February 2013

Learn From The Past, Look To The Future

This February marks LGBT History month, a time that provides an opportunity for all of us to learn more about the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Britain and Northern Ireland.

To understand our present and imagine our future, we must first gain insight into our past. This is true of us as individuals.  It is also true of society. LGBT History Month is a time when we can explore and share some hidden aspects of our country's past, both recent and remote. This hidden history belongs to all of us and is part of our inheritance.

For the last two years the theme was sport, due to the impending Olympics and at Men's Sexual Health we used that opportunity to raise awareness with our show homophobia the red card campaign.

This year's theme is science, maths and technology.  There have been many pioneering LGBT people throughout history who have played big roles in these subjects, such as Alan Turing (1912 – 1954).  He was a British mathematician, logician and cryptographer. He is considered by many to be the father of modern computer science. He designed and built some of the earliest electronic, programmable, digital computers.

During the Second World War, Turing headed the classified mission at Bletchley Park to crack the Nazi's Enigma machine code (which was used to send secret military messages). Many historians believe that breaking the Enigma code was central in bringing the war in Europe to an end. Despite Turing's huge and lasting contribution to computing, and the part he played in the allied war effort, his personal life was less auspicious.  In 1952, like many other gay men at that time, he was convicted of acts of gross indecency. He was given a choice between prison or a course of hormone therapy to reduce his libido. Turing chose the therapy, which resulted in bodily changes such as the development of breasts. Turing was found dead in 1954, apparently after having eaten an apple laced with cyanide. Although the cause of death was ruled as suicide other theories, such as assassination due to his sexuality, have also been suggested.

Using that as a starting point, Men's Sexual Health with support from AGE UK, has come up with this year's theme of Learn From the Past, Look To The Future, as, if we are going to have a better, happier, safer future,  we must learn from our past mistakes. That is why Turing features on our poster this year.  His poor treatment due to his sexuality, can and should not happen in today's society.  We also acknowledged this would be the perfect opportunity to use the theme as a way to engage with the older LGBT community.

In 2011, Stonewall published a report on Lesbian, Gay & Bisexual People in later life. The report was based on a survey of 1,050 heterosexual and 1,036 lesbian, gay and bisexual people over the age of 55 across Britain. The survey asked about their experiences and expectations of getting older and examined their personal support structures, family connections and living arrangements. It also asked about how they feel about getting older, the help they expect to need, and what they would like to be available from health and social care services.

Some of the key findings of this report were that  the LGBT older population are, in comparison to their heterosexual peers:

  • More likely to be single (so less support from a loved one)
  • Have no children (no family to give support)
  • Live alone
  • Higher use of alcohol/drugs/smoking
  • Have a history of mental health issues
  • Encounter homophobia from staff if living in care homes
  • Encounter homophobia from other residents in homes

So with facing diminished support networks in comparison to their heterosexual peers, the LGBT population will need to rely on more formal support services including GPs, health and social care services and paid help.

However the majority of LGBT people feel such services would not be able to understand and meet their needs; one in five would not disclose their sexuality to their GP and nearly half would not feel comfortable being 'out' to care home staff.

If we are to improve the situation for this vulnerable group, changes need to be made.

With this knowledge in mind, we have sent our campaign posters and letters to all GP surgeries across Swindon, to over 20 different care homes and to local social venues in the area. We hope they will proudly display these posters so the local community will learn about LGBT History Month and the LGBT community will know of the support that exists out there for them.

Recognising that one of the biggest fears facing the older LGBT population, is going into a care home and that the services there  will not meet their needs, we have asked the care homes to address their policies regarding LGBT residents.  We are offering  free training to help them do this.

Most care homes when asked if they have any LGBT residents would say no, or that they did not know, or why is it relevant. When in fact they probably do have someone in their care who is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender, but that person doesn't feel comfortable disclosing this to them. It is important that they know this information because they are part of a vulnerable group who may need extra support as they might not have the support opportunities that their heterosexual counterparts have.

Care homes should apply the same policies and procedures to same-sex couples wanting to live together as those applied to heterosexual couples.

  • Same-sex couples should be allowed private time or allowed to show affection for one another, as is the case for heterosexual couples.
  • Care homes should develop clear policies on what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour from patients.
  • Care homes should deal firmly but sensitively with incidents of homophobia from other residents.
  • Staff should be trained to understand the needs and circumstances of older lesbian, gay and bisexual patients or residents and how to provide them with good quality care.
  • Lesbian, gay and bisexual residents should be supported to access opportunities to socialise and meet other lesbian, gay and bisexual people to help them to maintain social support networks.
  • Care home staff should ensure that older lesbian, gay and bisexual people have stipulated who should be given decision making power in the event that they are unable to make decisions about their care for themselves.
  • Care homes should make their environments more welcoming by displaying images, posters and materials that reflect lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

We hope with the posters and letters sent to the care homes most will now realise it's time they acknowledged this issue.

Finally we have also launched an attempt to start a new social group for the older LGBT community. We understand many of the older generation either feel isolated or left out from their community, or don't enjoy being part of the 'scene'.  That's why we would like to try and launch this new group where new friendships can be made through a variety of social events.

If you would like to be part of this new social group, or discuss any aspect of this campaign in further detail please do get in touch or call 01793 250951.

Older but maybe not wiser...?

Men’s Sexual Health has dedicated February to raising the awareness of the need to support the older generation. As evidenced by this year’s LGBT History Month campaign theme and the recent news of the increasing rate of Sexually Transmitted Infections amongst the older population, it’s clear that now, more than ever, is the time to act!

So why has there been this sudden rise? It comes down to a number of possible factors:

With divorce rates increasing, men and women are “getting back out there” with new partners and unfortunately picking things up along the way. The older generation may not have had the sex education which the youth of today have and may not have kept up with the facts since. STIs have changed and new ones have emerged since their days at school. Also, older people don't get targeted with the “stay safe” sex campaigns like today's teenagers do.

With the advent of online dating it has become even easier to have casual sex, both for those who are part of the above newly single group, as well as those seeking to have an open relationship. Dating sites are springing up every week trying to tempt people with the offer of love and romance, but with no guidance or support on how to make those encounters safe and the kind that you will want to remember - for all the right reasons!

Then there is, as some people like to call it, ‘the miracle drug’, the little blue pill Viagra; giving the older man who may suffer from erectile dysfunction the chance to have sexual encounters - this new drug has helped so many men get their confidence back in the bedroom that they may forget that pit stop at the pharmacy to get some condoms.

Many women who are post-menopausal don’t think to worry about contraception as they can no longer get pregnant and the idea of catching a sexually transmitted infection probably doesn’t even cross their minds.

Some are also citing the popularity of the ‘Fifty Shades’ books as bringing the UK to a sexual awakening and we have since seen a massive rise in sales of sex toys. More people are exploring their sexual desires and fantasies due to the literary success - but again, condoms are probably not at the forefront of their minds during these thrill seeking moments!

1 in 5, 30 to 40-year-old women have had unsafe sex in the last 3 months

33% rise in cases of Genital Warts

41% increase of 45 to 64-year-olds who have had Gonorrhoea

58% more divorced women over 60 from 2001 to 2012

60% more cases of Chlamydia between 2004 and 2008

400% increase in Gonorrhoea since 2010


So please keep in mind the following:

-       If you are having sex with someone outside your marriage, ensure that you use a condom. The chance of you passing something on to your spouse is not a pleasant idea and the consequences that come with that, will be far greater.

-       Regardless of how few partners the person may say they have slept with, just having slept with one person without contraception puts anyone at risk, so respect them and respect yourself, use a condom.

-       Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed if you have caught something, it’s best to go to your local GUM clinic and get treated as soon as possible because leaving some STIs can cause long term issues.

-       Also, many STIs don’t have symptoms so you may not know you have one, or the symptoms may go away but that doesn’t that mean you have cured yourself. If you’ve had unsafe sex then it’s simple: you have put yourself at risk and for 100% peace of mind get yourself tested!

If you would like any advice or support about STIs, testing, or contraception please get in touch.
Please note we provide FREE condoms for men who live in Swindon.


Free LGB Training Course

Men’s Sexual Health is running a half day course designed to raise awareness and understanding of the LGB (lesbian, gay, and bisexual) community.

As many people are employed within the public, private and voluntary sectors, there is a great need for organisations to learn more about the LGB community in order to promote equal opportunities, awareness of potential issues and sensitivities and ways to support.

The training is aimed at professionals in any agency who may be called upon to support, advise, treat or otherwise assist a member from the LGB community. It is also useful for those who wish to increase their knowledge about the LGB community. There is an emphasis on ‘LGB youth’ during the training but the topics discussed are applicable to all ages.

The course will increase participants understanding on the following issues, homophobia, sexuality, discrimination & prejudice, hetrosexism, stereotyping and a basic sexual health, with the overall aim being that participants are then able to implement, plan and deliver best practice within their place of work for the LGB community.

We currently have spaces available on the following dates for those who are interested in attending

Swindon December 11th 9.30am - 12:00pm

If you would like to book a space please call us on 01793 250951 or email to request a booking form. Spaces are limited so please book asap. The course is FREE to any professional that works in Swindon, anyone outside of the Swindon area will be require to pay a course fee.