Student life and wellbeing

LGBTQ+ History Month 2024


LGBTQ+ History Month 2024

For LGBTQ+ history month this year, the focus is on contributions to medicine, past and present, by people in this community. There are many LGBTQ+ people who have contributed, developed and changed medicine, but we’ve picked out a small selection.

Sophia Jex-Blake (1840-1912)

Feminist, physician, and the first woman in Scotland to become a doctor, Jex-Blake helped pave the way for women to access medical education. In the face of hostility, she and The Edinburgh Seven persevered until, in 1877, women were finally admitted onto degree programmes at some British universities. After passing her medical exams at the University of Bern & King’s and Queen’s College of Physicians of Ireland, Jex-Blake became the third woman to register as a doctor in the country. When she returned to Edinburgh, she opened an outpatient clinic where women in poverty could receive medical attention for a few pence. Jex-Blake never married and lived with her long-term partner Dr Margaret Todd, who later wrote an extensive biography of Jex-Blake’s life.

Kevin Fenton (b. 1966)

Professor Fenton was born in Glasgow and grew up in Jamaica. Working as a government doctor in Lucea, Jamaica let him to focus on public health. After studying at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and University College London, Fenton became a senior lecturer on HIV epidemiology and consultant epidemiologist at NHS Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre. Fenton now acts as public health advisor to the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority. In 2020, Fenton wrote two reports about the health inequalities faced by minority British people, which then shaped a more equitable COVID-19 pandemic response. This led to Fenton being ranked the second most influence Black Briton in the 2021 edition of the annual Powerlist. Fenton was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2022 New Year Honours for services to public health.

Sir Ewan Forbes (1912-1991)

Sir Ewan Forbes embarked on a successful medical career, earning his degree in 1944 and serving as a GP and farmer. His most notable act of defiance came in 1965 when he inherited his baronetcy. Assigned female at birth, Forbes faced legal challenges due to his gender identity, although he identified and lived as a man from a young age. He launched a landmark case that ultimately affirmed his right to the title. This groundbreaking court battle, dubbed ‘The Hidden Case’ helped pave the way for greater recognition and legal protections for transgender people in the UK. After winning the inheritance case, he returned to the life of a rural landowner, continuing to live in his house at Brux. He was appointed a Justice of the Peace for Aberdeenshire in 1969.

These are just a few LGBTQ+ people who made contributions to medicine, but there are so many more, including Magnus Hirschfeld who advocated for LGBTQ+ rights but tragically faced persecution under the Nazi regime, Audre Lorde, who highlighted the intersection of race, gender and sexual orientation in healthcare disparities, and more.

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