New LGBTI network announced for veterinary profession

A new support network for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender colleagues in the British veterinary profession has been announced.

The organization, called the British Veterinary LGBT group (BVLGBT), has been founded by vet Mat Hennessey, who said in a statement that he had the idea to launch the group after spotting a medics banner at a Pride festival and thinking that there should be a similar group or vets.

‘Seeing that banner brought to the fore something that I had been aware of for some time – the need for a visible and supportive community for veterinary professionals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and the colleagues who want to support us and promote equality.

‘Veterinary professionals are a supportive bunch, but there has not been an open culture for LGBT vets on campus and in practice and that should change.

‘The nature of veterinary work also means that vets can be located in remote, rural regions, without an LGBT community to plug into and this can be a very lonely and isolating experience.

‘BVLGBT wants to engage with all colleagues who could benefit from the group and we are particularly keen to reach out to vets working in those rural areas without an LGBT community to feel part of. We are here for you.’

Speaking to Gay Star Business, Hennessey – who graduated as a vet in 2007 – said he spent three and a half years working in rural Cheshire, where there was little LGBT community, before deciding to relocate to London.

He said that it was impossible to say how many vets decided to be open at work as no research had been done into the topic, but he hoped that the formation of the BVLGBT might lead to the group being consulted on future surveys of UK veterinary surgeons and nurses, so that information into their experiences could be uncovered.

‘I saw doctors and dentists marching at Pride, and had a look online to see if there was an LGBT group for vets. I think there was one about 15 years ago but there’s been nothing in the UK since,’ he said.

‘I was chatting with a friend that I was with at Pride and we started a group on Facebook and the reaction has been amazing – we’ve had a very warm response.’

The group will meet for the first time at the end of September at the British Veterinary Association (BVA) headquarters in London to plan activities for the coming year. Anyone is welcome to join the group, regardless of sexuality or gender identity, if they wish to show support for LGBTI colleagues.

John Blackwell BVA President commented, ‘This is a forward thinking and much needed initiative and one that BVA is proud to support. Veterinary surgeons and our veterinary nurse colleagues work within a close-knit community whether it is practice based or otherwise and the formation of BVLGBT sends a clear message out that the veterinary professions and organizations such as BVA welcome diversity and will fight for equality.’

According to 2013 figures from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, there are over 18,000 practicing veterinary surgeons and nurses in the UK – over 15,000 of whom are members of the BVA.

Peter Mercer, of LGBT advocacy group Stonewall, told Gay Star Business, ‘We really welcome the efforts being made by the BVA to promote LGBT inclusion and support LGBT staff within the veterinary profession across the country. We know from our work with over 750 employers that people perform better when they can be themselves – engaging on issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as visibly signalling commitment to LGBT equality, is key to ensuring this.’

Anyone interested in finding out more about BVLGBT or attending the meeting should email bvlgbt@gmail.com

This has been reposted from Gay Star News.