We have to tell our family and our friends that we are not like them. This often feels like a high-risk moment. It’s a moment where your words hang suspended for a second. Once you have said them, you cannot take them back, and your life could easily change forever. The thing that those who don’t have to come out may not understand, however, is that we don’t have to do it just once. It’s a continuous part of our lives. Again and again, we must come out at some point to new friends, new housemates, new colleagues, healthcare professionals… and every time that risk exists. It does not always come with a big announcement – it can be as simple as joining in the break room chat and mentioning your partner’s name. But it has to happen at some point.
I have personally been on the receiving end of someone outing me with malicious intent, and although their plan came to nothing, it certainly made me reconsider how easily I shared that part of myself with colleagues. I’ve also worked in places where the fact that I am a lesbian has been part of the coffee room gossip. Both of these scenarios have been whilst working in healthcare settings, and I’m sure I’m not the only LGBT+ NHS worker who can say they have had these things, or worse, happen.
But we live in changing times, and it is incredibly comforting to now see NHS boards going out of their way to celebrate Pride month. In the hospital I work at there have been multiple celebratory events, and a Pride flag is currently flying from the top of the building.
One of the events has been a drive for people to sign up for an NHS Scotland Pride badge, which features the most up to date version of the Pride flag – the Progress Pride flag. In order to get the badge, you must sign a pledge stating that you will be a safe person for LGBT+ patients and colleagues alike.
This campaign has been running for a little while and it always brings me a sense of comfort to see a colleague sporting the badge. It’s a small move we can make to help our LGBT+ patients and colleagues feel safe. My hope is that one day these extra measures won’t be necessary, however, we’re not there yet. For now, I will wear my badge, and I will be open and proud about who I am. My hope is that by doing so I can show my LGBT+ colleagues who may not feel safe to be themselves at work that they are not alone, and my LGBT+ patients that I am someone that they can trust. I would urge my fellow healthcare professionals to do the same.
- Dr Molly Usborne is a junior doctor and member of BMA Scotland’s Junior Doctor Committee