Skip to main content

LGBT+ Inclusion – When and Where?

By November 15, 2021November 19th, 2021No 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. In this article, I will explore the when and where.

When Should We Start?

Some activity workers and care homes, whilst well-intentioned, start with putting on LGBT+ themed activities and events, which is a little like running before walking.

A great deal of the groundwork needs to be done beforehand. This includes:

  • Being clear on your purpose
  • Exploring what reservations staff, residents and relatives may have in a non-judgemental way. Although some may hold homophobic or transphobic views, they should feel safe to express these without being judged (and these should be challenged with respect and sensitivity).
  • Only then can we open minds to the fact that, we all have human rights and that we have more in common than divides us and that being LGBT+ inclusive is about being respectful of all, regardless of their background
  • Having the right policies and procedures in place
  • Training for staff and awareness sessions may be needed first for those living in the care home and relatives
  • This is crucial. For example, if we attempt to encourage LGBT+ residents to be open about their identity, if they then come against outdated views or homophobic and transphobic reactions, this can be extremely damaging for them psychologically and emotional

For the reasons above, I always suggest taking time. It can be tempting to rush into this, without realising all the implications. It’s also important to stress that the current, relatively more accepting worldview of LGBT+ issues, was not the environment which most residents will have grown up in.

If there’s one take-away message I can give you it is:

Far better to move towards LGBT+ inclusivity slowly and in a way that involves everyone; than to rush into it before everyone is ready and LGBT+ residents feel further marginalised or rejected.

In other words, I am saying that you need a strategy and a plan, it can’t happen overnight, and it is helpful to get support and advice.

Where Can We Get Help and Support? 

Whilst there are consultants, like me, that give training, advice and support. There are also many organisations on a national and local level that can assist with your care home being more LGBT+ inclusive.

One note of caution – it is crucial that the commitment for LGBT+ inclusion comes from the leadership within your care home – this may be the care home manager and/or owner. Nevertheless, it needs be a whole-home approach.

I would also caution against relying on LGBT+ staff to be the sole leaders of such an initiative. They should certainly be involved (if they want to be), however, expecting LGBT+ staff to take the lead can look like tokenism. It would be equivalent to expecting BAME staff to take the lead on BAME inclusivity – it should be a vision that everyone is committed to.

Sometimes leadership does ‘come from the top.’ Although, I also believe in what is known as self- leadership – everyone can be a leader no matter where they are in an organisation’s ‘structure.’

Try to build allies and LGBT+ Champions internally: e.g., a gardener who is supportive of LGBT+ inclusivity is as important as a manager from head office. We all have the power to influence at many levels.

Connect with external allies too. There are many national and local organisations that can give you support. For example, in many areas there are LGBT+ youth support organisations. Imagine having a volunteer from a local LGBT+ youth group coming to your home to befriend an older LGBT+ and the different experiences and perspectives they could share.

Finally, you may need to one-to-one activities to start off, as some will not wish to participate in larger group activities.

Next Steps

This article has explored the when and where of becoming LGBT+ inclusive.

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

  • What reservations might staff, residents and relatives have and how can we meet these sensitively and non-judgementally?
  • What would our policies and procedures need to cover and who could help us in developing them?
  • Who might be your internal allies and champions for LGBT+ inclusivity?
  • What external support might be need? Are there ways in which we could involve local LGBT+ organisations?

Mike Phillips – NAPA LGBT+ Inclusion Adviser