GMC Apology

On 22nd February 2024 the GMC released a statement formally apologising to doctors who had been sanctioned and harmed by homophobia perpetuated under historic homophobic laws. GLADD welcomed this work, having worked with the GMC on the project and especially thanking the GMC’s LGBTQ+ staff network who spearheaded it.

In the wake of the statement, a number of members got in touch with GLADD to share their stories of homophobia as doctors and fear of the GMC’s actions. We present them here as a preservation of their history, and to remember their experiences. We thank all individuals involved with sharing their stories for their time and effort going through what were difficult and traumatising experiences. Some names have been anonymised for members’ safety. Some stories contain distressing themes, such as homophobia, transphobia, slurs and suicide.

Dr Aaron

Dr Aaron was born before the decriminalisation of homosexuality and saw first hand the change in attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people. He was always aware of prejudice against men who were camp – or even – gay. As he grew up, he rejected the label of ‘gay’, thinking that it was impossible to be a doctor and gay. Stories like this are why GLADD must do the work we do. One wonders if Dr Aaron might have found more acceptance earlier had GLADD been around at that time.

There was, in fact, a gay society at his medical school, but he dared not join. Getting a girlfriend, he tried to suppress his sexuality. Despite a few secret encounters with male students, he maintained an image of being straight throughout medical school.

As a junior doctor, he still found himself having crushes on male colleagues. Eventually, he started dating a man, although this was not a lasting relationship. Later, he met and married a woman, and moved away to continue his medical training. Against the rise of HIV/AIDS, he remained closeted, although still experiencing crushes on men. Later, he noticed the foundation of a new LGBTQ+ group at his Royal College, although he did not dare to join it.

He became a consultant and continued his married life. But as his life changed with the losses of family members, the questions of his own life, mortality, and living authentically returned, and he eventually contacted Gay Switchboard for advice on how to start to meet other gay and bisexual men safely.

Almost a decade later, he attended a LGBTQ+ session at a conference. At the event, he finally found the community he needed in other LGBTQ+ doctors and finally felt at home. Accessing support from local charities, he came out to his wife. It was a difficult time for Dr Aaron. He felt such guilt over the effect he could have on his children that he became suicidal, but having a local LGBTQ+ support group helped him through this process. The next year, he came out to his children and other family members. Coming out at work was thankfully less difficult. His colleagues were positive, and he joined LGBTQ+ groups at his Royal College.

But throughout his career, the GMC, and the fear of it, were hanging over him for so long. Fearing that being openly LGBTQ+ could put his career in jeopardy made Dr Aaron hide in the closet, unable to be himself, for so many years. We are so glad that Dr Aaron is able to tell his story today, free from fear, and are incredibly thankful for his time in doing so.

Dr Eliza

Dr Eliza qualified at a time when Section 28 was in force in England and Wales. She had never been allowed to see LGBTQ+ individuals in her schooling growing up, and struggled to understand her own identity until her adult life. At medical school, she was not aware of any LGBTQ+ medical students despite a large cohort.

Dr Eliza knew a doctor, a bright, talented researcher who was aiming towards a career in orthopaedic surgery, who was struggling to get into the jobs he wanted. Surgical recruitment was a local process at the time, where those who best fit into the straight, white ‘old boys club’ were those who were allowed to succeed. This was tough for this doctor, who had been seen in public with another man by his colleagues and there were suspicions he might have been gay.

The doctor tried hard to fit in. At drinking socials for surgeons, he brought along a female friend as a pseudo-girlfriend, hoping it might distract his colleagues from his sexuality. Unfortunately, he still experienced behind-the-back homophobia and rejection from colleagues, never achieving acceptance from them. Just like Dr Eliza, this doctor probably knew no other LGBTQ+ doctors, nobody that they could talk to and form a community with.

This story does not have a happy end. The doctor was found dead one night in an on-call room, having deliberately ended his life with some anaesthetic drugs. It is stories like these that remind us about lost stories and narratives. Each story you read here and hear from LGBTQ+ people are only the stories that are still with us. We have an entire lost generation of LGBTQ+ people, lost to HIV/AIDS, lost to suicide, lost to us all. The stories we have here are so very precious.

Dr Eliza recently attended a reunion event for her cohort of medical graduates. She was happy to see that many individuals were no longer identifying as cisgender or heterosexual, and a number of them had come out as LGBTQ+, and some are still exploring their sexuality and gender identities. We thank Dr Eliza so much for her time in bringing us her story.

Dr Alexander

Qualifying in the 1980s, in the midst of the HIV/AIDS crisis, Dr Alexander was unable to come out and was forced to hide his identity to avoid being struck off by the GMC. Aiming to become a General Practitioner, Dr Alexander soon found the heteronormative environment to be deeply problematic – without a wife, he was told that ‘there was no place in General Practice for a single man’ – who would take the out of hours calls?

Dr Alexander returned to hospital medicine, where he became a registrar. Things were still not easy – he faced invasive questioning from colleagues and bullying from seniors. The toxic masculinity of ‘macho male’ colleagues, especially the surgeons, fostered environments of racism and homophobia. Despite the barriers in his way, Dr Alexander excelled professionally and gained his CCT, but consultancy brought its own challenges. Living in a new place, homophobia, racism and sexism were rife. Dr Alexander tried to fit in, ‘going straight and acting straight’. But it did not work, and just a few years later, he moved away.

Moving to a new place helped. Dr Alexander felt freer and more able to be open about his sexuality. But several years later, a colleague put in a complaint, criticising Dr Alexander’s management of his patients. After review and investigation by the medical manager, no wrongdoing was found. Instead, the investigation found homophobia and professional jealously to be the cause of the complaint, deliberately trying to harm Dr Alexander’s career. The complainant was told to make an apology – unsurprisingly, Dr Alexander is still waiting for this apology.

Microaggressions continued for Dr Alexander, including at a hospital social event, where his partner attended. A consultant looked surprised that Dr Alexander had brought a male partner, and replied ‘I didn’t think we had things like that going on round here’. Dr Alexander found over the years that, unlike his colleagues, he was never invited to the Christmas parties or departmental gatherings for staff. Only he and another openly gay colleague were excluded, because the organiser did not want gay people attending.

Even to this day, Dr Alexander is aware of LGBTQ+ free zones in his hospital, in which there are no openly gay staff. It is worrying that still, in 2024, many staff are too afraid to be out and proud about their identities for fear of prejudice or the risks to their career, being passed over for promotions. We thank Dr Alexander for bringing us his experiences.

Dr Dan Saunders

Dr Saunders came out during his time at medical school, having grown up in the time of Section 28. He was a GLADD member early in his time at medical school, and found GLADD to be the welcoming, open community he needed to connect with other LGBTQ+ medical students, in the face of the threat of the GMC. GLADD met in secret then, to avoid members being outed, communicating through a paper GLADD tidings newsletter, sent anonymously in brown paper envelopes.

GLADD members were still not entirely safe despite efforts to keep the membership and its meeting secret. David Harvey, a founding chair of GLADD, was threatened with an exposé in the press for his sexuality – a paediatrician ‘living in sin’ with another man!

Dr Saunders worked hard for GLADD, trying to build links with medical schools. It wasn’t always easy – one notable response to a GLADD survey of medical schools included ‘We don’t have *that* sort of person in our medical school and nor do we have any lesbian or gay people in our city, so we do not intend to include any of your “stuff” in our curriculum – I consider this matter closed’.

This did not put Dr Saunders, or GLADD off. Their work, surveying GLADD members, is still a part of GLADD life today, with the latest GLADD/BMA SOGI report featuring some of the same questions Dr Saunders used. He also worked on guidance for ‘Dignity at work for lesbian and gay doctors and dentists’, giving the BMA and GMC guidelines which have laid the ground work for progress we are making with such organisations.

We are indebted to Dr Saunders for the work he has done and always appreciate his contributions and presence at our events.

We are grateful to all of our members who have given their time to tell us their stories. If you would like to add your story, contact us at