There are three things I didn’t expect to hear during my pregnancy. The first one was at the 12-week scan: “You are expecting twins!” The second and third ones were at the 20-week scan: “You are expecting identical twin girls! But twin two is suffering from a condition called Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH)”.
Never heard of CDH? Neither did we until the 10th April 2017.
It is a hole in the diaphragm that allows the organs such as the liver, stomach and intestines to move up into the chest cavity and prevent the lungs from developing. CDH affects one in 3000 babies in the world, one in 2500 babies in the UK, and our case was one of two recorded cases in the South West and the only one recorded (we were told) to affect an identical twin. The causes are still unknown and the chance of survival at birth is 50%.
The words, just like our hearts, were heavy and they resonated in our heads for months. Every day, every project, the laughs, the smiles, the hopes became tinted with fear.
I gave birth on the 7th August to perfectly gorgeous girls, Lola and Chloé, but the fear became reality on the morning of the 8th August 2017. After fighting for 18 hours, Chloé’s heart, after filling ours with love and joy, grew tired and stopped.
Almost four years on, Lola is happy and healthy making sure she fills our lives with smiles, tantrums and love for the both of them. We, as a family, are adapting to our new normal, aiming to raise as much awareness of CDH as we can.
Maybe one day we will get the answers as to why and how, but for now, if our contribution can help one of those families out of 3000 touched by the same words that we were, then a massive mission has been accomplished.
If you want to learn more about CDH please visit the CDH UK website, and if my family’s story resonates and you would like to talk then CDH UK offer lots of different support.
International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia was initially established in 2004 in order to raise awareness of hate crimes against individuals for their gender or sexual identity. Choosing to hold this day on the 17th of May was an informed choice, to commemorate the declassification of homosexuality as a mental illness in 1990. Though hate crimes of this nature are illegal, they still occur every day – in fact, many LGBTQ+ individuals have experienced some form of hate crime in their lives.
1 in 5 LGBT+ people, and 2 in 5 transgender people, will have experienced a hate crime due to their sexual or gender identity in the last 12 months. A simple visible symbol (such as the Rainbow Badge) can make a big difference for those unsure of both themselves and of the reception they may receive when disclosing their sexuality and/or gender identity.
Homophobic and transphobic language/behaviour will not be tolerated at UHP NHS Trust. We are an incredibly diverse team, and IDAHTB should serve as a reminder to be kind to one another. We must ensure that we are doing all that we can to provide a safe space for ALL of our colleagues.
If you’d like to take part in creating a nurturing community within our Trust, please consider pledging to the Rainbow Badge Initiative. With over 1300 pledges so far, we’re seeing a really positive response to our Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion aims. Please click here for more information and to make your pledge: https://www.plymouthhospitals.nhs.uk/rainbow-badge.
In order to ensure that our gender diverse colleagues feel able to actively participate in staff networks, we aim to establish a small working group with the Women’s Network. This group would focus on the intersection between the LGBT+ community and gender equality by promoting collaboration between the networks. If this is something you would like to get involved in, or if you would like to reach out for support, please feel free to contact our network inbox.
We would also like to thank everyone who took the time to complete the survey released by the LGBT+ Staff Network. The overwhelming majority of respondents offered positive feedback, and have helped to inform the network aims going forward.
The LGBT+ Staff Network aims to ensure that, regardless of employee’s sexual orientation and gender identity, opportunities are equal and that staff can feel comfortable raising issues and tackling discrimination. In providing open forums for our LGBT+ colleagues to share their experience of the workplace in a supportive and safe environment, we strive to create a more inclusive environment for our staff by empowering them to feel safe and confident in bringing their whole selves to work.
Our network is open to allies interested in inclusion and those colleagues who identity within the LGBT+ acronym (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, The Plus represents other sexual and gender identities) with the aim to continue working together to make UHP as inclusive as possible, and we hope that all UHP colleagues look forward to seeing what we can achieve as a team!
This year we would love to celebrate your stories and share in your small celebrations on the wards and departments, as well as reflect on the past year.
Taking place today
Head over to Twitter and our #1BigTeam Facebook group to share your photos (social distanced) of celebration with your wards and departments.
Here are just a few of your stories:
Holly Chambers PMRAFNS
“For me, #IND2021 is about remembering our professions history and what adversities such as conflict and a pandemic have to teach us. This year’s focus is on innovation and the shape of healthcare in the future and what is innovation without curiosity? Curiosity is the key to learning, it’s about asking what we can learn from experiences, both good and bad. In the end, as a critical care clinical educator, that is all I ask of my learners, to stay curious.
“I was so proud to be selected to represent the PMRAFNS at the 2020 Festival of Remembrance which was dedicated to the WHO Year of the Nurse. To stand with my nursing colleagues from the Army, Royal Navy and the NHS, not only remembering those we have lost in conflict but also those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the COVID-19 pandemic, was an honour and privilege. I have been a registered nurse for 16 years, 11 years of which in critical care, and I have never felt so proud of my profession and the care that we provide in the face of such adversity.”
Andy Everett, Alcohol Liaison Nurse:
“I strongly believe in the power of compassion and kindness.”
What do you do? What I see again and again is the damage alcohol can cause. My role is multi-facetted, however fundamentally I really do believe in the possibility of change, I am aware that this is not easy but never the less it is always possible.
What made you go into nursing? I had friends who were studying nursing and I got inspired, I loved their motivation to do something that involved giving rather than taking. I also wanted to do something that made me feel good about myself, I really did get the bug to help and care for others.
What’s been a highlight of your career? As an agency nurse I was back in my home town of Plymouth in 2009 and asked if I would like to do a shift at Broadreach, a residential rehabilitation centre. I loved it. I was inspired, witnessing real change. I trained as a nurse/counsellor and developed a better understanding of the helper’s role. The subject of addiction and the role of helper continue to fascinate and I have with a strong desire to improve in my abilities. More than 10 years later and I am still as enthusiastic about the subject of behavioural change. I joined UHP as Alcohol Liaison Nurse in June 2020.
What drives you? I have always been interested in communication and have seen in many ways the importance and power nurses have when caring for people, I strongly believe in the power of compassion and kindness.
Muhammad Asadullah, Band 5 Moorgate Ward
What made you go into nursing? To care for the community and help the sick.
What’s the best memory in your career? Whilst working in Dubai as a junior nurse, I received a phone call to see the Matron, they promoted me to Nurse in Charge. When I left I received a certificate of appreciation from the Director of the hospital. I felt so proud.
What do you love about working in Derriford? Teamwork, professionalism and approachable ward manager, Drs and clinical educator.
What makes nurses so special? Sometimes the patients can be confused or aggressive and challenging. Nurses still maintain high standards and ensure they deliver good care.
What’s the main thing you’ve learned this past year? Being an ICU nurse, I had never looked after a group of patients with complex needs. I have improved my workload management and communication with relatives and patients.
Alex Evers, Apprentice Nurse Moorgate Ward
What made you go into nursing? To further my career and help people.
What’s the best memory in your career? The rewards of seeing people recover
What do you love about working in Derriford? The teamwork, everyone works together.
What makes nurses so special? Empathy.
What’s the main thing you’ve learned this past year? Wash your hands!
Sian Dennison, Macmillan Lead Cancer Nurse at Derriford, on both nursing and being a cancer patient herself this past year.
“It has been an incredibly tough year for nurses and all frontline colleagues. The pandemic brought many challenges, one of the toughest being having to move face to face consultations to phone or video calls with patients in their own homes. Whilst a positive move for many with more routine follow ups, it has been hard when talking to newly diagnosed patients. Harder for patients of course but also for nurses because it’s not as easy to build that special patient/nurse relationship in the same way as we can in person.
“When our patients could come to their appointments in person, they were not able to bring their loved ones with them, increasing their stress and anxiety levels. As Macmillan nurses we had to fill that role as much as possible, to ensure patients and their families still felt supported.”
“There have been some positives, the comradery and team spirit has been wonderful, pulling together, not only within cancer care services, but working with colleagues across the hospital to provide support to Covid wards. As Macmillan nurses we were able to use our communications skills to support families whose loved ones are admitted to critical care with Covid.”
Sian was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer in July 2019 and shares her perspective having experienced the pandemic as both a nurse and a cancer patient.
“Due to my treatment for cancer I have had to shield throughout the pandemic. Working as a Macmillan Lead Cancer Nurse from home has been a challenge but the support from my team and ability to meet online remotely and keep in contact with my colleagues has made life bearable. I’m proud that we have continued to work as one team regardless of where we are based and I am very grateful to my team for their continued support and care.
“Speaking as a patient myself, the nursing team have been incredible, nothing has been too much trouble despite their busy workload.”
Teenage Cancer Trust Specialist Nurse based at University Hospitals Plymouth
Hannah Heayn, was redeployed to the palliative care team in the coronavirus ward. During the height of the pandemic, family members weren’t allowed to visit their loved ones in hospitals and staff were so busy that facilitating regular update calls with families was challenging. Hannah helped organise a ‘covid comms’ team of nurses, who gave daily updates to a designated family member or loved one, facilitated video calls and organised last-days-of-life visits.
Hannah said, “We had to have some really complex and difficult conversations with family members about their loved ones. As a nurse who is used to speaking to teenagers and young adults about cancer diagnosis, treatment, aftercare, and death I felt well equipped to facilitate this. Though it was really hard, I felt so privileged that I was in a position to support people through such difficult times. This year has been incredibly challenging, but it has made me so proud to do what I do.”
Megan Muirhead and Lydia Nowak are running 500 miles for St Lukes Hospice
Megan and Lydia are full-time serving military nurses working within across Derriford hospital and other parts of the UK, but Scotland is home for them. It’s been nearly a year since Megan and Lydia have been able to return home to Scotland to visit their friends and families.
Over Christmas, they found themselves spending the holiday season 500 miles from home but creating a new friendship along the way. They decided to feel a little closer to home, they would run the 500 miles, setting themselves the challenge to complete the distance within three months. The challenge started on April 1st and their goal is to complete the 500 miles by June 30th.
The pair said: “We aren’t doing all this for the blisters and the joint ache – we’ve decided between us of a very deserving charity based in Plymouth, who have provided incredible support not only during the pandemic but throughout the years and I’m sure many of you are familiar with – St Lukes Hospice.”
Last year St Lukes cared for over 1,764 people in the local community living with a life-limiting illness. This involves care from Doctors, Nurses, Social workers and Occupational Therapists to patients and family members. This care can take place at Derriford Hospital or out in the community, so patients can be in the comfort of their own home.
With over £900 raised so far, they’re nearly halfway to reaching their £2,000 target. You can follow Megan and Lydia and support their fundraising journey by visiting their Go Fund Me page here: http://bit.ly/LM-500MILES
Join us for a very special International Nurses Day themed Schwartz Round on 26 May 2021 at 13:00.
If you would like to share your story at the round, please get in touch with Dr Julia Bird, Clinical Psychologist, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This week we celebrate national Deaf Awareness week. Amanda Holland, who works at the Outpatients Appointment Centre, made a video to explain what it’s like to be a deaf staff member. If you don’t speak sign language, please turn the subtitles on. Thank you.
Hello my name is Amanda Holland and I am profoundly Deaf, and a British Sign Language user. I work for OAC, Outpatients Appointments Centre. There will be no sounds on this video, just subtitles for you to understand what I am going to say.
Thank you, DAWN – Disability Staff Network, for giving me this opportunity to share information about deafness and myself.
Subtitles are an important part of my life. To watch TV, films, programmes, YouTube videos, social media videos, etc. It is impossible for me to hear what people say on video, even lipreading is hard. Subtitles are much easier and enable me to enjoy watching those videos.
Communication can be a positive or negative experience when stepping out of my home. Not knowing if people understand me or not. I don’t speak clearly because I can’t hear my own voice to understand what I say, so I use memory to remember how and what I say. When I was young, I was taught how to lipread and how to speak. In my school we had hearing and deaf people therefore we know how to communicate with both. Unfortunately, not many people know how to communicate with deaf people. It would be great for everyone to learn basic sign language to start with, so they can communicate with us. I am happier when I had a good conversation with anyone who makes an effort to communicate with me. I enjoy it.
I wear a mask when I am out to protect myself and others. The problem I have is that I’m unable to read lips if people have their masks on and can’t hear what they say. I have to ask them to stay 2 metres apart and move the mask down. Most of the time they do, which I am relieved.
AS A PERSON WHO CAN DO
Many times I can see people think I can’t do something because of my deafness – “oh they can’t do it because they are deaf”. It take right people to see me as a person who can do. Nothing stops me from giving it a go. Once I went on TV Quiz Show. I bought this place through a mortgage; communicated with the bank and lawyer to get the place as my own through mortgage, I communicated by myself – I can do it. In the past, I passed and carry full licence to ride motorbikes and went to the Isle of Man. I had fantastic time. I was a Deaf Advocate for 6 years to assist Deaf service users to access the services they needed. I am most grateful to the person who offered me my current role because they see me as the person who can do this role. I am very grateful.
DAWN – DISABILITY STAFF NETWORK
I am very proud to had joined and be involved with DAWN – Disability Staff Network. This enables me to help them and UHP, University Plymouth Hospital, sorry, University Hospitals Plymouth, with my knowledge and background as a deaf person, and my abilities and skills.
FUTURE / HOPES
My hope and ambition is to get UHP, University Hospitals Plymouth, to be accessible for deaf people and everybody, even me.
Lesbian Visibility Week is so important to celebrate the diversity in our organisation and community and provides the opportunity to uplift LGBT+ women and non-binary people from all backgrounds.
Everybody in the LGBT+ community has a story unique to them, and part of why these stories are shared is to provide support to those who may be struggling to embrace their own identity.
I never reference a specific coming out story personally as it’s not a one off event in my eyes. I come out to almost every new friend or colleague I meet and will continue to do so for the rest of my life! I first came out in 2018 and was met with so much positivity and support; something I am endlessly grateful for, knowing that others are not so lucky.
There is so much that can be done to support and embrace colleagues and friends who identify as lesbian or LGBT+. I personally struggle with the never ending recurrence of having to correct people who automatically assume that I am straight. I believe that in most cases this is due to lack of education which highlights that there is a huge amount of work to be done to ensure we can all feel seen and accepted without explanation or the fear of being judged.
I am still navigating my way through being an openly gay woman both personally and in the workplace, but unapologetically being myself was the greatest gift I could have ever given myself. There is truly no greater gift than not hiding who you are. We’re all different, and the more we share our lived experiences, the more opportunities we give ourselves to become a more inclusive world.
Paediatric Nurse Victoria Whittley had been a patient in intensive care. When she was given the opportunity to be redeployed to ICU during the second wave of Covid, she knew she wanted to do it.
In 2015, she was 38 when a bad case of influenza turned to pneumonia and sepsis very quickly.
“I’d always been fit and healthy, so didn’t recognise how poorly I was”, she said. However, on Christmas day she was rushed into hospital with a temperature of 41.5 and deteriorated rapidly. She moved to the intensive care unit, and was paralysed, sedated and intubated.
Victoria was very sick with multiple organ failure. She was put on dialysis and her family were called in on Boxing Day to say their goodbyes.
“When Dad got home, he didn’t even take his shoes off. They’d been told to expect the phone call.
Watch the full story
“I was intubated for twelve days and was critical that whole time. I had bilateral blood clots in both jugulars, and when they tried to extubate me I had to have a tracheostomy. I was proned because my lungs were so bad and collapsed”, she said.
But, after recovering and learning to walk , talk and getting back to work again, Victoria joined the team of ten staff from Children’s theatres who went to help out in ICU. She felt like it would be part of her own healing process to care for patients who were in the same boat she’d once been in.
“ICU were absolutely brilliant, I owe them my life and I always wanted to give back to them. It felt like the ultimate full circle to go back to work there.
“I knew I was putting myself in an uncomfortable position but the one thing I wanted to do was make sure that the people I was looking after felt safe.”
“When the Covid pandemic hit last March I was working as cabin crew for Norwegian Air. We were originally furloughed and the last month we have all been made redundant as the company stopped operating.
“When I was first furloughed I set up a First Aid Instructor business to ensure I had something else to do if the worst happened. The business is going well, and when the opportunity to help with the Mass Vaccination centre came up, I felt I had the right skills and I really wanted to do my bit.
“I have been working at the Home Park vaccination centre since it centre opened as an administrator and I am now being trained as a vaccinator. It has been a fantastic opportunity and a way to use my existing medical knowledge.
“I love the fact that every day is different and there is such a fast pace – the days fly by!
“In the future I am thinking about staying in healthcare, maybe training as a paramedic or growing my business further.
“Although being made redundant from a job I loved was tough, the whole experience has given me new opportunities for the future – I am excited about what lies ahead.”
The murder of Sarah has shaken the nation to its core and the debate around violence against women has re-surfaced – this can only be a good thing. However, what I have seen on social media is a complex and nuanced subject turned into something that has, at times, divided the genders.
It’s tricky in the present political climate to talk about potentially divisive subjects – particularly when it’s talking out against a particular group of society. When we talked about ‘black lives matter’, there were calls for all lives to matter and now, the response is ‘not all men’. For me, this often negates the original points being made; in this case, it is that violence against women is a thing – but also, that we should be able to discuss it and its impact. I understand it’s not all men, all men understand it’s not all men. The intent is not to point the finger at our male colleagues, friends and family but to highlight that a large percentage of women have faced harassment, sexual assault, violence, abuse and are not believed or the fact that perpetrators are going unpunished. What follows are some grim statistics, a look at the responses from the police at the vigil held for Sarah Everard, and then a look at what can be done to help facilitate the conversations going forward.
Why did women across the country react so viscerally to this news?
When the issues of gender based violence is raised, Director of the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability, Myrna Dawson, highlights that violence against women is “unique, and entrenched in our society, where…social structures ‘perpetuate and maintain gender inequalities’” (2020). In other words, violence towards women is the cause and consequence of social inequalities. If we, as a society, want to address this, then we need to recognise these differences in order to create meaningful preventative measures (World Health Organisation, 2009).
Domestic violence is still highly gendered – 91% of domestic violence crimes that cause injuries are against women, and three women every fortnight are being killed by a current or former partner in the UK (Nazeer, 2021). COVID has further frustrated the situation, with 91% feeling that it has worsened their current situation due to feeling isolated and afraid (Women’s Aid, 2020). A staggering 10 women and two children were killed by men in the first lockdown – three times higher than normal two weekly averages pre-COVID (Women’s Aid, 2020).
Sexual violence is still highly gendered – with 20% of women compared with 4% of men reporting sexual assault since turning 16 (Rape Crisis, 2017).
What is more disturbing is the rhetoric around violence towards women – and whether they are believed when they come forward. For example, a common myth, perpetuated by media is that women often lie about rape – when the truth is that for this very reason and the trauma of the processes, many don’t ever even end up reporting it to the police (Rape Crisis, 2021). In a research report commissioned by the charity Against Violence and Abuse (AVA), it highlighted that women were ignored by the wider system or blamed for their situations ‘time and time again’ (2019, Pg. 9). The same report also highlighted how for women with ‘multiple disadvantages’ such as race/ethnicity, immigration status, sexuality, socio-economic position and experiences living with disability, services aren’t sufficient or fit for purpose (2019).
‘The Secret Barrister’, an anonymous legal expert on Twitter discussed a current domestic abuse case they were working on and in an edifying account, highlighted why just saying ‘tougher sentences’ when addressing violence against women is not enough (2021). They went on to highlight that in domestic abuse cases victims often delay reporting out of fear, it then takes years for the police to investigate due to the complexity of evidence gathering (texts etc) – due to police cuts and refusal to fund ‘ Digital Investigation Units’ there is a backlog of at least 12 months to examine digital devices. When gaining medical records, witness statements, there is a need to liaise with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which has also been underfunded and understaffed – more delays. Once a charge has been made, the case takes a further six months to go to court – not for trial – for the first hearing before a magistrate because of defunding! The case is then sent to Crown Court (if defendant denies charges) and joins the queue for trial slot – for at least a year because of underfunding – the thread goes on and becomes increasingly grim. They end by saying ‘There has never been a better time to be violent towards women and get away with it’ (2021).
Nazir Afzal, solicitor and former chief crown prosecutor for the North West of England, backs this up by adding that the prosecution rate for rape in this country is an unbelievable 1%! Afzal adds, ‘there’s a feeling, quite rightly, that rape has been decriminalised…there are many women who’ll never report a crime because of the way they were treated’ (2021).
I am sure everyone has a view and an opinion on this, mine is that the handling of it is going to need investigating and questions need to be asked. I can only comment on my observations of the police responses and the stark differences in the media between how the Rangers’ crowd was handled and how this peaceful vigil was handled.
Specifically the police statement on the Rangers’ crowd was:
“Our priority was public safety and this included reducing the risk of disorder, road safety and effective crowd management among the complexities of the vociferous crowd…An appropriate policing response was in place throughout the day and officers continually engaged and encouraged compliance with COVID regulations” (Sutherland, 2021).
On Friday 12th March, the Met Police recognised, in High Court, that they had no powers to put a ban on protests – indeed, even during a pandemic, people ‘should not be criminalised en masse for exercising their fundamental right to protest’ (Bradley, 2021, cited in Wall, 2021).
We all understand the photos, recordings and statements are contextual and none of us have the whole picture but the night’s actions deserve an enquiry and important questions need to be asked, specifically – did the police attempt to engage with those at the vigil respectfully and was the violence / physical force dished out with due cause? Dr Greenhalgh, a respected COVID advisor, spoke out against the measures taken – ‘they were outside, they were masked, they were quiet, they were not exercising heavily, scientifically this was a very low risk event until they were shouted at and attacked’ (2021).
Despite Cressida Dick’s statement clarifying the illegal nature of the gathering and the insistence that it wasn’t peaceful, many politicians have heavily criticised the response, including Sadiq Khan, who said the response was not ‘appropriate or proportionate’; Yvette Cooper (MP), who said she couldn’t understand ‘why the strength of feeling about violence against women was not being understood; Shaun Bailey (MP) described the scenes as ‘horrifying’; and lastly, Jeremy Corbyn, who said that the Met Police ‘must answer for their actions’ (Davies, 2021) the Home Secretary, Priti Patel has also requested a full report in to the incident.
Involving everyone in the discussions is integral to change and the conversations needs to be inclusive. Dr Jackson Katz, educator and author, highlights that men need to realise that the same system that produces men who are violent to women, also produce men who are violent towards men, and that this should prompt a collegiate response between the genders ‘rather than being defensive and assuming women are bashing them or that they’re anti-men’ (2021). Dr Katz goes on to add that learned behaviour is passive – that awful murders such as this prompt us to think that the individual was ‘crazy, sick, diabolical’, instead of the fact that he’s a ‘product of a society that has social norms on a spectrum’ and that when you think of those norms on a spectrum it ‘implicates us all’ (2021).
Listening to each other talk – something Christopher Muwanguzi, former CEO of ‘Future Men’ strongly advocates, emphasising the importance of creating environments for all of us to tell our stories. He also encourages self-reflection ‘am I checking my unconscious bias? Am I asking my sister, mother, wife, friend how they have felt? Am I listening?’ (2021).
We are all also responsible for speaking out when behaviour or language is inappropriate so that we don’t perpetuate a system that enables harm. Dr Katz highlights how men can make it clear that they don’t ‘tolerate sexism or misogyny’ and call out this behaviour in peer groups – he calls it ‘peer culture policing’ – and building this approach into education at a young age is part of making this change significant.
When the #metoo movement really took off in 2017, millions of women worldwide came out with stories of sexual assault, abuse and violence – myself included. It was a game changer and toppled many powerful and influential men.
My sincerest hope is that this tragic case will do the same. So, I end with a wish. A wish that in the same way #metoo began changing culture, that the tragic death of an innocent women will provide the mobilisation required of all women and men in the country to change – culture, the justice system, working environments and the absolute necessity for women to be believed and listened to.
As Virginie Le Masson, researcher at ODI states – “For this to happen, it is the responsibility of governments to urgently make gender equality in education a priority. Meanwhile, civil society, particularly women grassroots organisations, must keep the pressure on – and the media must be their ally.” (2019)
This International Women’s Day, it’s important that we #ChooseToChallenge hetero- and cis-normative ideas of womanhood. For this reason we’ll be celebrating the incredible achievements of two LGBT+ women in history, who have accomplished great things, and made their marks on the Gender Equality movement. Of course the women’s rights movement should always be intersectional, so here are the stories of two amazing women from differing backgrounds who deserve to be celebrated.
Elliot Atkinson, LGBTQ+ Network Chair
Ernestine Eckstein (1941-1992)
Ernestine Eckstein was ahead of her time in terms of her attitudes towards LGBT+ activism. In 1965, at a time when gay activism was dominated by white people, she stood as the only person of colour on the picket line during an early gay rights protest in front of the White House. She was an extremely active member, and eventually vice president, of the New York chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB). The DOB was the first lesbian civil rights organisation in America, with the majority of its members being white and focusing on obtaining medical recognition of gay people.
Eckstein fiercely placed emphasis on direct action in the form of protest, rather than on medical legitimisation. She described demonstrations as an “educational process of calling attention to unjustness.”
She was the first Black woman to feature on the cover of the DOB’s publication ‘The Ladder’ in June of 1966 and in her interview, called for progressive activism inclusive of equality for transgender people, hopeful for LGBTQ+ solidarity. Eckstein was a visionary, understood the intersectional nature of oppression and the importance culturally inclusive coalitions.
Later, in the 1970s, she relocated and became involved in the black feminist movement, joining Black Women Organized for Action (BWOA).
In her 1966 interview with The Ladder, Eckstein said:
“I would like to see in the homophile movement more people who can think. And I don’t believe we ought to look at their titles or at their sexual orientation. Movements should be intended, I feel, to erase labels, whether ‘black’ or ‘white’ or ‘homosexual’ or ‘heterosexual”
In 1973, Sally Ride received a Bachelor of Science in physics and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Stanford, and continued on to earn her Master of Science and doctorate degrees in physics in 1975 and 1978.
Realizing that technological and scientific skills were essential to the future of the Space Program, NASA began searching for young scientists to serve as “mission specialists” in 1977. Ride was one of only five women selected for NASA’s class of 1978.
On June 18, 1983, Ride was one of five crewmembers aboard the space shuttle Challenger STS-7 (serving as the flight engineer), becoming the first American woman, and the youngest American, in space. When interviewed prior to mission launch, Dr Ride was of course, asked questions concerning her training. However, she was also asked how her fertility and ability to reproduce might be affected by going to space, and what makeup she would be taking with her. She graciously handled these questions, and said later that “It’s too bad this is such a big deal. It’s too bad our society isn’t further along.”
After her second shuttle mission, Ride worked on investigating the 1986 Challenger accident. After the investigation, she took the role of special assistant to the NASA administrator for long range and strategic planning. She later also became a member of the President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology, and served on the Advisory Board of the National Women’s History Museum.
Though she married fellow astronaut Steve Hawley in 1982, they divorced in 1987, and was open about her relationship with Tam O’Shaughnessy. Meeting as children, their friendship blossomed into love, and their relationship as partners and business partners lasted 27 years. Ride was the first astronaut to be acknowledged as gay. When President Obama posthumously awarded Dr Ride with a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013, Tam O’Shaughnessy accepted the award on her behalf.
As a woman in science, Ride was passionate about helping young women foster an interest in science, and about improving scientific education. She eventually established Sally Ride Science with her partner O’Shaughnessy, and worked to encourage children from all backgrounds to explore STEM subjects.
International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate women and their allies. This year, it is specifically a day to challenge. To challenge behaviours. To challenge perceptions and stereotypes, and to challenge ourselves.
This is my story, by Camilla Redding
I’ve never been an overly confident person, although I can fake it when needed. I always thought I was a bit odd, a bit of an outsider. I don’t look the right way and I don’t like the right things and I have a mental illness. I suffer from personality disorder (traits of various ones rather than just one), and this can often distort my perception of me and the world around me. This is something I have suffered from for my entire adult life, although it was only diagnosed recently, and has really impacted my entire outlook on the world. I wake up in the morning and I never know how it will go. I may feel ok, or I may feel sad, worthless, incapable. But, I get up regardless. I get dressed and I got to work. I climb another mountain.
In work I enjoy my job. I enjoy the challenges it brings and I think I am good at it, although I have doubts all the time. I am surrounded by people who I enjoy working with, but who make me feel inadequate, not by any fault of their own, but because I cannot understand how I can even begin to compare with their ability and their knowledge. But I continue to work, to do my job and push through.
You see, if my world was the popular game “Among Us”, I would most certainly be the imposter. I don’t have any fancy degrees (although I did try twice, yes twice, and didn’t succeed either time as I just couldn’t cope with the pressure), I haven’t networked and rubbed shoulders with amazing people and I don’t have years of experience under my belt. I’m just me, a middle aged wife and mother, with greying hair and more junk in my truck then I would like, trying to get my head around how to juggle my perceptions of myself, and the perceptions of people around me.
When I heard we were setting up networks, I was curious about how they would work and what would be discussed. I intended to be, what I have now heard coined, an “elegant lurker”. I didn’t intend to participate but I wanted to understand if there were people like me. When I listened to the conversations taking place in the Women’s Network, I became aware that actually, I did have an opinion, I had something to say. I couldn’t possibly say it though could I? Who would possibly be interested in my opinion? So I bit my tongue, whilst having the conversation in my head a thousand times over. By the time my inner monologue had finished I could have put Oprah to shame. I did decide to push myself though, and put a comment into the chat box.
This is it, I can do this. I wrote my thoughts down and pressed enter, then waited anxiously for responses. What if they don’t like what I say? What if there is a spelling mistake? Why am I even speaking up? Those little, niggling voices were speaking up again. I frantically looked for a recall button, but, the responses weren’t scary or negative. People agreed with me and appreciated my input. I was being heard.
Reading this, you might be surprised that I am now the Deputy Chair of the Women’s Network. I certainly didn’t expect it to happen. I changed my mind multiple times before finally putting in my application, and I only did it in the end because I didn’t think it would get anywhere. Why would they choose me when there were so many talented people in the Trust? But, low and behold, along came interview day (which was terrifying by the way) and I faced the panel, and I talked, I smiled, I laughed and I breathed. I survived. It was ok. I was ok. Even if it didn’t go anywhere, I did something which terrified me and I made it through the other side. I gave myself a pat on the back for a job well done and I carried on about my day.
I was shocked when I was offered the position of Deputy Chair and I still have to remind myself every day that it is because I performed well, and not because of a lack of options. I thought “this is it; I have received some form of validation so now I’m fine”. But I’m not. Now I am swimming with the big fish, and it is so intimidating. Everyone is so smart, so passionate and educated about their cause. I am a builder’s tea amongst a sea of chai lattes. They are all friendly and supportive and it really is an amazing atmosphere, but it is hard for me to justify my presence when I feel so completely out of my depth. But, I smile, and I share my opinions and I offer my support. I tell myself to ignore those little voices in my head and do what I know I can do. Sure, I might not know loads of people, and I might not have a lot of qualifications, but I can make a pretty good spreadsheet and I have an eye for detail.
Every day I have to challenge myself. I challenge myself to get up in the morning, to go to work, to interact with my colleagues and to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I challenge myself to look past my own perceptions and trust the honesty of those around me, rather than second guessing their motives (the amount of times I have had positive feedback and my head has said “they are just saying that to be nice” or “they don’t mean that” is really quite sad). I challenge myself to trust my instincts and to believe in the validity of my opinions, even if others don’t and finally, I challenge myself to believe in me, that I am worthy, that I belong.
We all face challenges. Whether those are physical or mental, or challenges in our professional or personal lives. When we are battling our own internal voice, it can be very difficult to be confident enough to challenge others. The fear of recrimination, of being made to look a fool or fear of confrontation can all impact our ability to speak up and say “no, this isn’t right”. There are times when we need others to speak up for us on our behalf, to lead the charge or to be the pillar of support. We all have a duty to do what we can to fight inequality, to challenge poor behaviour and question negative perceptions.
I know on the surface this all might sound quite negative, but underneath it all, it’s a story of success. A story of triumph over adversity. I’m still pushing forward and I am still climbing mountains. I am still here, and not only am I surviving, I am thriving.
In the words of the great Ru Paul: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”
By Camilla Redding Deputy Chair of the Women’s Network Pathology Business Support Officer