History of the Network
The National Ambulance LGBT Network was established in 2015 after an event on 31 July at which representatives from all UK NHS ambulance services got together to look at how this could be co-ordinated. Within the first year the core group decided on the name and created the branding you see on the website today. The core group, which meets three times a year, also committed to provide an annual conference, bringing together LGBT staff from the different services and offering relevant professional development opportunities focussing on LGBT issues within the ambulance service.
A year later the first annual conference was held in Brighton and focussed on mental health, domestic violence and trans awareness. The conference was evaluated very well by the 90 delegates and the second one, which took place in 2017, offered and additional 60 places.
In the second year the core group have concentrated on developing a website to help communication between the different Trusts. It is envisaged this will become the central point for the Networks campaigning, and will also offer a vibrant resource bank for ambulance staff as well as offering channels of support.
One of the major benefits of the Network has been to bring people together. At Pride events we have seen staff cross service boundaries to ensure the ambulance presence is bigger than ever before. Different ambulance services are at differing stages of setting up and running their own staff networks, and an additional benefit is being able to provide support to less established groups and hopefully accelerate the progression of staff support mechanisms.
One of the objectives of having the National Ambulance LGBT Network is to improve awareness and change practice of our staff to ensure better patient experience for LGBT people and also that our staff are treated with dignity and respect.
In 2016 we started a project called ‘We Are Gay History’. This was originally started to provide a resource for LGBT History Month, but the reaction to the initial version have revealed a wider potential. There is nothing like personal stories to bring people’s personal experience to life. In the next twelve months we will expanding this project with a view to linking with training, helping to raise issues that LGBT ambulance staff face and also remind the wider workforce what is acceptable and not. This work has been supported by the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives and you can find a copy of the initial booklet in the Resources section.
The Rainbow Star of Life
The symbol we use today has its origins within Yorkshire Ambulance Service. In 2011, whilst the emerging LGBT staff network took part in the Stonewall Health Champions programme, the logo was invented to publicise its activities. If anyone needs reminding how resourceful people can be, those present at the development day recount how a rough drawing was turned into a proper graphic after a few calls to graphic designer friends!
In 2016 the symbol was adopted by the National Ambulance LGBT Network and takes pride of place on every piece of work produced. The rainbow star of life symbol is a fusion of the internationally recognised symbol of pre-hospital emergency care and the rainbow flag representing the LGBT community.
Today you will see ambulances decked out with the symbols for Pride events, staff proudly wearing pin badges whilst going about their work and a number of developing resources all displaying this sign.
The Trans Star of Life
During the development of the Network it has become increasingly obvious that the issues associated with LGB are different from those of the 'T' element. The National Ambulance LGBT Network is working with Ambulance Trusts and other organisations to develop some resources to deal with health inequalities of trans people.
A large proportion of this is looking at how we can increase the confidence of clinical staff who may deal with a trans person during their work. Very often the ‘fear of getting things wrong’ inhibits people and this is easy to deal with by simple awareness raising. There is already some excellent guidance information available and we aim to showcase this in our activities, including our conferences, and also here on our website.
The second element, however, is making sure our trans colleagues are understood and supported alongside everyone else. Again, this about awareness raising and also ensuring policies and guidance are in place to make a difference.
To demonstrate our support for trans people, in 2017 we have launched the trans star of life.
50 Years since Decriminalisation
The year 2017 marked the fifty year anniversary since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the United Kingdom, a landmark piece of legislation change that has impacted on all our lives.
Back in 1967, the Sexual Offences Act decriminalised homosexual acts between two men in private. The move was a first step on the long road towards the equality that the LGBT community enjoys today. Since that landmark year, laws have been challenged, rights have been won, stigmas broken and lives changed.
So how did we get to that landmark moment in LGBT history? Rewind to the 1960s, when Member of Parliament Leo Abse and House of Lords peer Lord Arran offered proposals to amend the law for homosexual men, changing the way they were treated by introducing the Sexual Offences Bill. They saw the Bill as a way to make attitudes towards gays more liberal, a change which they felt was much needed following a staggering rise in the number of prosecutions of homosexual men.
The 1965 Sexual Offences Bill used findings from the 1957 Wolfenden Report, which suggested that certain homosexual offences should be decriminalised; ‘offences’ at which you wouldn’t even bat an eyelid these days.
The committee which oversaw the report was set up to investigate prostitution and homosexuality in the 1950s. As a result, they found that criminal law couldn’t intervene in the ‘private sexual affairs of consenting adults’ behind closed doors.
In short, the Wolfenden committee said that: “Unless a deliberate attempt be made by society through the agency of the law to equate the sphere of crime with that of sin, there must remain a realm of private that is, in brief, not the law's business.”
Following the publication of this report, the government of the time showed support for Lord Arran’s liberal thinking and put the Bill through parliament. It was considered that the law should not penalise gay men, already subject to much ‘ridicule and derision’.
Roy Jenkins, the home secretary in 1967, commented that gay men “suffer from this disability” and “carry a great weight of shame”. His remarks essentially summed up the government’s perspective on homosexuality.
The Bill received royal assent on 27 July 1967 after a late-night debate in the House of Commons. Once it had become law, decriminalising homosexuality, the age of consent was set at 21. It wasn’t until 1994 that this was reduced to 18, and only in the year 2000 was it reduced to 16 - the same age as the heterosexual age of consent.
So what does all of this mean for us today? Well, freedom for one thing. And whilst LGBT communities across the world still don’t enjoy many of the freedoms that we do here in Britain, the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality reminds us how much things have changed in the United Kingdom and reinforces the need for celebration, education and awareness raising.
The Gay Rights Timeline
Most of the changes in rights have occurred in the latter part of the twentieth century and start of the twenty-first century. It is interesting the compare this with earlier times. In the nineteenth century, things were much different:
- 9,000 people were prosecuted for being homosexual
- 404 men were sentenced to death following charges of sexual acts between men
- 56 men were actually executed, usually hanged, for being gay
Two new resources, supporting ambulance staff when working with trans patients and another promoting good mental health, are launched at the third National Ambulance LGBT Network conference in Manchester in August
National Ambulance LGBT Network website launched in January
First National Ambulance LGBT Network conference held in Brighton
National Ambulance LGBT Network established
First same sex couple marriages took place in the summer
Civil partnerships introduced for same sex couples, offering the same legal rights
Made illegal to discriminate in the workforce on the grounds of sexual orientation
Government lift the ban of gay people in the armed forces
Lesbian and Gay Police Association established
First Pride March in London
The Sexual Offences Act was changed to decriminalisation consenting acts between two men over the age of 21. It took ten years to get this change invoked by Parliament