Pride 2022: How times have changed
24 June, 2022
In this special blog post to celebrate Pride, Dr Josep Vilanova, a consultant psychiatrist who is Finance Officer for the Rainbow Special Interest Group, reflects on how attitudes have changed since he began his career in psychiatry.
I was recently asked to be on a panel representing the Rainbow Special Interest Group at the College Trainees Conference.
The panel was about ‘Lived experience’, quite a big topic.
It’s been a while since I was a trainee myself. I came to this country from Catalonia 25 years ago.
During my years in Barcelona -late 80s to the late 90s- I was out as a gay man, and I was heavily involved with gay rights organisations.
I came to this country during the last few months of the John Major government.
Britain was completely different from now. The Tony Blair years of ‘Cool Britannia’ were yet to come and the attitudes regarding being gay that I saw in my first hospital placement made me keep things quiet. It took me years to be openly out again.
On the RCPsych panel this year, the man next to me had painted fingernails.
I remembered one of the first consultants I had as a supervisor when I was a trainee - he was a very conservative older gentleman dressed in a three-piece suit, prone to bursts of screaming, his face often red with anger.
I try to imagine his reaction if I turned up to work with my fingernails painted. I chuckled.
The audience was incredibly friendly, but I still felt a bit uneasy about being there.
Sitting on the panel, I realised I went to the event with a big label put all over me, a big G, placed on my back, the second letter in the LGBT+ long list of letters.
During the questions and answers, I felt that, by carrying that letter G, I also carried the different assumptions people associated with that letter. And I didn’t like that. I hate being labelled.
Why do we like using labels so much, as a shorthand to conceptualise such complex personal experiences? In Psychiatry we spend our lives placing diagnostic labels on people, not always helpfully, as with the overused EUPD diagnosis.
Labels allow for lazy thinking and assumptions. I am more than one or several labels, I told the audience.
I am the sum of all the events that happened to me and, mostly, of all the choices I made in my life because of those events. And these choices matter.
I felt happy for them.
Their training is likely to be free of three-piece-suit screaming consultants, and free from any restrictions in expressing whatever they want to express regarding their sexuality and regarding their gender.