Being my true self and not my censored self at work in the NHS

Gordon at PRIDEHi I’m Gordon and I’ve been an openly gay man for nearly 20 years now. I’m a nurse and have been for 17 years, and I’m also a Trade Union Shop Steward and UNISON Lothian Health Branch’s LGBT+ Officer.

It is only in the last year or so that I have been out to my patients and their visitors and tried to raise LGBT+ visibility and awareness in NHS Lothian and UNISON Lothian Health Branch. Being a gay man is part of my identity and something I’m proud of, and human rights and LGBT+ rights are things that I campaign for in my personal and professional life.

It has been through my post-graduate study of person-centred practice that I have realised that in order to be truly authentic and in turn effective in the workplace I need to be my true self not my censored self at work. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean I don’t have a private life and professional boundaries.

If I’m not visible as an LGBT+ NHS employee, how can I expect other employees to be, let alone patients or their visitors who are so often in a vulnerable and distressing situation in our healthcare environment?

I felt conflicted, I am different, we’re all different but we’re not all treated the same – should we be . . . ? Then I had my light bulb moment, what mattered to me wasn’t in fact equality it was equity. I didn’t want to be treated the same, I wanted to be treated fairly. I wanted my diversity not to be celebrated but to be embraced.

For me it’s not about “We’re here! We’re queer! And we’re here to stay!” or in your face demonstrations or protests. It’s about “I’m a person, I’m a gay person and I will be treated fairly like all people.”

Irrespective of sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexuality and/or any other protected characteristic we should all be treated fairly. In terms of being visible and raising awareness, the NHS can keep the “Covid rainbow” because I’m going to be rocking the progressive pride flag!

Gordon.

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