I’m non-binary and a clinical admin worker in an Emergency Department. This essentially means rather than my gender being male or female, I’m instead somewhere in between, both or otherwise. As an umbrella term, this can mean a wide range of things for different people. One of the things it means for me is while most people you know will refer to each other using pronouns like he/him/his or she/her/hers, I use they/them/theirs.
I came out at the end of 2014 after watching Pride, a film that follows the work of the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners group in supporting striking Welsh miners and their families. The support and understanding that these young people and workers showed for each other and fought for three decades earlier made me realise I couldn’t hide who I was any longer or take the work of those who came before me for granted. I became active in the campaign for Marriage Equality in the South and more, where again young people successfully challenged prejudice and discrimination to create change and fight for equality. This is why I also felt I had to come out in my workplace.
For many transgender people the process of coming out at work could be technically quite simple, but by no means any less daunting! In the Emergency Department however you’re working with large multidisciplinary teams and interacting with all sorts of specialities and healthcare professionals every day and usually for not very long. This makes the process a slow and complicated one, but one I have control over and am able to do at my own pace with the support of the HR team. This has meant the immediate sense of relief of finally coming out at work once is instead replaced with coming out every month or a few times in a week to colleagues who want to know you better because they value your contribution to the team and the care we provide together. I’ll always be able to find the time in my workday for these rewarding yet nerve-wracking individual conversations, even if it means I end up having to rush my lunch after! I think it’s a show of trust, because I want to know the people I’m working alongside care about the patients we serve as much as I do, no matter who they might be, the same way we care about our colleagues.
The Trust participating in Pride and other initiatives is a very important step in showing its commitment to supporting LGBTQ+ workers and patients. Healthcare is one of the most fundamentally vital parts of our lives and we should always look at ways to improve it. To be inclusive of caring for all patients, not just the majority of them, everyone’s needs in society must be considered. Healthcare experiences vary massively for trans and non-binary people, with there being additional barriers to accessing care. Often sustained negative experiences can make it harder for trans people to have the confidence to access healthcare at all. This can lead to exacerbating ongoing health issues, and in times of crisis not feeling like they can trust the services to help them. A lack of acceptance in a healthcare setting can contribute to feelings of rejection in society and the destruction of a young person’s mental health. Lack of acceptance is a serious issue for trans people, with transphobia being rife in the media and often everyday concerns like finding a bathroom to use can cause great anxiety. It’s reassuring that the Trust wants to improve this situation and I’m looking forward to working with them on this and other issues affecting trans and non-binary patients and workers.
Improving these experiences is something that trans and non-binary workers should play a part in. The best way to consider the needs of these patients is to ask, and to engage with them in a serious way by providing them with the same respect you would any patient. The way someone looks can’t always tell you their gender, especially when they might dress or present themselves in a way you might not be used to. If I could say one thing to help improve services as a non-binary person it would be that you can’t tell a person’s gender identity or pronouns based on how they look. The best way to know someone’s pronouns is to ask, so don’t feel awkward about it. Having had positive personal experiences of healthcare as a young queer person, communication is key to delivering the highest level of care. For patients like me who might have become conditioned through experience to prepare to be let down and expect the worst, making an effort will always go a long way and it won’t be forgotten quickly.