By Julie Morgan, Senior Lecturer in Pharmacy Practice at the University of Bradford
You could insert any other combination of adjectives into the title question – e.g. Black, White, South Asian, transgender, old, young, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, atheist. We all have our own story to tell.
I’m a gay woman. I am also a pharmacist, a daughter, a mother, a sister, a lecturer, a nature lover, a perfectionist, a planner, a board game player, a Northerner and somebody who loves travelling. I’m also currently – temporarily, somewhat reluctantly – a home primary school teacher!
You’ll probably be one or more of these things too. Being a gay woman describes me, but it doesn’t define me.
My partner Laura and I live in West Yorkshire and have two young children. Laura is also a pharmacist; she works providing NHS community services and I work in academia. Our daughters are both Yorkshire lasses but I’m originally from Teesside and Laura is a Scot.
Thinking back, it took us both time to feel ready to “come out” at work. But when we did, it was much less of a big deal than we’d feared. Colleagues were universally accepting and understanding, regardless of their own gender, age, ethnicity, religion or sexuality. I am pleased to say that this has continued to be the case across the years, including each time I’ve come out to somebody new (coming out is something you have to do more than once!)
That is the way it should be, even though we know things aren’t always like this for everyone, even in 2021.
Laura and I have both had excellent support from our employers during our periods of maternity and adoption leave and believe we have been treated equally to our heterosexual colleagues in similar life positions – aside from the continued insistence in employment policies on using the term “paternity” leave.
We’ve found that this level of acceptance has not always been the case in the wider healthcare environment. There have been assumptions made about our lives, such as that my partner must be my “husband”, that all women of childbearing age need contraception and that a woman cannot have a pregnant partner. We also need to challenge the assumption that parents are always genetically related to their children. Those who have used donor conception, surrogacy and/or adoption to create their families may not be. They may only have limited information about their children’s medical family history.
Forms are another example where having limited options may not reflect your family situation. This could be easily prevented by avoiding assumptions – for example about relationship status, sexuality, gender, and that all children have a Mum and a Dad. Using more inclusive language, would help a great deal - “partner” instead of “husband” or “wife”, “parent or carer” instead of “mum” or “dad”. It is usually these assumptions that mean we have to “come out” in situations unnecessary.
I’ve worked at the University of Bradford for 20 years, and it’s a diverse, friendly, inclusive and tolerant place. Being in such a diverse and multicultural environment for so long, I’ve learnt a lot about difference, tolerance and understanding, as well as about Bradford curries and Yorkshire slang, and honestly cannot recall a time in my pharmacy career where I have felt that my sexuality was a barrier or that I have been treated differently because of it.
I would ask my fellow healthcare professionals to be more supportive and inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community – to avoid making assumptions and use inclusive language to create a greater sense of belonging for all.
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