Being Healthy and LGBT 

In this guest post, member Anna reflects on LGBT Women’s health week and what it means for her work in her community.

Originally published 17/03/2018 

My name is Anna Murray and I run the LGBT+ Domestic abuse and Hate Crime Project on the Isle of Wight at Age UK IW and funded by the Police & Crime Commissioner for Hampshire, Portsmouth, Southampton and the Isle of Wight. This project has been established since 2015 and is very innovative. 
I get to talk about the subjects no one really wants to discuss. Domestic Abuse is a difficult topic for most people. Add in the LGBT+, which has had very little visibility within the community or organisations on the Island and also hate crime it’s a surprise anyone spoke to me at all! Society in general does not like to talk about these subjects and people feel uncomfortable too. I started off promoting the service with leaflets and pens. People would grab the freebies and run when I had a stall at events. Whilst other events were more positive in terms of holding training sessions, drop in sessions and more, I wanted to find a way to engage with people more openly and to bring the topics to the table. 
Out of all the things I had in my mind, sperm was not the solution that would have sprung to mind, however, sperm keyrings as I discovered were literally the best engagement tool ever! I used myself as a benchmark- if I could love sperm keyrings I was sure anyone could too. So I carry a box of sperm keyrings with me- people are always curious and for the younger kids they make excellent ‘tadpoles’ (my niece decorated the Christmas tree with them which was spectacular). 
The keyring allows for a direct and open conversation about anything and I have had all kinds of positive conversations and engagement. It opens the way to have conversations on subjects such as consent, domestic abuse, gender and sexual identity, sexually transmitted infections, getting older, sex and much more. People know instantly that we aren’t afraid of the difficult conversations. 
When topics aren’t discussed people suffer in silence. The LGBT+ community already have much higher rates of mental health issues, issues with substance use and dependency and as we get older are more than twice as likely to rely on external services. For me whilst that sounds utterly depressing, it just highlights the conversations that are needed and the services that need to adjust and be explicitly inclusive of the LGBT+ community. Things don’t have to be like that and the future can be different. 
So many LGBT+ people are worried about the future, about accessing services and being treated as an individual with all their needs and characteristics being honoured, respected and acknowledged. People should not have to go back into the closet when engaged with health and social care services, which sadly is all too common. It’s the difficult topics that we need to talk about to create a better future for all. The saying it’s good to talk really is true. 

This blog was originally posted on The WOW Network.
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