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LGBT+ Inclusion – How?

By November 15, 2021January 6th, 2022No Comments

In this series, I have been exploring the theme of LGBT+ inclusion in care homes, using Rudyard Kipling’s words of as a guide.

“I keep six honest serving-men (They taught me all I knew).

Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who. 

We’ve considered: why it is important to promote LGBT+ inclusion, who may be LGBT and the barriers they may face; when and where we should start; and what we can do to be more LGBT+ inclusive.

This final article will focus on ‘how’ we can do it.

How to be Inclusive – The Core Values of Care Work

This article draws upon what, I believe, to be the fundamental values of genuine person-centred care: respecting the individual; appreciating each person, their identity and life story whatever their background; recognising that everyone is different and to celebrate this; each resident has human rights (legally and ethically); in caring for others, we learn and mature as human-beings ourselves.

Care work, however, can also be challenging. We may want to provide love and genuine care for each person, yet this isn’t always easy – especially if they have values and experiences of life that are different to your own.

So being truly inclusive is not easy, it may mean that we must readdress our own opinions about certain issues. Yet that learning helps us to be better at our work and as human beings more generally.

What qualities do I need to be inclusive?

This is an interesting question. Being inclusive of others who are different from us, requires us to be open-minded, non-judgemental, be empathetic (put ourselves in the shoes of others) and willing to

learn. It is not about treating everybody the same, as each person will have specific experiences, needs and expectations.

Being inclusive of LGBT+ people, is like being inclusive to BAME people. It means that we need to address some of our own unconscious biases. It isn’t a bad thing to learn that we have biases against others in society (indeed, it’s quite natural). Nevertheless, it can be a hard lesson to learn and admit.

For example, I’m a white man who is gay: I therefore cannot know what it is like to be a woman; I can’t know the experiences of BAME people (because I wasn’t exposed to the same experiences), I don’t know what it is like to be a lesbian or transgender person because, these too are outside my lived experience.

What I can do, however, is recognise this fact and try to understand. I can learn (through dialogue) to appreciate the experience of my BAME, lesbian and transgender friends, colleagues and relatives.

However, I cannot KNOW IT or speak on behalf of individuals who have had those life experiences when I haven’t lived them.

This is the essence of person-centred care – we don’t know the experience of any of our residents and their relatives. However, we can try to empathise.

We therefore need to be compassionate, prepared to listen and understand, willing to make mistakes, admit them and learn from them.

The Road Ahead

Any individual or care home embarking on being LGBT+ inclusive will make mistakes along the way. It is impossible to get it right, all the time. So, it is important to:

  • Admit mistakes and learn from them – we all fell off the bicycle before we got to ride it properly, so there’s no shame in errors, unless we refuse to rectify them
  • Get advice and support from other individuals and care homes that are already making their journey to being more LGBT+ inclusive (there is some great work going on already)
  • Give yourselves time – a vision of LGBT+ inclusion and your ultimate destination may not be achieved overnight – it’s how you get there that is important
  • Share your learning with others, so they can benefit from your experiences
  • Work with allies and partners within the care sector, charities, LGBT+ organisations and, most importantly, talk to your residents and relatives who are LGBT+

Next Steps

This article has focussed on ‘how’ we become LGBT+ inclusive. I hope you have found this series helpful. Please contact NAPA or me, if we can support you with the process – you don’t have to do this alone.

One step forward is to start a conversation with colleagues, residents, and relatives:

  • Is being LGBT+ inclusive, any different to person-centred care? If so, how?
  • What are some of the small, achievable steps we can take to being more LGBT+ inclusive?
  • Where can we get support in securing LGBT+ inclusivity in our care home?
  • What can we learn from the experience of other care homes who are trying to achieve LGBT+ inclusivity?
  • How will we keep up momentum and support each other during challenges along the way?
  • How will we know if we have been successful? What would it look, sound, and feel like from the perspective of an LGBT+ resident or relative when we have fully achieved LGBT+ inclusivity?

Mike Phillips – NAPA LGBT+ Inclusion Adviser