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With Pride, January 2017


Drew Payne

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And Some Things Change and Some Things Remain the Same

(January 2017)

I started to come out when I was nineteen, more than thirty years ago, and nearly overnight I lost almost all of my friends; I was ostracised just for being gay. It was a shocking experience that has left a lasting impact on me.

Today, I am married to my husband Martin and work as a community nurse in North London. Everyone at work knows my husband and no one has a problem with him, I have almost forgotten the last time I experienced homophobia at work, it was so long ago.

So much has changed since I was a teenager, changes I would never have believed back then. We have marriage equality now, we have protections against discrimination at work and when we use businesses or services under the Equality Act. Lesbian and gay characters can be found on so many different television programs. We have won so many protections and rights under the law this century that it makes our world almost unrecognisable from the one when I first came out.

So we can just relax and sit back, all the work has been done? Unfortunately, no. Homophobia is still alive, it is just not as blatant as it used to be, and the NHS is still not an open and welcoming place to everyone.

In 2016, a British Medical Association (BMA) study found that over 70 percent of LGBT NHS doctors experienced homophobia at work and three quarters of them had not reported it because they feared it would not be taken seriously or they feared reprisals (1). “I don’t think the NHS is an LGBT-friendly environment,” said Dominic, one of the doctors contributing to the study. This type of homophobia isn’t restricted to doctors only.

Last year also saw the unsightly scene of NHS England going to court to allow it not to fund PrEP, the HIV prevention medication (2). If used correctly PrEP is 86% effective (3), far higher than most vaccines. If PrEP prevented heart disease or diabetes we would be welcoming it and there would be no question the NHS would provide it. But PrEP prevents HIV and NHS England felt it could justify not funding it, tapping into the homophobia around HIV.  A Nursing Standard Twitter poll at the time found that 54% thought PrEP should be self-funded and not provided by the NHS (4).

There was a shocking spike in hate crimes following the Brexit referendum result this summer (6). Less publicised was the 147% rise in homophobic crimes in this period (7). Homophobia hasn’t gone away and the Brexit climate seems to be giving it oxygen again.

Brexit also raises another challenge for LGBT people. When Britain leaves the EU, all the EU laws that are also part of our laws will be reviewed and we might lose many of them. EU Article 10 offers protection from discrimination, including on grounds of sexuality (8). The Employment Framework Directive 2000/78 (9) protects people against discrimination at work on grounds of sexuality.

Many in the Conservative party have openly called for the repeal of the Human Rights Act and the Equality Act; Theresa May (the prime minister) has previously spoken of her dislike of the Human Rights Act (10). What laws, what protections will we lose as Britain separates from the EU? The government has given us no reassurances; they barely seem to know what they want from Brexit itself.

In America, Donald Trump’s government has taken a shocking turn. Almost all of his cabinet have previously gone on the record with their anti-LGBT views (11). Already many fear that all LGBT protections will be lost if Trump’s administration passes laws allowing discrimination against LGBT people in the name of “religious freedom” (12).

It is no longer true that what American does today we do tomorrow, but many people in Britain still look to America. People who have been campaigning for the repeal of marriage equality and LGBT protections will be looking very keenly at Trump’s administration, especially if they roll back LGBT equality.

Peter Tatchell once said that LGBT people are the litmus test of how a society respects human rights (13). If a society doesn’t value diversity how will it value anyone? But why should nurses worry about human rights? Because if we don’t, how can we nurse anyone with dignity?

(This was originally published as a comment piece in Nursing Standard magazine)

Drew Payne

 

Find out more about this short blog series here

 

 

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Edited by Drew Payne
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This is a brilliant series of blogs, it shows how LGBT issues have been - and are being- treated within the NHS. As @Drew Payne works with the NHS this is a unique viewpoint and highlights some aspects that have received little or no publicity. I was unaware that the NHS had made attempts to stop funding PrEP medication and see this as being shocking, PrEP is cheaper to administer than HIV treatment and therefore cheaper in the long run. I don't know if this was brought about by discrimination/prejudice or stupidity on the part of NHS management, either way it is horrifying news and begs the question, where will this type of policy stop? Will someone want to stop treating eating disorders? Will they advocate stopping abortion? This is something that affects everyone not just the LGBT community, what other treatments will be targeted next? This may be a stretch of the imagination but it brings to mind a quote from the second world war, by Reverend Martin Niemoller: "In Germany they came for the communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up."

It makes me think that between the American Republican Party and the British Conservative Party they are trying to re-invent many forms of discrimination under the guise of 'traditional family values', this is a personal opinion not a statement of fact. We all need to be aware of, and watch closely, any moves by organisations large and small that are an attempt to remove the rights and equal treatment of any section of society.

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chris191070

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Shocking that the NHS tried to stop funding PREP, thus preventing its use.

Edited by chris191070
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On 7/20/2022 at 7:07 PM, chris191070 said:

Another fascinating article.

Thank you.

When I originally wrote this article, I was trying to be positive about the future but events decided to stop me.

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On 7/21/2022 at 10:09 AM, Mancunian said:

This is a brilliant series of blogs, it shows how LGBT issues have been - and are being- treated within the NHS. As @Drew Payne works with the NHS this is a unique viewpoint and highlights some aspects that have received little or no publicity. I was unaware that the NHS had made attempts to stop funding PrEP medication and see this as being shocking, PrEP is cheaper to administer than HIV treatment and therefore cheaper in the long run. I don't know if this was brought about by discrimination/prejudice or stupidity on the part of NHS management, either way it is horrifying news and begs the question, where will this type of policy stop? Will someone want to stop treating eating disorders? Will they advocate stopping abortion? This is something that affects everyone not just the LGBT community, what other treatments will be targeted next? This may be a stretch of the imagination but it brings to mind a quote from the second world war, by Reverend Martin Niemoller: "In Germany they came for the communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up."

It makes me think that between the American Republican Party and the British Conservative Party they are trying to re-invent many forms of discrimination under the guise of 'traditional family values', this is a personal opinion not a statement of fact. We all need to be aware of, and watch closely, any moves by organisations large and small that are an attempt to remove the rights and equal treatment of any section of society.

@Mancunian, thank you for this.

I am so proud of being given the chance to originally write these comment pieces and have them published, at the time I felt I could, maybe, change some attitudes. I fear I didn't achieve that because so many of them repeat the same themes, how homophobia is still prevalent in the NHS, as it is in the rest of our society.

I decided to re-post them as blogs because a friend of mine complained to me that she had never been able to read them because she doesn't subscribe to Nursing Standard magazine, where they were published. I have been so surprised by the response they have generated as blogs.

I was so angry about NHS England going to court to get the right not to fund PrEP. It was breath-takingly prejudiced, even if they didn't think it was meant to be. In October 2016, I wrote an in-depth blog about why this was such a fundamentally wrong decision. You can read it here.

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