Celebrating LGBT+ Pride in health services

As part of our Pride 2020 celebrations, we spoke to North East London Health and Care Partnership’s Director of Transformation Simon Hall (pronouns: he / him) to understand his thoughts on the meaning of Pride and LGBT+ leadership within health services.

What does Pride mean to you?

For me, it is an historical marker. It reminds me of the journey we have been on, and the gains that we have made through very difficult times.

I think back to my very first Pride in 1985. It was the Pride march that was immortalised in the film ‘Pride’. I remember when the miners turned up at the front of the march alongside the “lesbian and gay support the miners” group. It was an amazing event. It gave me a feeling of belonging being surrounded by open and happy lesbians and gay men. I had never been anywhere like it in my life, and I have never quite forgotten it.

Back then, we didn’t have much of the more progressive legal rights that we have today. We still had a different age of consent, we weren’t able to marry, issues with inheritance. Also, we were in the middle of the HIV epidemic. Those marches were political.

It is quite the contrast to today. We now see all those organisations that once discriminated against LGBT+ people now actively supporting and championing our community. It’s great to see rainbow flags in their windows, but I have quite a long memory!

Remembering that journey, what we fought for and those we lost, is key to my connection with Pride.

How can Pride be celebrated at a time of a global pandemic?

Having a virtual Pride is difficult as it is hard to have that sense of community digitally. However, it’s important that we don’t forget the Pride movement.

As a community, we should take this time to think about the alliances we have with other discriminated groups, and what we can do to help in their struggles. We are all discriminated against in different ways, even now. However, we should look to form coalitions with those whose communities are disproportionately discriminated against. For example, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities affected by Covid-19, or those in the Trans community.

We should think about the inequalities that exists hugely in Britain today and champion equality and diversity causes to make a difference. Frankly, we owe it to all those who came before us and championed our rights.

Why is LGBT+ leadership within the NHS important?

We are blessed in north east London to have very visible lesbians and gay men in leadership positions in the NHS. We have worked our way up over the years and we did so quite openly. It was difficult and I experienced much discrimination at the start of my career. However, there were also some great role models that provided support and encouragement.

Today, we have more openly LGBT+ leaders in health services than we have ever had before. It is a testament to the journey our community has been on.

It’s important that we continue to be visible and that we use these positions to continue promoting equality and diversity causes. Not just for those who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, but for all groups that face inequality.

We have some prominent role models, but we should use our visibility to bring on others and make sure they get opportunities.