Many LGBTQ+ doctors still do not feel comfortable being open at work about their sexual orientation or gender identity, finds BMA report

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: UK
Published: Wednesday 2 November 2022
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A report by the BMA in partnership with the Association of LGBTQ+ Doctors and Dentists (GLADD), launched today, has found that fewer than half (46%) of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer respondents feel able to be open about their sexual orientation where they work or study. A little over a third, (34%) feel able to be open about their gender identity. The BMA believes these findings indicate there is still a long way to go in defeating prejudice and discrimination of this kind, in the medical profession.

The report, based on 2,490 responses from doctors across the UK, suggests a medical workforce that still suffers from and engages in persistent negative stereotypes, derogatory language and social exclusion, with two in five (43%) LGB+ respondents having directly experienced homophobia or biphobia and half (49%) of trans respondents directly experiencing transphobia.

Nearly all LGBQ+ respondents (94%) report having heard or overheard homophobic or biphobic ‘jokes’ or ‘banter’, and 81% of trans respondents had heard or overheard transphobic ‘jokes’ or ‘banter’. However, there is also strong optimism that things are improving, with 63% of LGBQ+ respondents and 46% of trans respondents reporting that the medical profession has become more inclusive of LGBTQ+ people in the last five years.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Emma Runswick, BMA deputy chair of council, said:

“Doctors should be able to be who they are at work without fear of discrimination and prejudice -that is a key principle of what BMA stands for. I may have the distinction of being the first Chief Officer in the history of the BMA to be “out”, but it is unlikely that I am the first to be LGBTQ+. That is because it has not always been safe to be out publicly, especially in professional circles. Changing that is why we do what we do as a professional association and a trade union.

“Many of us will recognise the experiences described in this report, myself included. It is unacceptable that any of our LGBTQ+ colleagues feel that responses to their sexuality or gender identity is making them want to quit the profession, especially at a time when we can’t afford to lose a single doctor.

“While the report in some places shows we are making progress, and we should celebrate that, it is nevertheless an urgent call to fill in the gaps in education and training and repair the broken systems that allow these prejudices to continue without accountability.

“I look forward to a future where every doctor feels proud of who they are and can build a career free from fear and hate.”

Other findings include:

  • Most incidents are going unreported, with more than three quarters (78%) of lesbian, gay, bisexual or queer respondents and 70% of trans respondents said they had not reported their experiences to anyone.
  • Discrimination harming retention, with one in eight lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer respondents, and one in three trans respondents, having considered leaving or have actually left their job due to discrimination.
  • More than a quarter (29%) of lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer respondents, and three in five trans respondents (59%) considering their experiences serious enough to amount to unlawful discrimination, abuse or harassment.
  • Optimism that things are changing, with 63% of lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer respondents and 46% of trans respondents think that the medical profession has, overall, become more inclusive of LGBTQ+ people in the last five years.

The key recommendations from the BMA are:

  • Improving medical curricula and teaching about LGBTQ+ people and their health needs, developed in partnership with LGBTQ+ people
  • Better training for doctors and medical students on inclusion in the workplace/at medical school: A greater focus on the negative impact of microaggressions and ‘low’ level behaviours on workplace culture and individual wellbeing
  • Increasing the visibility of LGBTQ+ role models and positive examples of inclusion in education and the workplace: Clearer commitments from senior leaders across the medical profession to actively champion LGBTQ+ inclusion and challenge discrimination
  • Enabling dialogue and space to learn: Facilitated and reflective learning spaces where doctors and medical students can ask questions and explore their attitudes, biases and behaviours without fear of recrimination

Notes to editors

The report can be found here.  

An animation summarising the report can be found here

The BMA is a  professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives. 

GLADD is the UK's only organisation that unites and represents LGBTQ+ doctors, dentists, medical and dental students from all over the country. Their primary aim is to grow a vibrant, welcoming and diverse community, open to anyone who supports the values that they stand for; namely the unification and representation of the LGBTQ+ medical and dental communities in the UK.