This month, the global community comes together to celebrate Pride month, honouring the LGBTQ+ community and its rich culture. The purpose of this celebration is twofold: to promote acceptance of individuals regardless of their sexual orientation and to emphasise the significance of treating all people with equality. It also provides an opportunity to reflect on pivotal moments in LGBTQ+ history that have brought about positive changes in the world.
One such moment occurred in 1969, with the Stonewall riots in Manhattan. Frustrated by the need to hide their lives and subjected to frequent police raids on gay bars, the gay community rose up in protest. These riots and subsequent protests challenged the prevailing status quo, and within a span of two years, gay rights groups emerged across the Western world, transforming the gay liberation movement.
The perseverance of these activists led to significant advancements in gay rights. In the UK, for instance, homosexuality was decriminalised in 1967 (although it would take several more years to remove limitations and ensure complete equality). Then, in 1972, the first Pride festival took place in London.
Despite the progress made since the Stonewall movement, including the legalisation of same-sex marriage in the UK in 2013 (though still illegal in Northern Ireland), homophobia continues to persist. Numerous obstacles must be overcome to achieve true equality for the LGBTQ+ community. As a business and individuals, we stand in solidarity with this community, committed to continuing the fight for complete acceptance and equality.
To commemorate Pride month, our team members have come together to share their experiences. Matt courageously opens up about his personal struggles, while Janice sheds light on the discrimination she witnessed throughout her career.
As a team and business, we will always advocate for inclusivity and support underrepresented groups that deserve equal treatment. We kindly ask you to share this article with anyone who may find it informative or helpful. If you know someone struggling because they belong to the LGBTQ+ community and feel unaccepted, please let them know that they are not alone in the fight for equality.
From Struggle to Triumph: Matt’s Inspiring Journey
I’ve contemplated for several years whether to share my own experience. It’s not something I look back on fondly, and I don’t seek sympathy. Locking those memories away would be the easier option, but those who find themselves in a similar situation need to know that there is a way out – there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
My coming out story is nothing short of a car crash
While completing my A-levels, I tried to tell my parents that I was gay. I had envisioned a supportive and understanding conversation, but that never happened. In the middle of our talk, my mother abruptly left the room and rushed to the bathroom, where she began vomiting.
In the days that followed, my mother didn’t speak to me. I was no longer included in the family’s dinner preparations, and in her eyes, our family had diminished overnight. About a week later, my grandmother attempted to find a way forward, but my mother’s words during that conversation were, “I wish you had died – at least then I would have something to tell people to explain why I’m so upset.”
The conversation evolved into discussions about me leaving school, finding a place to live, and possibly repairing the mother-son relationship. Staying at home was not an option. I was interrogated about whether I found a relationship with a woman physically repulsive, and if not, why I couldn’t give it a try.
My father resorted to beating the homosexuality out of me. When he returned home from work, he would come upstairs and repeatedly hit me, punching and kicking, while shouting that I was “ruining my life.” My mother would stay downstairs with my siblings or stand in the doorway and watch.
One afternoon, she said, “Are you listening to your father? He’s upset because you’re ruining your life. That’s what he keeps telling you.”
What they meant was that, as far as they could see, I was ruining their lives. My father was a traditional masculine figure who believed in fighting first and asking questions later. This mentality was rarely conducive to fostering an understanding or tolerant environment.
When I left for university, this dark chapter did not end. I would receive messages from my sister telling me how I had ruined everybody’s life and was killing my mother. I distinctly remember feeling genuinely worried one night after being informed that my father was on his way to find me at the “gay bar” and would harm me. This scenario was not beyond the realm of possibility.
I learned very early on that I had two options:
Allow everybody else to win. Let my emotions consume me, take a bunch of pills, and be done with it.
Take my current situation and use it as a motivation to take care of myself and create a better life.
You guessed it – I chose option 2.
My life today – triumph over adversity
Fast forward 18 years, and I am truly happy. I have been married to my husband for 14 years, and I am proud of the life I have built for myself. I have established a wonderful career, and I am comfortable with who I am.
For those who claim that sexuality is no longer a problem, you are misinformed. I can’t help but feel angry when I listen to debates on the radio and hear parents saying that LGBT education has no place in schools and is an ideology suited only to the adult world. They need to wake up and understand that being LGBT is not a conscious choice; it is part of our genetic makeup and doesn’t just appear as a “trend” or that it only affects adults. I cannot recall a time when I wasn’t aware of my sexuality in the same way a heterosexual can’t.
For anyone who is trying to come out and facing situations like mine, know there is light at the end of the tunnel. We are in control of our destiny, and as scary as it can feel, walking away is sometimes the right thing to do. Never feel guilty for being who you are. Growing up is challenging, but growing up as a queer child is even more difficult, and the absence of a supportive family network makes it even more arduous.
We live in a world where divisive rhetoric is winning, making it even more important to keep talking. True equality does not exist yet, and we must remember our rights as a minority group are hard-won and easily lost.
I shared my story with a very close friend about 10 years ago. We met up for a catch-up at the start of the year, and she told me that her daughter had explained to them she was attracted to women. My friend said all she could think about was my story and how my parents had treated me, and this drove her to make sure she was supporting and accepting her daughter’s wishes. If my story has only helped one person, it’s done its job.
Treating Patients in the Height of the AIDS Pandemic: Janice’s Personal Experience
In the early 90s, I worked with a dental practice in Brighton, a city with a vibrant gay scene. As a field-based professional, I interacted closely with the practice and its patients. During that time, the use of paper diaries was still prevalent, with software management systems yet to become commonplace. Reflecting on my experiences, I recall a period when patients were treated differently based on their perceived sexual orientation due to the fear surrounding the AIDS pandemic.
Unveiling the Red Sticky Stars
Towards the end of each day, as I flipped through the paper diary, I couldn’t help but notice red sticky stars placed against certain patient appointments. Initially, I assumed these were for patients enrolled in the dental plan scheme, securing priority slots. However, I soon discovered that these red stars were there because the staff believed these patients were gay, and the prevailing advice at that time was to treat gay patients as HIV-positive.
Extra Precautions and Discrimination
The guidelines at the time dictated that these patients should be scheduled for the last appointments of the day. Additionally, dentists were required to wear double gloves and protective gowns when attending to them—a protocol reminiscent of how doctors treated patients during the early months of the recent COVID-19 pandemic. These precautions were only taken based on the suspicion that a patient was gay, with no indication of HIV status.
Following the treatment of these patients, the dental surgery would undergo a thorough, deep clean to eliminate any potential risk of cross-infection. It highlighted the widespread misconception that HIV was solely a “gay man’s disease.”
Progression and Equal Treatment
Looking back on my experiences then, I can see how fear and misinformation influenced how patients were treated. It was a time when gay patients were unfairly stigmatised, and discriminatory practices were mistakenly considered necessary. However, society has progressed, and we now understand that HIV does not discriminate based on sexual orientation. It is heartening to know that in the modern day, all patients receive equal treatment, and cross-infection control measures are implemented for everyone, fostering a more inclusive and compassionate dental care environment.