Pride 2021 - thoughts from our President
01 June, 2021
On June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Riots began and with it the beginning of the modern Gay Rights movement. Now, each June, the world honours the anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising and the start of the modern movement for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) community and so many others. This is Pride.
For the last few years, the College along with our members and staff has celebrated pride to show continued solidarity with a community that is still facing inequalities and discrimination in all settings of their life, especially in the health sector.
When I announced that I was running for President in 2019, I made Equality and Diversity one of my four key priorities. When I did that, supporting the LGBTQ+ community was central to what I wanted to achieve.
I know that in some countries people are still facing unbearable consequences for being bi, gay or lesbian and there are still so many obstacles for those who are non-binary and transgender. It is heart-breaking to know that so many people are prevented from being themselves.
I am not naïve: RCPsych will not be able to challenge or change all the inequalities that exist in the world, but I am going to make sure we do as much as we can to create positive change for minorities.
We are on a journey to do more to fight the inequalities that we know exist as part of our Equality Action Plan, published in January 2021. As part of this, we are signing up to Stonewall's Workplace Equality Index programme, as well as their Diversity Champions Programme. We are also working with other external organisations to promote understanding of the mental health needs of LGBTQ+ people and promote initiatives to improve equality.
Our Sexual and Gender Equality and Inclusion Forum has helped us to make material and positive differences to the experience of being an employee of the College by creating a more progressive and inclusive environment for both staff and visitors.
It is important to me that we continue to work with our members as much as possible and especially our Rainbow Special Interest Group which exists to represent LGBTQ+ issues.
Recently, I spoke publicly in the media about the College’s support to ban so-called Conversion therapy. I believe that Conversion therapy is a damaging, degrading and discriminatory practice that seeks to correct something that does not need fixing - a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression. Conversion therapy causes severe physical and psychological suffering, violates the human rights of LGBTQ+ people, and has been called a form of torture.
People who are transgender can experience very specific stigma when it comes to accessing mental health care and support and nearly half of trans people under the age of 26 report that they have attempted suicide. We must do more to help.
If we are to have equity and equality in health - and we must - we should also listen to the experiences of LGBTQ+ people and be aware of the emotional damage they risk being exposed to in their encounters with the health care system. LGBTQ+ people should be treated on the same terms, but not in the same way, as other groups.
Access to the same health services as others is ineffective if those services are based on heterosexuals and cis people because there is very limited flexibility within those settings. LGBTQ+ individuals are also at higher risk of suicide yet experience discrimination when accessing healthcare.
We know that discrimination rarely travels alone and it's important that when discussing any forms of discrimination, we think about the intersectionality of people. At the College we use the acronym LGBTQ+ for a community of so many different people, but it's essential that everyone knows there is a difference between the discrimination you might suffer from if you are lesbian or gay, compared to if you are bi or transgender.
As a College we will absolutely stand by, fight for and celebrate everyone in the LGBTQ+ community. I want us to be real leaders on matters of diversity and inclusion in the mental health sector.
Although celebrations will be adapted again this year and take place online, we will be planning for in-person celebrations next year. It is wonderful to be part of the virtual festivities, especially in light of all we have endured over the last year.
Please join me and the College in celebrating LGBTQ+ community this month.
Below are some recent reports on LGBTQ+ health inequalities and some suggested reading from organisations that specialise in LGBTQ+ and mental health:
- Hidden Figures: LGBT Health Inequalities in the UK by LGBT Foundation
- Raising the equality flag: Health inequalities among older LGBT people in the UK by International Longevity Centre UK
- LGBT in Britain – Health Report by Stonewall
- MIND mental health statistics: LGBTIQ+ people
- GLADD - The Association of LGBTQ+ Doctors and Dentists
- Mental health and being LGBTIQ+ by MIND
- ILGA - The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association -
- MindOut LQBTQ mental health service