Nursing staff have shared stark and moving accounts about the ongoing challenges and hate crimes that patients and colleagues within the LGBTQ+ community face.
One nurse has spoken about how a patient repeatedly refused to be treated by a transitioning colleague, while another shared the story of a friend being prohibited from wearing a dress as a student nurse while transitioning.
The accounts were heard during a debate at the Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN) annual congress being held in Brighton this week.
Members overwhelmingly passed a resolution which called upon RCN Council to take action to ensure nurses can better support victims of LGBTQ+ hate crime.
Amid an outpouring of personal stories, members told the conference how colleagues, friends, family and they themselves, had been affected by hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community.
Jason Warriner, who proposed the discussion, told congress that ‘the stark reality is that hate crimes against members of the LGBTQ+ community have increased with many going unreported’.
‘Nursing has a clear role to play in supporting members of our community who are victims of hate crime by providing a safe place to talk, having an understanding of the issues that we face every day of our lives, and knowing how to support us,’ said Mr Warriner.
Rachael Ridley, a transgender nurse from Cumbria, said that verbal abuse was ‘on the increase’ and that ‘at times, it is quite scary to go out of the house’.
Meanwhile, Mary Fletcher, a nurse in Wales, explained how a patient refused to be touched by a colleague who was transitioning.
In addition, Ben Thomas, a member of the RCN Mental Health Forum, shared the story of a couple named Ted and Noah. The pair had been together for 40 years when Noah developed dementia and was moved to a care home.
Mr Thomas said that Noah faced physical homophobic abuse including being ‘beaten up by care staff’ and having cigarettes ‘put out on the back of his hands’.
‘The reason this happened was that he was a gay man,’ Mr Thomas told the conference.
Some nurses also spoke about how they themselves had been discriminated against by their employers.
David Lygo, a nurse, said that when he and his husband adopted a their two children he was signed up for maternity leave because he was ‘deemed as the female role of my partnership’.
Mr Lygo said that he was then told that he ‘wasn’t allowed to take the whole leave off because “I’m a man and I’m gay and shouldn’t be having children anyway”’.
He also shared the story of a friend who was told that they were not allowed to go on placement in a student nurse dress while transitioning.
However, members also shared some experiences of how they had been supported by colleagues and shared ideas for what nurses could do to support members of the LGBTQ+ community facing hate crimes.
Will Malcher, a nurse from the Inner South East region, said: ‘We can support your patients who are coming to you with these issues by accepting them.
‘We can make sure we educate ourselves on the history of discrimination to our LGBT colleagues and patients and also to make sure they feel heard.’
In response to the discussion, RCN diversity and equalities co-ordinator, Bruno Daniel, said: ‘The increase in LGBTQ+ hate crimes is deeply alarming but sadly is the reality faced by the UK’s LGBTQ+ community.
‘The victims of homophobic or transphobic hate crimes are loved ones, colleagues, families, friends, and neighbours who may disclose their lived experiences to members of the nursing team when they are seeking care and treatment.’
He added: ‘Nursing staff play a vital role – to treat those victims with compassion, ensure they can access vital specialist services and support, and support them to achieve justice.
‘Nursing teams must have the skills and knowledge they need to provide the very best care and support.’