LGBT+ Queerness in professionalism

In our latest member voice article, Soh Xi Ken (he/him), PDA LGBT+ Network Honorary Secretary and third-year Pharmacy student, shares the obstacles that LGBTQ+ professionals face, and how those in positions of power can support and normalise LGBTQ+ representation in the workplace.

Wed 18th August 2021 The PDA

During the 16th century, “queer” meant “strange” or “illegitimate.” Then in the 19th century, it began to mean “odd,” and it was used as a slur against men who were effeminate or those who had physically intimate relationships with other men. The word has since been reclaimed by LGBTQ+ activists and now it refers to: “a person whose sexual orientation or gender identity falls outside the heterosexual mainstream or the gender binary.”

When it comes to being queer and especially expression of queerness, we seem to run into a roadblock where the “rules” we operate as a profession still relies on the notion of cisheteronormativity.* This is not a unique problem that pharmacists in the UK face. In fact, teachers in Canada face a similar issue, where people weaponize what they think queerness is and use that against LGBTQ+ professionals.

There can be situations where a professional, who is LGBTQ+, may find themselves in a “glass closet,” should they choose not to come out and act out how people would expect them to be. This can be detrimental to their mental health, hurt their career options, and generally have their opinion or expertise second-guessed more. I cannot fathom the pain and hurt transgender people experience when I hear stories of trans healthcare professionals being constantly misgendered by their own colleagues, despite their insistence on using their correct pronouns.

Queerness itself is also seen as a political choice to some, and when introduced to a supposedly “neutral” environment that is the healthcare and science field, people can see it as deviant. This is a myth: people push for equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community, which requires political interventions, but sexuality and gender identity are not inherently political.

How you can show your support

If you are reading this and in a position of power, you can demonstrate leadership and normalise LGBTQ+ representation in your organisations, be direct about your support to the LGBTQ+ community, let queer people take up space, and support their professional journey, because casual homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia absolutely still exist in workplaces and employers.

For my fellow LGBTQ+ readers, support one another, and if you can, break that glass closet, because nothing is more powerful than an openly LGBTQ+ professional inspiring others to do the same, provided you have a safe environment and support to do so. There is a lot of unlearning for people to do and even more conversations to be had.

I wrote this because for the longest time, I did not feel like I belonged to pharmacy as a profession. I did not think coming out was going to be viewed positively by my potential employers or colleagues. I did not want to recognise the casual homophobia I was receiving from some of my peers.

But I’m finally in a place where I am more confident, having a network of people I can relate to both personally and professionally, and generally being an advocate for LGBTQ+ people, thanks to the support of the PDA and the members of the PDA LGBT+ Network.

*Cisheteronormativity combines the two terms of cisnormativity and heteronormativity. Cisnormativity is the assumption that a person’s gender identity matches their biological sex. Heteronormativity is the belief that heterosexuality is the preferred or normal mode of sexual orientation, and it assumes that there are only two distinct, opposite genders, and also that sexual relations are most fitting between people of the opposite sex.

By Soh Xi Ken (he/him), PDA LGBT+ Network Honorary Secretary and third year Pharmacy student

Learn more

Get involved

  • Join the PDA LGBT+ network here.
  • What do you think about queerness in professionalism? Let the PDA LGBT+ Network committee know by emailing lgbt@the-pda.org

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