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  1. Something New Every Year (July 2019) The other Saturday, I did something I’d never done before. At my age, it isn’t often I get to do something as new as this, but the other Saturday I marched in the London Pride March openly as a nurse. I’ve marched in the Pride March many times before, with friends, with LGBT organisations, but never before openly as a nurse. This year, a group of staff in my Trust’s LGBT Network organised to take part in the London Pride March and we had the blessing of our Trust. On Pride Saturday, all of us in bright yellow tee-shirts (with our Trust’s name and logo emblazoned across them) and all wearing our security bracelets, we took our place in the march. We were LGBT staff and our straight allies gathered around our placard that announced who we were, Whittington Health Staff Inclusion Network. Marching in Pride openly as NHS staff was one thing, but the reaction we received from the crowds along the route was amazing. People smiled and waved at us, they clapped and cheered us, people were so happy to see us. All we were doing was marching. The NHS is still not an inclusion or safe place for many LGBT patients. A recent Stonewall report found one in four LGBT people have witnessed homophobia from NHS staff and one in seven of them have avoided treatment because of fear of discrimination from NHS staff (1). Yet how much has the NHS done to reverse this situation? Very little. This isn’t the first report by Stonewall, there have been many over the years, all reading the same, and yet the NHS does so little to change this. In the four years between 2014 and 2018, LGBT hate crime rose by 144% (2) and yet the NHS is still not a safe place for LGBT patients. What my colleagues and I did at Pride was not a great step forward and for most of us did not require a large amount of effort, yet the reaction of the crowd was almost breath-taking. Those people cheered us on because they were happy and grateful for us being there, and our presence told them that our Trust was working towards providing care in a safe place. Taking part in London Pride fired all of us up, our WhatsApp group has gone crazy, and we are already making plans for next year’s Pride and getting off the ground an LGBT Staff Network. We need to work hard at making our Trust an inclusive organisation, a safe place for all, but we are starting. We talk a lot about person-centred care but are we just paying lip service to it when so many LGBT people do not feel able to be open with us about themselves for fear of discrimination? Every long journey starts with a single step, but who would have thought that step would be marching at Pride? So why aren’t more NHS Trusts taking part in the different Pride celebrations around the country? Our presence would say so much to the LGBT people there. (This was originally published as a comment piece in Nursing Standard magazine) Drew Payne Find out more about this short blog series here
  2. Do Unhealthy Attitudes Ever Change? (August 2015) During my first year of nurse training (twenty-five years ago) I ran into a wall of homophobia. I was told by some of my vocal colleagues that I only wanted to be a nurse to see naked men, that all gay men deserved AIDS, that I was a danger to children, and that God could heal me and make me “normal”. I endured it because it was 1990 and homophobia was what I expected as a gay man. It's now 2015 and our society has changed so much since my student nurse days. We are so much more open, we have so many legal protections now against homophobia; last year my partner and I got married. I thought we had come so far and then I was brought down to earth with a crash. This month, Stonewall (the LGTB campaigning organisation) published Unhealthy Attitudes (1), their report on the treatment of LGBT health and social care staff, and it was a shocking read. It felt as if I was right back there twenty-five years ago, like nothing had changed. The report, written following a YouGov survey of health and social care staff, found that one in four people had heard a colleague make negative or homophobic statements about LGBT people and one in five had heard negative statements about trans people. A quarter of them had been the victims of homophobic bullying from patients and service users. 10% had heard colleagues make claims that LGBT people can be “cured”. These statistics may sound cold and not greatly impressive but the report also carries the realities behind them, it is full of personal quotes. The nurse who was told by another nurse that he should be hung for being gay. The nurse whose manager told her that homophobic comments were “only banter”. The nurse who was ostracised by his whole staff team, at work and socially, when it came out he's gay. And many comments where trans people were called “it” or “she-male”. Then there were the comments that were themselves homophobic. A healthcare assistant (HCA) who said people are not born LGBT but “choose” this “lifestyle”. A doctor referring to anyone he doesn't consider “normal” as “deviants” whose needs shouldn't be “forced” on the majority. Yet this report has created little outrage or even comment from our nursing leaders or the wider community. If this report was highlighting racism or sexism surely there would have been an outcry about it, articles in our newspapers or items on the television news. Yet this report barely caused a ripple. Homophobia still seems to be the prejudice that we most easily accept, it's just “banter”, it's just someone's personal belief or personal views, and any challenge to it is seen as “political correctness gone too far”. But it's none of these; it’s prejudice and it can damage or even destroy people's lives. Why, as nurses, are we tolerating this? There have been several reports previously from Stonewall highlighting the poor treatment experienced by LGBT people from the NHS and how reluctant they are to be out to healthcare workers. The results of Unhealthy Attitudes only reinforce these earlier findings. How can we offer patients open and non-judgmental care when we can't offer non-judgmental support to our own colleagues? We have spoken a lot about “person-centred care”, but it seems that if the person is LBGT then a large part of their personality and needs are ignored, at best. LGBT people have their own healthcare needs, more than just using the gender-natural term “partner”, but the evidence is that they are still being ignored. How have we got to this point? Unhealthy Attitudes has a clear recommendation, staff training in LGBT issues. It found that three in four people haven’t received any training in the needs of LGBT people and only one in four have been provided with any equality and diversity training. Yet the NHS has a legal responsibility to eliminate discrimination. In the last three years my own equality and diversity training has consisted of one fifteen-minute, online presentation that covered the needs of disabled people, black and ethnic minorities people and LGBT people, but in no depth at all for any of them. How can we say we focus on person-centred care when LGBT staff’s safety is so bluntly ignored by the NHS? (This was originally published as a comment piece in Nursing Standard magazine) Drew Payne Find out more about this short blog series here
  3. The next six blogs form a short series, which I have called “With Pride” because they were all originally comments pieces, on LGBT rights and healthcare, published in the Nursing Standard magazine, and I am proud of having written them. For nearly fifteen years, on and off, I have written comment pieces for Nursing Standard and a lot of them were on LGBT healthcare. These pieces chart changes in attitudes, but they also had recurring themes and one was responding to a very disturbing piece of research, reading which just left me frustrated and angry, I felt nothing had changed. The first and last pieces here almost become companion pieces though they were written eleven years apart. The first one asks a question and the last answers it. I am posting here the original versions, with their original titles and all the links to their source material; they were edited for publication but mostly this involved reducing their word count. The last one was written in 2019, we had every intension of following that one up the next year, but history had other ideas. There were no London Pride marches in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID pandemic. This year was the first one since then and fate has intervened again for me. I want to say “happy reading”, but some of these pieces are on uncomfortable subjects. I am very grateful to the Nursing Standard for giving me the opportunity to write these pieces and to be able to shout above the crowd. Find out more about London Pride here. Drew Links to the other With Pride blogs: With Pride July 2008 With Pride January 2015 With Pride August 2015 With Pride January 2017 With Pride July 2019
  4. I was sent this link by a friend (to a blog entry) and it gave me a few minutes' amusement, so maybe you'll find something to it as well. http://thescribblebug.com/2015/07/27/19-conversations-writers-can-only-have-with-other-writers/ In the context of the article, I liked #11.
  5. A lot has been said about how sex sells. There’s no doubt about that; sex and sexuality are hugely important to many marketing and advertising campaigns, and the fact that companies continue to experience commercial success after using sex as a marketing tool proves how well sex sells. But, I’m not a marketer, or an advertising executive. I’m just a guy who writes young adult novels. Which leads me to wonder how much sex is too much sex for a novel, or even a series of novels. We’re all taught to hide sex in our writing, that if we really must have our characters be put in sexual situations then they must be off-screen, to be imagined by the reader instead of explained and detailed. All of this is done in fear of disturbing potential readers, or especially potential publishers. This moral paranoia extends to television and films, though not to the same degree. You see people on tv or the movies pre and post-coitus. Sometimes, you even see the sexual act in some clinical fashion. Maybe we’re going about this the wrong way, as authors. I try to be a realist in my writing. I write about young adults who are on journeys of self-discovery, particularly relating to sexual orientation. They fall in love, and they have all the same urges that we had when we were young adults. We had sex. We didn’t let sex consume our lives; it was present, to be sure, but it didn’t dominate our existences. It was one thing among many other things that we did. I like to think that my writing is the same. Yes, there’s sex in my novels. Boys kiss boys. Sometimes they stop, sometimes they don’t. They’re learning how to control themselves and figuring out how to satisfy those urges without causing problems in the rest of their lives. But, they have other things going on in their lives that are much more important. I think that part of the equation is incredibly important, that sex not become the defining quality of the novel or the character. Frankly, the people who read my novels, and who read your novels, and who read anyone else’s novels? They all have sex.We’re deluding ourselves as an industry if we think our readers don’t know what’s going on when we fade the scene to black. Let’s be realistic with our writing. Write scenes the way that feels natural, not the way you think it needs to be censored in order to survive a publisher’s wrath. In an industry filled with things that defy reality, it will make your writing feel that much more connected to the lives of your readers. Cross-posted from https://authorhunterthomson.wordpress.com (Check out my blog/twitter/facebook page in my profile!)
  6. Do you ever get the feeling like you're not good enough? Yeah, that's me. This guy. The one with more awards on his shelf than he knows what to do with, who's helped shaped and pass legislation in the face of bitter and personal opposition and who's repeatedly distinguished himself academically and politically. I know what I've done with my life so far, and right now all I can muster is a "so what?" I'm still dangerously underemployed. I'm 26 and live with my parents. I have no immediate prospects for work in either my political field or my educational field (though there are a few people pulling strings for me in the teaching world), and I haven't seen anything that leads me to believe I'll be working full time in the near future. Frankly, this isn't where I thought I'd be, and it's playing hell with my plans that I made for myself. The plan was to be teaching or a full-time worker by now, building up my contacts in the community and preparing for a run at municipal politics next year. I'm not ready. No one thinks I'm a serious candidate in spite of how well I acquitted myself before. I'm seen as a gadfly, and by all rights people are correct. I have nothing in my life that signals I'm a serious being. I'm supposed to be one of the people who helps shape my little corner of the world, maybe make things a bit better than they were. How am I supposed to accomplish anything like combating homelessness when I can't even land a job? I hate this.
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