The week between the 2nd and 9th of March saw a collaboration between the University of Manchester’s Students’ Union and Sexpression Manchester, to bring to campus Sex Week 2015, the aim of the initiative being to explore different aspects of sexual health, LGBT+ issues and consent.
During this week several stands were available in the Students’ Union Foyer such as the sexual health and guidance stall on Monday the 2nd, hosted by Palatine Clinic, and a free STI testing stall on the Wednesday.
Numerous talks were also given during the week. One such talk on the 3rd of March by Katherine McGuirk, GP Surgery Project Manager for the Lesbian & Gay Foundation (LGF) and Jess Bradley, a member of Action for Trans* Health, discussed what medical and psychological services are available today for LGBT+ people.
During the talk on Tuesday, Katherine McGuirk explained what her job involves, especially related to GPs’ training sessions—a new project called Pride in Practice.
The LGF is a charity based in Canal Street, Manchester. It is one of the biggest organisations which provide support to gay, lesbian, and bisexual people and in August 2014 they announced that also they’re going to develop new projects and collaborate with trans communities. Among the services they offer are support groups, counselling, HIV testing, adoptions, informative conferences, and events about health issues.
McGuirk stressed the importance of awareness GPs need concerning LGBT+ issues and procedures and encouraged sharing with the LGF both positive and negative experiences with GPS, as a way to support the LGBT+ community.
Talking about her work experience in Salford, North, and Central Manchester, McGuirk said that it is vital to re-educate people about the way services are delivered. Equality is an important goal that the LGF is making an effort to achieve.
Jess Bradley for Action for Trans* Health, an organisation which offers support and GPs’ training sessions, also gave an expert insight on the trans community and related health issues.
According to NHS websites, there are seven main Gender Identity Clinics (GICs) in the UK that can address transgender health issues. However, to have access to these kinds of treatments trans people need to be referred by their local GP.
Bradley asserted that often GPs don’t have much experience in transgender health issues and so are unaware of when to refer individuals to GICs. NHS websites, in recognising this fact, also encourage trans patients to be informed and to take the latest guide on gender dysphoria services to the appointment with the GP.
Bradley stressed that it is a delicate situation and a stressful period for trans people, needing to go through two or three years with psychiatric treatments and hormone therapies before surgery—sometimes mental health issues can also occur. It is necessary during such times to have appropriate medical support available, which identifies with their specific needs, but also does not discriminate trans patients.
A survey published in November 2014 by Pace, a mental health charity for LGBT+ people, shows that 48 per cent of trans people aged under 26 years old said that they had tried to commit suicide, whereas 59 per cent asserted that they had at least thought of doing so.
Besides the stalls and talks on offer throughout the week, a range of different activities were also organised each day, from discussion groups on sexual health issues to interactive workshops like Sex Week Craftivism on Thursday.
Speaking with The Mancunion, Rosie Dammers, Wellbeing Officer said: “Sex Week has been loads of fun. We have made felt vaginas, had students dress up in a giant penis suit and attended a sexual pleasure workshop.
“We have also addressed some really important issues such as unequal access to healthcare and consent. It has been great to see so many students talking openly about sex and sexuality.
“The students who have been working on this have done an amazing job, and I hope it is something that continues for years to come!”
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