LGBT+ Pharmacists’ Network Newsletter – December 2020

Welcome to the first PDA LGBT+ Pharmacists' Network newsletter! The network provides a structure through which members can work together to proactively address and campaign around sexual orientation discrimination and its causes and consequences.

Thu 17th December 2020 The PDA

The network was launched by the PDA in April 2020 as part of their work to meet the demands of their growing membership and advance their work on equality.

The PDA already helped individuals to stand up to any form of discrimination through casework support, which is already a core part of what the PDA does to help pharmacists at work. However, the PDA would typically only get asked to be involved after the discrimination had already occurred.

In this issue:

  • Courageous conversation on trans and non-binary inclusion
  • LGBTQ+ inequalities in health
  • Coalition against conversion therapy calls for ban covering both sexual orientation AND gender identity schemes
  • Pink News Futures: LGBT+ in healthcare
  • Heteronormativity and cisnormativity in healthcare
  • Trans Awareness Week and ​​​​​​​Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR)
  • World AIDS Day
  • PDA LGBT+ Pharmacists’ Network pronoun badges

Courageous conversation on trans and non-binary inclusion

By Soh Xi Ken (he/him), third year pharmacy student and PDA LGBT+ Pharmacists’ Network Member
On 3 October 2020, 16point6 held a talk within the context of Medical Schools: Courageous Conversation on Trans and Non-Binary Inclusion. Although it was not directly linked to pharmacy schools, I felt like it was an important issue within the healthcare profession, including their education.

Medical students were invited to discuss what they thought medical schools could do better in terms of trans and non-binary inclusion in the current curriculum.

Some medical schools do provide introductory lectures, but educators need to make the conscious decision to include trans and non-binary in their teaching. There is an unfair expectation for trans and non-binary people to educate everyone else as it is unrealistic to have a catchment of experts of all trans and non-binary people on every healthcare subject at hand. However, trans and non-binary involvement in creating an inclusive curriculum is still important for accuracy and appropriateness.

Challenging transphobia is also a major issue, not only in the wider community but in professional, healthcare environments. Experiences with misgendering by fellow healthcare professionals and patients alike were shared, and the importance of normalising introducing pronouns was reiterated. A point was raised about how using evidence can help to change minds within the medical community, such as McLemore (2018) showing that misgendering individuals caused an increase in psychological stress. Linking misgendering to poorer patient outcomes may help to educate and change attitudes of healthcare professionals towards using the correct pronouns.

After the discussion, I will be raising this issue with my School of Pharmacy and talking to my peers about it, which I encourage everyone else to do. Pharmacists will encounter many trans and non-binary people in their career and presumably, most are uneducated on how best to communicate with these patients – or worse, do not understand their more complex health needs (Wylie 2016). Pharmacy schools and students alike need to make a conscious effort to educate future pharmacists and their peers and recognise why it is important to do so.

Learn more

LGBTQ+ inequalities in health

By Scott Rutherford (he/him), third-year pharmacy student and PDA LGBT+ Pharmacists’ Network Member
At the beginning of 2020, the Marmot Review was revisited and it came to the conclusion that life expectancy in the UK has stopped improving over the past decade, and it had actually fallen amongst the poorest decile of women.

Since then, COVID-19 has highlighted the health inequalities experienced by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities that have long been victims of structural racism. Not to mention the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on disabled people. However, the healthcare disparities that affect the LGBTQ+ community are seldom documented in the media.

During lockdown, the already disproportionately high rates of depression amongst LGBTQ+ young people rose; almost 70% of these young people experienced depressive symptoms and one-in-six of them faced discrimination based on their sexuality or gender identity (learn more).

Inequity in health is not new for queer people. Decades of criminalisation and medicalisation unfairly disadvantaged many older generations of LGBTQ+ people and the response to the AIDS pandemic which emerged in the 1980s was limited by homophobia.

In 2018, the LGBT charity Stonewall published a report looking at the lived experience of 5,000 queer people with regards to their health and wellbeing. Its results were shocking – and should have served as a call to arms. It found that one-in-seven LGBT people avoided seeking healthcare due to fear of discrimination, and this is not an unfounded fear; a quarter of queer people have witnessed a healthcare professional share a negative or discriminatory attitude towards LGBT people. Gender identity and sexual orientation are protected characteristics which means that not only is this discrimination unethical and frankly unprofessional, it is illegal. The education and training of healthcare professionals need to be expanded to increase knowledge of LGBTQ+ people and the unique issues that we face. It is not your patients’ responsibility to educate you.

It is well-documented that the prevalence of mental health problems is inordinately high amongst members of the LGBTQ+ community and the Stonewall report corroborates this. 52% of LGBT people reported that they had experienced depression in the past year, with 46% of trans people having suicidal thoughts in that time. This is a symptom of a heteronormative society which shames and shuns and pokes fun at those that cannot conform and portrays queerness in a negative light – it is not a symptom of queerness itself. It is not enough to treat these people with counselling, medicines and support groups, we need to prevent this cycle of hurt by creating a society which values gay, lesbian, bisexual and gender diverse people and gives them the opportunity to be their authentic selves from childhood.

My own experience of homophobic prejudice impacted the way that I view healthcare professionals. We grow up thinking that doctors and nurses and the allied health professionals will care for us all equally – that is the expectation (and the professional standard). However, when I attended a sexual health check-up and came out to the doctor as a gay man, I was interrogated. Of course, I was asked about my history and my partners and my alcohol and drug use, yet despite my answers she continued to proceed down her checklist and ask about the specifics of my sex life and drug use which had clearly already been ruled out by my previous answers.

I appreciate that it was an attempt to personalise my care based on my sexual orientation but the tone of derision in her voice and the sense that she did not trust my original responses to her questions simply served to make me feel profiled, embarrassed and discriminated against. It is also my belief that most of these questions would not have been used to take the sexual history of a straight man, such as those about chemsex which is no longer solely in the realm of gay men. Despite the appointment being good overall, I felt judged and I hated the thought that these cold interactions were possibly the norm for gay men (and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole) and that we are always viewed through a lens of mistrust and judgement.

As a future pharmacist, it is beyond disheartening to think back to this experience and read these statistics and still see no concerted effort to tackle the endemic queerphobia in healthcare and in society at large. It often feels like some progress is being rolled back when reading the push-back by healthcare professionals against transgender and non-binary people’s right to healthcare. We do not and should not have to pick and choose which minority groups for which we advocate to have the right to respect and dignity in healthcare. Part of the solution is an awareness of the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ people and the rest is using this awareness to make yourself more inclusive and an advocate for change in society and in your practice.

Learn more: Stonewall’s 2018 LGBT in Britain Health Report

Get involved: Follow Scott on Twitter

Coalition against conversion therapy calls for ban covering both sexual orientation AND gender identity schemes

By Jayne Love (she/her), PDA Organiser and LGBT+ Pharmacists’ Network Coordinator
Our trade union friends at the Psychotherapy and Counselling Union (PCU) are part of a campaign to end ‘conversion therapy.’ Along with all major psychological, psychotherapeutic and counselling organisations in the UK, they have drawn up a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU2), which highlights the importance of protecting the public through a commitment to ending the practice of ‘conversion therapy’ in the UK.

The MoU2 defines ’conversion therapy’ as ‘a therapeutic approach, or any model or individual viewpoint that demonstrates an assumption that any sexual orientation or gender identity is inherently preferable to any other, and which attempts to bring about a change of sexual orientation or gender identity, or seeks to suppress an individual’s expression of sexual orientation or gender identity on that basis.’

Dr Igi/Lyndsey Moon (they/them), Chair of the Coalition and lead for the British Psychological Society said that the MoU2 “makes clear that conversion therapy in relation to sexual orientation (including asexuality) AND gender identity is unethical and harmful. The MoU2 unequivocally asks for conversion therapy to be banned in light of the Governments own findings (GEO LGBT Survey 2018) that 16-24 year old LGBT people are more likely to be offered conversion therapy than any other group, that asexual people are most likely to undergo conversion therapy than any other group and that trans people are far more likely to have undergone or been offered conversion therapy than cisgender people.”

The campaign by psychological, psychotherapeutic and counselling professionals within this sector to ban ‘conversion therapy’ has been supported by Stonewall, NHS England and NHS Scotland.

Fighting for equality is an integral part of why the PDA exists. We have a diverse membership and respect the rights and identities of each individual. The LGBT+ Pharmacists Network was established in 2020 to provide a voice for pharmacists and a platform through which issues of concern can be addressed.

PDA LGBT+ Pharmacists’ Network member, Eilidh (she/her) said: “The PDA stands up for pharmacists’ rights and works to challenge inequalities within the workplace. Every pharmacist needs to be able to practise and live in a society which isn’t seeking a “cure” for their identity. As health professionals, we prioritise patient care and I fully support the PCU and others in this campaign to stop unethical and harmful practices, for both patients and professionals.”

Learn more: Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy in the UK

PinkNews Futures: LGBT+ in healthcare

By Bartosz Tomaszewicz (he/him), Lead Clinical Pharmacist in the prison sector and PDA LGBT+ Pharmacists’ Network Member
I had the pleasure of representing PDA during the 6th PinkNews Futures (previously known as LGBT Leaders) conference held online during October 2020. I joined a healthcare panel – an interactive masterclass in being LGBT+ in the workplace – where students had a chance to ask questions to help them decide on their future career path.

The purpose of this conference was to address any worries young LGBT+ job seekers may have when taking the first steps in their career and to provide help in building techniques to improve job-hunting skills in this pandemic affected world.

Unfortunately, due to the current economic situation caused by the pandemic, young jobseekers’ prospects have worsened. That is why, together with three other panellists, I discussed specific issues LGBT+ people may face when entering the job market such as coming out at work and trans inclusion in the workplace.

I shared my experience of working in a health and justice system, coming out at work, and supporting LGBT+ prisoners. Seeing people, prisoners and staff come through the health and justice system and being part of the positive transformation of the system for LGBT+ people is very satisfying.

I greatly enjoyed listening to my peers’ stories and personal experiences and found the event very inspiring.

The PinkNews Futures team, Alex Ehmcke (he/him), Ana Nanu (she/her) and Molly Tinneny (she/her), said:

“We’re so glad to have been able to continue PinkNews Futures online this year. LGBT+ young people need our support now more than ever, and it is so important that we continue to stand together during these challenging times.

We owe massive thanks to the PDA for their enthusiasm in joining us for PinkNews Futures. It was an absolute pleasure to host Bartosz to represent the pharmaceutical profession on our Being LGBT+ in Healthcare panel. We’re looking forward to returning in 2021 to continue on our diversity and inclusion journey!”

Get involved: keep up to date by following PinkNews on LinkedIn

Heteronormativity and cisnormativity in healthcare

By Eilidh (she/her), Hospital Pharmacist and Homeless Outreach Pharmacist, PDA LGBT+ Pharmacists’ Network Member and NAWP Committee Member

‘Coming out the closet’ – the process which universally bonds the LGBTQI+ community. A personal, ongoing journey which some say ‘gets easier with time’. Although this may be true for some, why do so many LGBTQI+ people share the experience of awkwardly having to go back into the closet during health consultations?

As a pharmacist working for the NHS, I am quick to defend its shortcomings, putting its flaws down to factors such as chronically overworked staff, various pressures and human error. As a patient using the health service, I have found my sexuality often assumed, resulting in an uncomfortable intervention to correct a non-intentional, well-meaning presumption by the practitioner.

According to Stonewall ‘57% of health and social care workers, including mental health workers and nurses, say they don’t consider sexual orientation to be relevant to one’s health needs’. However, lesbian and bisexual women are less likely to attend cervical screening. According to the Family Planning Association, many women who have sex with women have been told by professionals that they do not need to be screened.

Educational establishments have a role to play in teaching aspiring healthcare professionals about LGBTQI+ health issues and gender inclusivity. Reflecting on my own pharmacy education, I am aware of how cisgendered and heterosexual-centric the curriculum was and that this has led to gaps in my knowledge.

So, what can we do as pharmacy professionals to safeguard the health and wellbeing of LGBTQI+ patients and colleagues? Recognising assumptions in our own practice as well as calling out casual stereotyping and discrimination is an immediate step towards person-centred care. Promoting allyship in our personal and professional lives as well as acknowledging gaps in our education are further steps which need to be taken to allow for holistic and more equitable care.

Learn more

RECENT IMPORTANT LGBT+ DATES 

Trans Awareness Week and ​​​​​​​Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR)

From 13 – 19 November, it was Trans Awareness Week, a week to help raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people and the issues the community faces, which includes continued discrimination and violence. Stonewall highlights that two in five trans people have had a hate crime committed against them in the last year, and two in five trans young people have attempted suicide, whilst one in eight trans people have been physically attacked by colleagues or customers at work.

On Saturday 21 November, it was the ​​​​​​​Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR), a day where we remember those who have been murdered as a result of transphobia. Between 1 October 2019 and 30 September 2020, 350 transgender people – mostly trans women of colour – were murdered worldwide. This is the highest since trans murders started being recorded in 2013 and is a 6% increase on figures from the previous year (learn more).

The PDA Union and the wider trade union movement are built on solidarity among workers, acknowledging that we are stronger together. The trade union movement in the UK has historically led the fight for LGBT+ rights, but our work is not yet done. It is important that we are trans allies in order to bring about change. To find out more about being an LGBT+ Pharmacists’ Network ally, check out the PDA LGBT+ allyship page. For more specific information around being a trans ally, see Stonewall’s ‘come out for trans equality’ campaign.

World AIDS Day

On Tuesday 1 December, it was World AIDS Day, which is an opportunity to show solidarity with the millions of people living with HIV worldwide, to help raise awareness and to challenge prejudice around AIDS. Although significant progress has been made globally since the late 1990s, HIV remains a major public health issue, which has faced additional challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.The HIV Commission recently published a report with their findings and recommendations for ending HIV transmissions in England by 2030. This independent report was supported by the Terrence Higgins Trust, National AIDS Trust and Elton John AIDS Foundation. The HIV Commission launched their report with a special event held online on World AIDS Day, featuring Sir Elton John, Dame Inga Beale, Ian Green, Deborah Gold and Anne Aslett amongst others.

Joshua Wells (he/him), Hospital/Academic Pharmacist and PDA LGBT+ Network Member attended the event and said: “It was fantastic! Really inspiring speakers and wonderful to see such a diverse team cast as part of the HIV Commission. The #0HIVby30 campaign looks to have a great deal of support, I’m really hoping to be involved in some way so am very grateful I had the opportunity to attend, thank you PDA!’

Learn more: catch up on The HIV Commission’s World AIDS Day launch event here

Get involved: join in the #0HIVby30 campaign here

PDA LGBT+ Pharmacists’ Network pronoun badges

It is not possible to always know someone’s gender or their pronouns simply by looking at them.  In pharmacy, we come into contact with a wide range of colleagues and patients on a daily basis, some of whom will be non-binary, transgender or genderqueer, without us even knowing it.

Wearing a pronoun badge is a simple but effective way of signalling that you respect people’s pronouns and their gender identity, which can mean a lot for colleagues and patients who may feel invisible, or maybe struggling with their gender identity within the pharmacy context.

PDA LGBT+ Pharmacists’ Network Members have expressed great interest in wearing pronoun badges at work and the PDA are delighted to announce that we are able to arrange for some badges to be produced. The idea would be to have the PDA LGBT+ Pharmacists’ Network logo on each badge, with a variety of different pronoun badges available for use. Some flyers would be produced to accompany the badges so that we could then send them to our workplace reps to distribute.

Learn more: a short video on the importance of sharing your pronouns

Get involved: to contribute to the design of the pronouns badges and/or if you have ideas about the content of the accompanying flyer, please email: lgbt@the-pda.org.

VISIT THE LGBT+ PHARMACISTS’ NETWORK PAGE
Follow the PDA LGBT+ Pharmacists’ Network on social media using the hashtag #PDAlgbt

Please also feel free to share this mailing with a colleague that would like to read it. Pharmacists that are not yet members of the PDA LGBT+ Pharmacists’ Network can join here.

 

 

 

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