, 41 tweets, 19 min read Read on Twitter
“You get to exhale now?

Growing up LGBT+ in the UK today”

This is a @TwitterUK version of the talk I gave @RCPCHtweets Conference this month

I grew up in Scotland in the 80s and early 90s.

The social and media attitude towards gay people, and LGBT+ people in general, was actively hostile and toxic.

Stories like this were the norm. The way people talked about gay people around me was generally negative
In 1987, 75% of the UK population agreed with the statement:

“Homosexual activity is always or mostly wrong”

Think about that for a second

It’s only 32 years ago - 3/4 of UK population thought there was something fundamentally wrong just with being gay
The same year, Margaret Thatcher, as Prime Minister, stood up at the @Conservatives conference and said this.

I was 10. I was a smart kid. I read the papers, watched the news. This was my world.

And I already knew “gay” meant me
Section 28 soon followed: an utterly shameful piece of legislation that banned teaching anything that “promoted homosexuality” or “the acceptability of homosexuality as ‘a pretended family relationship’”

As late as 2001, @theresa_may was still defending Section 28 as a “comfort”
Gay kids exist. I knew; I was one.

When all you hear and see around you is negative and threatening; that people like you are described as moral deviants and schools aren’t permitted to talk about them, it’s a horribly isolating feeling

You feel wrong, ashamed

You feel broken
That was the 80s.

We all know it’s got a lot better since then.

And it has, it has got better.
Section 28 was repealed (Scotland first, Westminster followed).

Civil partnerships were followed by equal marriage.

There have been huge social and cultural advances for LGBT+ people in the UK in the last 30 years.

It’s been brilliant.
And on our screens, LGBT+ people are seen more frequently and - gradually - their being portrayed as LGBT+ is becoming just a part of who they are as a person, rather than the whole focus of their role.
Last year we had a Hollywood school romcom with all the normal movie story beats - but with the key difference that Simon, the lead character, was a gay teenager.

At the start of the film, Simon isn’t out to anyone.
There’s a key scene where he talks to his mum about being gay.

She tells him that he’s still who he’s always been, but he gets to live and be the person he is in the inside on the outside as well now:

“You get to exhale now, Simon.”
It’s a film, it all ends OK

Oh sure there’s a few plot hurdles but Simon’s friends, family, schoolmates - they all accept him and life sorts itself out

(Spoiler: he gets the boy as well)

But ... what’s it like if you *don’t* live in a Hollywood film?

We think around 2% of the adult population are LGB.

It’s difficult to be sure, for lots of reasons.

When we look at the younger end of the population, 4% of young adults aged 16-24 are LGB.
When British people are asked if they identify as “straight” less and less do: 93.2% last year

Aged 16-24, more than 10% don’t identify as straight

That’s ~10% of young adults whose idea of their own sexuality and gender is more complex than “straight”: LGBT+🏳️‍🌈
Before they were young adults, those people were children and younger teenagers - and they felt just the same when younger

Childline have seen an increasing number of calls from children and young people wanting to talk about how they think about their sexuality and gender
@stonewalluk have looked in detail at the lived experience of LGBT+ young people in the UK today

The data is eye-opening

45% report being bullied
And while all LGBT+ children and young people are at higher risk, trans children and young people are particularly vulnerable: nearly 2/3 report being bullied
Being LGBT+ itself doesn’t make you more likely to have mental health problems.

But how LGBT+ people are treated, both individually and in society in general, make them more vulnerable to developing those problems as a consequence

Negative feelings turn inwards
That has consequences

Over a fifth of LGB school pupils have attempted suicide

Almost HALF of trans school pupils have tried to kill themselves
LGBT+ children and young people all too commonly in the UK today still feel scared, isolated and alone
Education should be part of the solution, and one of the most important

Prejudice isn’t born; it develops.

Ignorance breeds bigotry. Education prevents those attitudes forming. It includes everyone and particularly helps protect those who identify as different.
But even in 2019, that is seen as controversial

“Say no to promoting homosexuality” - the language of Section 28, rearing its head again

It must be challenged, resisted - schools must be safe havens that protect, not least for the kids already realising THEY are LGBT+
And in the papers, today’s headlines look just as toxic as those from the 80s

When I was growing up, the press focus was gay men. Increasingly today it is trans people bearing the brunt of a hostile media and cultural environment
But they’re the same stories, causing the same harm

Kids who *know* they are different, still hearing and seeing stories in the news that make them think that that makes them “wrong”. Broken.

It. Causes. Harm.
Talking about worries and problems helps to make them better

All too often, LGBT+ children and young people still feel they can’t talk to anyone about how they feel, and who they are.

They still can feel they have to hide it all away, lock it inside
The majority of LGBT+ children and young people feel they don’t have an adult they can confide in

For black, Asian and ethnic minority LGBT+ children and young people, almost 3/4 feel they don’t have an adult they can talk to
Doctors - especially paediatricians - should be part of the solution.

We should be good people for any child or young person to talk to ... but 1 in 7 LGBT+ people don’t feel they trust healthcare providers because of they are worried about attitudes towards people like them
Again, @stonewalluk have looked in detail at this: what are the attitudes towards LGBT+ people in the modern @NHS?

It’s not good

Unhealthy Attitudes towards LGBT+ people are prevalent throughout @NHS

25% of LGBT+ people have heard NHS staff using homophobic, biphobic or transphobic language

15% don’t feel confident to understand or meet the health needs of LGBT+ people
Some of the quotes in the @stonewalluk Unhealthy Attitudes report are staggering

This is a currently practising doctor in the UK, talking about LGBT+ people as “deviations” from mainstream society
Imagine being the parents of a baby in neonatal intensive care and hearing staff talking about you like this?

@NHS staff must understand LGBT+ patients and families better
So can LGBT+ children and young people in Britain today safely exhale yet?

It is better - but it’s far from perfect.

Far too many still feel they *can’t* exhale, have to keep holding their breath, feeling under pressure the whole time

It still causes harm. And we have to help
Our @EvelinaLondon @RainbowNHSBadge is intended to be a small part of a solution, helping both to raise @NHS staff awareness of the issues LGBT+ people face and how they can help, and at the same time signalling support to LGBT+ patients and families
We emphasise that wearing a badge is a responsibility and an opportunity - to understand why something like this is needed, to be part of trying to make that better

A badge alone is far from enough but we hope it can help to start conversations that will begin to improve things
The pilot project was developed @EvelinaLondon with the help of children and young people from @RCPCH_and_Us to make sure that their voice was heard as the project took shape
We did lots of focus group work with children and young people, but this was the key message

“What do you think seeing this badge would mean to you?”


... just think of what lies beneath that single word from a 14 year old
These are the principles of @RainbowNHSBadge project as we’ve put them in place @EvelinaLondon

It’s about making these responsibilities, part of our normal practice, clear and emphasising why they are particularly important for LGBT+ children, young people and families
@RCPCHtweets, the new #Progress curriculum gives clearer guidance than ever before what we expect our future paediatric consultants to know and be able to do in relation to LGBT+ people and their health needs
If you’re thinking “I don’t know what that means or how to do any of that” ... well, these articles, by some brilliant young paediatricians, are a great place to start

Educate yourself.

It’s the first step in making a difference.
For me, it’s all about this

Kids like I was needed people to listen, people who would understand, who would help and be my voice when I was too scared to find it for myself

LGBT+ young people today *still* need those people, to make #TinyChanges that start to make a difference
Long thread - thank you for reading if you have.

So many people to thank as always.

Here are some of them. 💕
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