The mental health crisis in the vet community has hit particularly hard for those who feel alone or face discrimination at work. British Veterinary LGBT+ is fighting to provide a safe and open community where LGBT+ professionals can find support, comfort and representation.
The organisation was founded in 2016 with three objectives:
- To create an LGBT+ presence within the veterinary professions and their associated professions.
- To promote fairness and equality for all members of these professions.
- To provide support for individuals and for those studying in these professions.
“The BVLGBT+ was established with the sole purpose to provide a platform for LGBT+ members of the veterinary profession (of all roles, disciplines and employments) to feel supported, represented and, in hopefully very few instances, robustly defended and protected.”
Dan Makin, BVLGBT+ Vice President, 2019
BVLGBT+’s main role is to educate and inform. Their surveys have revealed that LGBT+ vet professionals and students still often face discrimination and bullying–and employers who want to provide a welcoming environment have little advice and guidance on where to start. BVLGBT+ works with other professional bodies like BVA and RCVS to promote tolerance.
In just five years, BVLGBT+ has gathered nearly 800 members and supporters, been endorsed by the BVA, BVNA, SPVS and RCVS, and achieved affiliate status on the BVA council. Its achievements so far include:
- Marching in Pride events all over the UK every year
- Annual residential Members’ Days focusing on welfare and wellbeing
- Speaking at industry events like the SPVS Congress
- Helping vet students hold social and educational events, including talks by Claire Balding and Sir Ian McKellan.
- Funding students’ travel to Pride and their Members’ Day
- Working with other veterinary organisations on diversity initiatives like the BVA Good Workplace Working Group and the BVEDS/ University of Surrey Courageous Conversations conference.
- Hosting regular online gatherings during COVID.
- Showcasing veterinary LGBT+ heroes for LGBT+ History Month
- Organising a day-long COVID Pride event in 2020, including seminars on trans rights and Black Lives Matter.
One of their most important future aims is to provide bursaries for LGBT+ vet and vet nurse students in financial need. LGBT+ people are more likely to suffer marginalisation–some have been cut off by their families or are starting their veterinary medicine studies later in life–so financial support is vital to achieve genuine equality.
Members will be marching under the BVLGBT+ banner at London Pride this year, starting from BVA headquarters and joining the main parade. They’ll also be hosting a reception before the march and social events afterwards. Check out their website at https://bvlgbt.org/ to find out more and join the festivities.