating this community. Oher barriers include discrimination, or fear of it, from healthcare professionals and a lack of cultural competence by providers.

Allyship is essential

Transgender patients often have to be an advocate for themselves, as well as a patient, which is a tough place to be. They need the healthcare professional they see to be an ally, so they are confident to disclose everything they need to in a consultation. Allies support marginalised people by taking the time to understand their struggle.

So here’s my top three tips for being an ally for transgender and non-binary people:

  1. Never assume – if you don’t know, ask. Just be open with your patient and say “I’m not sure about something, is it OK if I ask you a question?

  2. Share your pronouns and ask them what ones they prefer to use – and make sure you use them when writing or speaking about them

  3. If you get something wrong, just correct yourself and move on, you don’t need to make a big issue out of it – the person will understand you have positive intent.

Of course, make use of consultation rooms or private spaces when asking these questions so the patient isn’t overheard and ends up 'outing' themselves in front of others.

My current experience of working in GP practices in the primary care network is of very open and honest work cultures where you can be your authentic self. Allyship is taken as the norm to help each other, and our patients, get the best possible experience.

Challenging language

I realise such positivity isn’t the case for everyone. In a previous role, I heard a healthcare professional refer to a transgender patient as “him, her, it – whatever”. I took the opportunity to explain why the language used was unacceptable. I do appreciate it can be stressful to inform someone that what they have said is wrong and RPS has some good advice on how to challenge microaggressions and insults in its guide on the subject.

The right environment

I’m out about being LGBTQI+ which I hope makes it easier for colleagues and patients to be out too. If you think you don’t know any gay, bisexual or trans people think again! It really saps your energy and concentration when you have to pretend to be someone else at work, so the environment you create needs to be inclusive and open to encourage people to be themselves. Recognising each other as fully human in the workplace is a vital part of being a good colleague and providing the best care for our patients.

We want to encourage voices that express the diversity of lived experiences in the profession as part of our inclusion and diversity work. If you’d like to share your story, contact [email protected] or get involved through our ABCD group.


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