A hospital in Essex, England has removed a sign that listed LGBT+ as being a ‘mental health disorder’.
Climate justice and queer action campaigner ellen Gibson spotted the sign, in the reception area of the National Health Service Princess Alexandra Hospital, yesterday.
It included ‘LGBTG’ [sic] alongside real mental health problems such as ‘depression’ and ‘schizophrenia’. But it also included symptoms of poor mental health like ‘anxiety’ and situations which may affect mental health, such as ‘drugs’ and ‘working in emergency services’.
Gibson tweeted: ‘Where to even start with this poster, on the wall of an actual hospital @NHSHarlow.
‘Being part of the LGBTQ (or LGBTG) community isn’t a mental health disorder and I can’t believe I’m having to say this to an NHS institution.’
Notably the sign looked amateur rather than official – without any hospital branding on it. Moreover, it didn’t include any advice on where to turn if people were worried about their mental health.
After Gibson’s tweet attracted fury on social media, the hospital confirmed it was not an official sign and removed it.
The Princess Alexandra Hospital also apologized ‘for any offence caused’ and tweeted:
‘Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Please be assured that the view implied by the poster is not that of the trust.’
The battle against LGBT+ pathologization
The World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of health problems in 1990. Psychologists now agree that being lesbian, gay or bi is a normal part of human sexuality.
Meanwhile the same battle for trans people has taken rather longer. But ‘gender dysphoria’ – the feeling your gender does not match your sex given to you at birth – replaced the stigmatizing and inaccurate term ‘gender identity disorder’ in 2013.
Moreover, last year the World Health Organization concluded that being transgender is ‘not actually a mental health condition’. The growing view is that gender variance is normal – and that pathologizing it adds to stigma and reinforces a false idea that human gender is binary.
All that matters because the scientific view of being LGBT+ affects lawmakers. And the UK is currently discussing two laws where it could make a crucial difference.
LGBT+ campaigners have been calling on the country to reform its Gender Recognition Act which allows people to change their legal gender. The previous act dates from 2004 and requires a mental health diagnosis which campaigners say is outdated and unnecessary.
Meanwhile Britain is also among the countries considering making LGBT+ ‘cures’ or ‘conversion therapy’ illegal. Naturally, a crucial argument for a ban is that there is no ‘disorder’ to cure.
Psychologists and psychiatrists around the world now support bans of these ‘therapies’, saying they are futile and dangerous.
Mental health help
If you are struggling with your mental health, help is available. You will find a list of LGBT+ resources and helplines all around the world here. Please note, some of the helplines may have different operating hours during the pandemic.
GSN has approached the Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust for further comment.