In 2021, LGBTQIA+ health inequalities continue to be marked, with 16 percent of LGBTQIA+ individuals having had negative experiences due to their sexual orientation when accessing health services, and 38 percent because of their gender identity. In fact, one in seven LGBTQIA+ individuals avoid seeking healthcare for fear of discrimination from staff.
These inequalities are amplified for the transgender community, with two in five having experienced a hate crime in the last year and two in five also reporting healthcare staff lacking understanding of trans health needs.
As a medical student and future doctor, I will strive to ensure that any patient who is a member of the LGBTQIA+ community feels secure and understood in my care, and feel strongly that the role of healthcare professionals should encompass advocating for marginalised groups.
It is imperative that all of us educate ourselves about the current state of trans and LGBTQIA+ rights in the UK, for the journey to greater equality has not ended just because we now have gay marriage.
In December 2020, the UK High Court ruled that gender affirming medical care must be approved by the courts, despite evidence that puberty blockers improve mental health outcomes. By treating trans young people differently to other young people when it comes to making decisions about their health, it sets a dangerous precedent for healthcare discrimination against minorities.
The UK’s Gender Recognition Act too is archaic, requiring a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, thereby pathologizing individuals’ identities. Furthermore, hate crimes are rising and the Home Office continues to reject asylum claims from LGBT nationals from countries where their identity is criminalised.
So, what can we do about this? Each of us can strive to be an active ally and educate those around us. In our day-to-day lives, it is paramount that we use inclusive language and advocate for others and do not make assumptions about sex, gender, or relationships.
We can be allies to transgender members of the community by introducing ourselves with pronouns, thereby fostering a more inclusive environment and respecting others’ pronouns. This itself is health promotion – research carried out by the Trevor project has shown that LGBTQIA+ youths whose pronouns are respected by all or most people in their lives attempt suicide at half the rate of those whose pronouns are not respected.
Being an ally is not just putting a rainbow flag emoji in our social media bios – which has been recognised as the symbol of pride for more than 40 years and does not belong to the NHS – but uplifting the most marginalised in the community, recognising that there is no LGBTQIA+ justice without racial justice and disability justice.
It is high time to show up for the LGBTQIA+ community and stand up for change in both our day-to- day actions, and in what we ask from policy and decision-makers. Pride is a protest and whilst there is time for celebration, we must demand greater equality – in our healthcare system and everywhere else.
Marina Politis is a medical student and Deputy Chair for Welfare of the BMA’s Medical Student’s
Committee. You can find her on twitter at @marinadpol.