Supporting the LGBTQ+ community and how to be a better ally

Staff member captured in March 2023.

February is LGBTQ+ History Month! This year’s theme is ‘Medicine under the scope’. We spoke with our Student Wellbeing Advisor, Olly Swanton about the importance of support in the LGBTQ+ community and how to be an ally.

The importance of this years theme – “Medicine under the ‘scope”

During LGBTQ+ History Month, we celebrate important figures from the past and remember their impact on our community and in their respective fields. It’s a time to recognise the roots of the LGBTQ+ community, including the origin of the LGBT acronym. Did you know lesbians were at the forefront of helping gay men with medical care during the 1980s AIDS epidemic and as a result the order of the ‘L’ became the first letter of the acronym most used today?

This month also gives us the opportunity to think about how medicine and mental health support has developed over the years. According to a report by the Institute of Physics, Astronomical Society and Royal Society of Chemistry, 28% of LGBTQ+ scientists in the UK have considered leaving their jobs because of discrimination at work. The Mental Health Foundation highlight how members of the LGBTQ+ community are at a greater risk of a hate crime, and MIND share that LGBTQ+ people are 2 to 3 times more likely to experience a mental health struggle. These are important issues that can affect the lives of LGBTQ+ people and show the importance of seeking support and supporting those around you.

What you should do if you need support?

Something that many of us have experienced is struggling to talk about how we feel, as there can be a huge pressure to present as being in control. Over the years, I have experienced how talking about our struggles can help us truly understand our thoughts and feelings and give us a wider perspective on possible solutions to our issues. This understanding came from volunteering as a Samaritan in London for over a year, which in turn lead me to my journey to becoming a Psychodynamic Counsellor. I remember what it was like (many years ago) to worry about my own sexuality and how it might impact my life. For anyone that might be reading this that is dealing with any kind of struggle, please know you are not alone and that you can reach out to a Student Wellbeing Advisor. You can also find dedicated LGBTQ+ Mental Health Support online if you would prefer.

At Imperial, we have a strong LGBTQ+ community (Imperial600 for staff and Imperial IQ for students) with radio shows, networking events and even picnic lunches – why not get involved?

How can you be better ally?

Be visible in your support, avoid assumptions, speak up and listen. What helped me was being fortunate enough to have people around me that let me talk about how I was feeling, without any judgement and with full confidentiality, until I felt ready to be free and open with who I was. Everyone deserves that support and containment. It can take time to feel comfortable to talk about anything that makes us feel vulnerable so know you will never be pressured to talk unless you want to.

I find wearing our rainbow lanyards and lifting LGBTQ+ voices makes a big difference in showing that you are an ally and that the environment is inclusive and welcoming.

You can find out more about being a better ally on our website: