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People who identify as LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, and other gender identities) come together every June to celebrate Pride Month. June was chosen to remember the Stonewall Riots that broke out in Greenwich Village, New York City, on 28 June 1969 after police raided one of the city’s most popular gay clubs.

Below, Timika Thompson, Client Services Coordinator at Claimont Health, outlines some key historical milestones concerning healthcare and the LGBTQ+ community. 

A recent Stonewall study found that over last year:

  • 50% of LGBTQ+ people have experienced depression
  • 3 in 5 have experience anxiety
  • 1 in 8 aged between 18-24 have attempted to end their life
  • Almost 50% of Trans people have thought about taking their life

LGBTQ+ people are more likely to develop:

  • Low self esteem
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance misuse

The reasons they are more likely to is due to:

  • Homophobia, biphobia, transphobia
  • Discrimination
  • Social isolation and rejection

 

The rights of LGBTQ+ people in Britain have come a long way from when homosexuality was punishable by imprisonment and banned from being taught in schools. It was only as recent as 1992 that the World Health Organisation declassified homosexuality as a mental illness. This was seen as a positive step forward, as LGBTQ+ people had previously received controversial treatments to try and ‘cure’ their sexuality.

Going back further, 1951 saw the first reported case of sex reassignment surgery. Roberta Cowell, a British racing driver and Second World War fighter pilot was assigned male at birth, but later had her sex legally changed to female after she underwent vaginoplasty surgery.

The Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association was founded in 1979. The group’s aim was the effective understanding and treatment of gender dysphoria and consisted of therapists and psychologists who devised a set of Standards of Care for treatment. It is now known as the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.

Men who have sex with men (MSM) were banned from donating blood in 1985. The lifetime ban was lifted in the UK in 2011 (Northern Ireland in 2016). A one-year ban was put in place instead, meaning men could not donate blood if they had been sexually active in the last 12 months. In December 2020 it was announced that blood donation policies specific to MSM would be scrapped in favour of personalised risk assessment. The new policy was implemented in June 2021.

Finally, in 2019 the World Health Organisation declassified transgender health issues as a mental illness. Commenting on the revisions, Graeme Reid, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights director at campaign group Human Rights Watch, said the changes would have a “liberating effect on transgender people worldwide”.

 

Prejudice, persecution & moving forward

As you can see people who identify as LGBTQ+ have faced widespread stigma and discrimination in the past. But thankfully, society has progressed, and it is important to remember everybody has the right to access healthcare whatever their background or identity. It took a lot of courage for these early pioneers to overcome prejudice and persecution, and there will continue to be challenging times, but at least open discussion is now possible.

 

Further resources

Albert Kennedy Trust – supports young LGBTQ+ people aged 16 to 25. 
Gendered Intelligence – a trans-led charity that works to increase the quality of trans people’s lives, especially those under the age of 25.
Iman – supports LGBTQ+ Muslims, and provides an online forum where people can share experiences and ask for help.
LGBT Consortium– search their database of LGBTQ+ groups, projects and organisations to find services near you, including mental health services.
Stonewall – offers help and advice for LGBTQ+ people and their allies. 
Switchboard LGBT helpline – offers information and support. All their volunteers are LGBTQ+.

[Image: Steve Johnson, Unsplash]