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LGBT+ Inclusion – What?

By November 15, 2021February 1st, 2022No Comments

In this series, I have been exploring the theme of LGBT+ inclusion in care homes, using the words of Rudyard Kipling 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 and who may be LGBT and the barriers to disclosing sexuality for older people, when to start and where to get support. In this article, I will explore what can we do.

Yet, like preparing for a presentation, the ‘what’ we do/say, cannot be dealt with until we’ve considered the other questions first.

What Can We Do to be LGBT+ Inclusive?

We need to build the foundations of being LGBT+ inclusive before we can be at this ‘what’ stage.

One obvious example to show we are LGBT+ inclusive is to have a rainbow flag or sticker as folks walk into our care home. However, unless we can be certain that staff (and residents) are going to be welcoming of LGBT+ people, the sticker will not mean a thing.

So, I’m hoping that, by this stage, you have the policies and procedures in place, that concerns have been addressed through training and that there are people within the care home (staff, residents etc.) who are willing to be LGBT+ allies and champions.

Many activity workers are encouraged to create large group activities. This provides many challenges for being LGBT+ inclusive as those residents who are LGBT+ may not wish to disclose this in larger groups.

Nevertheless, annual events such as Black History Month, LGBT+ History Month and Pride, are excellent opportunities for demonstrating inclusiveness.

These could provide opportunities for discussion groups, film nights, external talks etc.

For example, you could consider having an event that includes famous LGBT+ people from history: this could include figures such as Alan Turing (the inventor of the Enigma Machine that helped win World War II, Alexander the Great, Leonardo Da Vinci, Harvey Milk, Ellen DeGeneres, Oscar Wilde, James Baldwin, Barbara Gittings, Audre Lorde, Justin Fashanu (the first and only ‘out’ gay footballer in the UK) and Christine Jorgensen (a famous transgender woman from 1952). The list goes on.

You can research all these individuals online and find photos (and even videos) of them to lead discussion groups.

There are also well-known films and TV programmes through the years that residents may remember (including the film ‘Victim’ starring Dirk Bogarde).

Certain stars of stage, cinema, and TV have also had a large following over the years (some of the most well-known – although potentially clichéd – include Noel Coward, Judy Garland, Rock Hudson, Marlene Dietrich, John Gielgud, Shirley Bassey, Doris Day, Dusty Springfield, Freddie Mercury and many others.

A basic search online or downloading Lesbian and Gay History Month resources should provide lots of ideas.

In other words, there are subtle ways in which you can be LGBT+ inclusive in your activities. I can promise you that you will learn and get a lot out of your research as you will from the actual delivery of activities.

Working on Life Story and Memory Books

In terms of working with LGBT+ residents, it’s important to note that they may not wish to share their identity within large groups.

This is where one-to-one activities and life history work can be incredibly useful.

I’m a huge advocate of life history work because by knowing a person’s life history we can engage in meaningful conversations and reminisce.

As with anyone, however, LGBT+ people may have painful memories from their past life. This doesn’t mean we should avoid discussing them. Although we do need to be skilled and sensitive in how we do so.

If we think of Joan from my earlier ‘Who’ article, she may be very uncomfortable thinking about the children who were taken away from her. Indeed, many lesbian women have had negative experiences with men in their past. Therefore, just because a woman is a lesbian, she may not be comfortable discussing issues with gay men, or indeed, men generally.

This is where person-centred care is paramount. Everyone will be different.

Therefore, one-to-one activities may be more appropriate for LGBT+ residents than others. It is all about tailoring what we do to the individual, their needs and what they are most comfortable with.

Next Steps

This article has explored what we can do to be more LGBT+ inclusive in terms of activity ideas.

So perhaps you could start a conversation with colleagues, residents, and relatives:

  • Are there small things can we do to be more LGBT+ inclusive (e.g rainbow flags, an LGBT+ inclusive statement in the reception area)?
  • Are there ways in which we can incorporate events such as LGBT+ History Month and Pride into our annual activities plan?
  • How will we respond (and what training will we need to help us) to some of the more difficult issues that being LGBT+ inclusive may raise for our residents and relatives?
  • Which residents may need a more one-to-one approach and how can we facilitate this?

Mike Phillips – NAPA LGBT+ Inclusion Adviser