Doctors and homosexuality

BMJ 1994; 308 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.308.6932.854 (Published 26 March 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;308:854
  1. Michael King
  1. Academic Department of Psychiatry, Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, London NW3 2QG.

    Doctors want to know more ...

    Editor,--Much as I welcome the debate about the difficulties for homosexual doctors,1 2 I am concerned on two accounts. Firstly, Lynn Rose bases her assertion that heterosexual doctors are prejudiced against their gay colleagues on data from open ended interviews with eight heterosexual doctors, none of whom were asked a question that directly addressed this issue.2 It is easy to dismiss such weak evidence.

    Secondly, I fear that these views are unduly negative. Although many gay doctors keep their sexuality hidden from their peers and thereby may experience stress, it is not all gloom. Gay doctors have established informal networks in the larger cities for some years. Formally constituted associations have also existed recently, such as the Gay Medical Association, which flourished with a membership of hundreds in the 1980s despite the initial hesitation of the BMJ to carry advertisements for it. Networks of this kind can provide support for gay doctors and information for their colleagues in addition to that provided by the Terrence Higgins Trust and Stonewall, which have more general roles.

    We need much better studies about the experiences of gay doctors, but we also need more candour. The history of prejudice shows repeatedly that the only way in which minorities achieve equal status is through open struggle. In a controlled study of the attitudes of doctors to homosexuality it was clear that doctors wanted to know more about the subject.3 They believed that their education on sexuality had been woefully inadequate. It is no use castigating our heterosexual colleagues for behaving in a politically incorrect fashion. Rather, by personal example and by strong opposition to discrimination, particularly where it bears on such issues as opportunities for promotion, we should be showing that homosexuality is simply another variation on human experience.


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