Pride Month: Supporting everyone to be their true self

In our last blog relating to Pride Month, Dale Webb, CEO at NASS, explores why it is important to be able to be your true self when using health services.

We want to ensure that NASS represents everyone living with axial SpA, and that all communities feel safe and supported by us. That includes the LGBT+ community.

There is a lot of talk about patient-centred care. For me, a big part of that is being able to be your whole, authentic self when interacting with healthcare professionals. It can be harder to do that for some groups in society.

30 years ago, when I worked at Salisbury Health Authority in the HIV team, I undertook research which showed that gay men who had not come out to their GP were significantly less likely to visit their GP than those who had. People’s healthcare experiences, and health outcomes, are going to suffer if they can’t be themselves when they need to use health services. I still remember a health service manager from those days telling me that I should get a ‘proper job’ – the implication being that the NHS was wasting resources on projects like mine that were trying to engage the gay community and reduce HIV infections.

Thankfully, things have moved on significantly in the last 30 years. Nevertheless, the LGBT community still faces discrimination, especially transgender and non-binary people who are constantly ridiculed and used as a political football in the so-called culture wars. The writer Shon Faye, in her book The Transgender Issue: An Argument for Justice, powerfully demonstrates how transgender people are pathologized on a daily basis.

We want to ensure that axial SpA services are accessible to everyone, so we recently commissioned research to look at sex, gender and gender identity and axial SpA. In the study, one trans man said that considerations about risking his privacy and trusting healthcare professionals were always in his mind:

“Your GP needs to be accustomed about your medical records and then you can have a telephone conversation and it will sort you out ….it is risky to withhold medical history because it stops medical professionals understanding.  You have to look at issues about your privacy and withholding medical information – the risk of that and not receiving an appropriate service”.

So to every LGBT+  person in the UK living with axial SpA we say this: whether you are attending NASS branch sessions, involved in our YourSpAce online meet ups, fundraising for us, calling our Helpline, volunteering for us, working for us, being a trustee – you are NASS and NASS is you.

Happy Pride month!