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October 16, 2017

EIGHTY-year-old grannies will be asked if they’ve ever had sex with another woman and 16-year-old boys will be quizzed about their sex lives at a time when they may be experimenting and feel ashamed, the Mail on Sunday and Sunday Times both thundered in editorials yesterday, hitting out at new plans to establish and record the sexual orientation of patients at surgeries in England.

The next census will not, I understand, be able to establish and record gender as those who are transgendered or of no gender at all find this binary concept offensive. This raises fundamental issues around what we can and cannot record for future history, not least for family history researchers like myself, who may be trying to establish if their ancestors were Harry or Harriet (a Harry who became Harriet or a Harry who became Harriet is not a concept I have yet come across in mine).

Establishing gender and establishing sexual orientation are two entirely different things.

Gender, it seems to me, is a biological fact which you can never alter (though the LGBTQ lobby will continue to try to re-educate me) but sexual orientation is a more complex, nuanced issue which is not biological nor can in any way affect procreation.

I was once involved in a mental health service-user issue around whether or not health professionals themselves should disclose their a-priori sexual orientation to be more transparent and allay fears of sexual abuse of vulnerable adults and children in their care as well as offer more choice and the possibility of a more personal relationship with their patients or clients, some of whom may specifically want to be treated by a person who has exactly the same sexual orientation as themselves.

The points I made at the time were that sexual orientation is not set in stone and unchanged throughout life for many people (changes happen but a personal record containing your orientation pigeonholes you for life) and sex abusers, of course, are usually liars “you don’t have to worry about me, I’m gay,” is a well-worn line.

The problem or problems I have with these kinds of initiatives – which usually emanate from DIM zealots – is that they never become meaningfully useful or practical in any way but descend into a farce of comical misunderstanding and crossed wires. There are also disturbing issues around who has access to such private information.

Many health service departments have traditionally offered complete anonymity and taken only basic details about the patient – this was particularly true in the 1980s when people going for AIDS tests at hospital genito-urinary medicine clinics feared that disclosure of their sexual orientation would severely affect their insurance premiums or even make it impossible for them to get insurance at all. Anything on their personal record of that nature would have disastrous co9nsequences for them with potential employers and the like.

Besides, if it is you and only you and never the health professionals themselves who disclose sexual orientation, doesn’t that mean that it is one-way traffic?




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