New Reason Magazine Interview CML Founder, Chad Marshall Lane.
Louise: Tell me a bit about yourself.
Chad: Carer wise. I was about 17 when I started in health and social care in 1993 on the old YTS schemes, and I’ve worked in health and social care ever since. I have worked with the elderly, with people with dementia, adults with mental health issues, young homeless people, people with learning disabilities, children with learning disabilities and behaviours that challenge and children with mental health issues. I did my health and social degree in 2014, which I finished in 2017, I then went back into children’s services, but I felt it was time for change, so I went into training. This enabled me to be a freelance health and social care trainer, working with other agencies and companies. But after an incident with a person about transgender, I realised that there was a need to bring LGBTQ+ understanding, inclusion and acceptance into the care sector.
Louise: What was the incident?
Chad: I was delivering some training at a care facility and I touched on the topic of gender dysphoria. Gender Dysphoria was considered a mental health condition until the WHO (The World Health Organisation) removed it in I believe in 2017. In this training session, I touched on the topic to receive a response of ‘they’re sick in the head’. Personally, I found this upsetting, in my view if you’re working in mental health, supporting people with mental health issues, how can you work with people if you have any negativity or prejudices towards them. That was the first time I’d outed myself in a training session. I had to make a split decision, do I ignore this or do I challenge it? So I outed myself and asked ‘do I look sick in the head to you?’ this person replied, ‘what do you mean?’ I said ‘I’m a trans-man, I used to be a woman!’… the people in the room were surprised, and there were comments of ‘Prove it.’
Everybody thinks of transgender as male to female, and they don’t always think of female to male. The person who made the initial comment was hugely embarrassed, so I put the course to one side for a bit, and we had a discussion. We talked about being more aware and more thoughtful of what we say about people; you never know who you’re offending. The person that had made the initial comment was from a different culture so we talked about how if I had said something about their culture, I would have been called offensive or racist, I really wanted to highlight the importance of being careful of what we say to and around people.
The course went relatively well after that, but I realised I needed to do something about this, otherwise, how can we say that we really support people in all areas.
Being a trans-man, who better to deliver this sort of training, I have lots of experience with it, I live it and I breathe it. So CML training changed to include raising awareness on LGBTQ+ as well. It’s not about banging a drum. I’m not an activist. I don’t stand there on a soapbox, telling you, you must, you must, you must. It’s about, looking at this from a different point of view. It’s about looking at the hardship people have possibly gone through and looking at the comments you may be or are making around people. With all this in mind, I decided to develop a variety of courses that encourages people to think! Get them to sit back and say’ actually I never thought about it in that way’ and also to give people a safe space to ask questions. People are so scared of LGBTQ+ they’re afraid of getting it wrong especially making sure they have all the letters in the correct order. People are afraid to tackle the subject. The idea of these courses is to make it easier to talk about it, and then hopefully help people become more accepting, and to see that underneath it all we are people. It’s not a young person’s problem, a lot of people are thinking ‘oh it’s just a new phase that’s coming out with all the young people saying ‘I’m gender fluid or I’m non-binary, or I’m this or I’m that’. It has always been there, it’s just now we’ve got names for each preference, and there are a lot of preferences, we are looking at sixty-plus, I believe, and yes it’s very complicated, even I am limited with my knowledge.
Louise: Why did you choose to go into Health & Social Care?
Chad: I just felt drawn to it. I think it’s just the type of person I am. Bit of a softie really. When I went into caring, I got the bug for it and tried to do my best for people, but I felt that the policies, the procedures and the politics just got in the way of people delivering the right care, and that was a big problem for me as I felt I couldn’t help people the way they wanted to be helped. So I went into providing training so I could help carers/people to really help people in the care sector.
Louise: When you say care is not being delivered to people in the right way, in what way do you mean? Can you give me an example?
Chad: Look at elderly care, for example, I would say a good 90% of elderly care environments are running on minimum staff, and people are becoming a task as opposed to being supported. What I hear a lot of from people in the industry is the time restraints on carers. From getting people up in the mornings, making sure everything is done by set times and getting people to bed at night. There is no wriggle room for people to be able to get up when they want to and to go to bed when they want. This has been going on for approximately 25 years, from when I first started in care. You would have thought we would have moved on from these procedures by now. But because these places are run on the bare minimum they can get away with staff to resident ratios. Staff are just pushed to their limits. They haven’t got the time to sit and talk to people, to get to know people, to follow the care plan appropriately and to understand what the care plan entails. it is just rush rush rush all the time. A classic example of what I often hear is; ‘if I don’t get so many residents in bed by the time the night staff come in they complain. Then the night staff won’t get some people up in the morning…’ and my question is why? Why are we rushing people to suit the staff? Does the resident want to go to bed? If they don’t want to go to bed, the night staff are there to do a job, and their job is to care for these people and put them to bed at that person’s time.
Louise: when you did your talk at the ECA last year you mentioned about having a big fear for when you are older, would you mind sharing this with the readers?
Chad: Yes, of course. My biggest fear is getting dementia. Not because of what dementia does because dementia is horrible but because what If I regress to a time back before I transitioned. Imagine looking at yourself in the mirror and thinking that you’re a 20-year-old woman and you’re looking at a 70-year-old man, what do you think my response will be? With dementia, people become confused and find themselves living in the past. So when they see their current self, even though they have aged, they are still looking at the same gender, and you can help them get around that. But it is not so easy if you are looking at a different gender of yourself from the one you remembered.
Are the staff equipped to cope with that?
People started transitioning in the 1940s, beginning with the first female to male transition. In 1946 a man called Michael Dillan published a self-study in endocrinology. He was the first transgender man to undergo the change and the phalloplasty surgery, which is what we would call bottom surgery if you like, that gave him a prosthetic penis. In 1951 Roberta Carrol a former world war 2 spitfire pilot became the first transgender woman to undergo the full surgery.
It is estimated that there are about 80,000 gay or lesbian elderly people within our health and social care services at the moment, some possibly with dementia. Think about it! Some of the people in elderly care were some of our early campaigners who were from the 1960s, 70s & 80s. They would have been in their 20s,30s & 40s while they were campaigning maybe even older. They are going to be in our care systems and possibly with dementia.
During this time, up until 1967, it would’ve been about 10 years imprisonment for being gay, a lot of people would have been living in fear. People were sent for conversion therapy, electric shock treatment, given all sorts of medication if they came out as gay. They may still be living in fear due to past and possibly present experiences. There will be fear of other residents. Sadly, there is still animosity/prejudice towards this and not just with the elderly and this is due to upbringing, culture, influences or other reasons.
Are our care plans adequate
to deal with this?
A lot of people assume elderly people are heterosexual so they’ll just treat people as if they are straight and not ask those questions. Or are we scared to ask those questions? I hear a lot of people say ‘well it doesn’t matter to me if anyone’s, gay or straight or whatever…’ and I reply ‘I get that but if we don’t put the right things in place what you are actually saying to people is that you don’t care about them as a whole!’. So think about it!… saying,’ it doesn’t matter, I don’t care what you are or who are…’ you are saying ‘I don’t care about you!’ making an effort to show that you care about the person may allow them to feel more comfortable and we might find that people would become less likely to present challenging behaviour. It’s about breaking down those boundaries and encouraging understanding and compassion.
Don’t assume that Mr Brown, for example, at the age of 70, has or had a wife. I have noticed that when people come into care services, we automatically ask have you got a wife? Or do you have children? Instead, we should be asking have you got a partner? Have you got somebody close to you? Do you have somebody of importance to you? This allows for people to disclose what they want and to and feel comfortable enough to do so. Get rid of the boxes where people tick if they are heterosexual, gay, bisexual, straight or transgender allow this to be a written exercise, there are over 60 different terminologies in LGBTQ+, and not everybody fits into a box. We need to simplify this procedure, and all it takes is a little bit of thought. Give people the opportunity to disclose relevant information on themselves without the preconceptions of the husband or wife scenario and maybe then people won’t need to feel that they need to maybe pass off their partner as a brother, a friend, cousin or something like that.
Louise: Wouldn’t it be nice to drop the labels and people just be people?
Chad: Absolutely. For me, it gets quite infuriating because we have to label everything, why do we have to label everything? People are just people, So long as people are not hurting people or anything else and that it is consensual and not with children, why isn’t it acceptable to be yourself? If people want to go through transitioning and change their gender, what’s the problem?
It would be lovely if everybody were able to live their lives without fear of prejudice.
At present, I don’t know if we will ever get to that point where people are accepting of peoples choices because there is always going to be a minority that goes against it for whatever their reason.
Louise: I wouldn’t mind sitting in on one of your training sessions. I feel I have learned a lot from you from this meeting. What sort of feedback do you get from the people on your courses?
Chad: The feedback usually is very good. People will come up to me afterwards and say ‘thank you, you have made it so much easier for me to understand and thank you for allowing me to ask you questions’.
They always seem really pleased that they’ve attended the course. Normally when people come in at the start, they’re quite negative because as far as they are concerned, they have done their equality and diversity training online with e-learning. I hate e-learning, it’s a tick box exercise, all you have to do is sit and watch the lesson then do the little quiz at the end, but you don’t take anything in and it is not engaging. People who have done their equality and diversity training sometimes feel that they don’t need to do the LGBTQ+ because it is covered (in a very small way) in their e-learning. People generally say ‘well I don’t care’, to them it doesn’t matter what people are because they would care for them the same as anybody else. But people don’t understand the complexities within it, so my courses provide them with a safe space to have time to think and ask questions which will help them to understand and to be more aware of what’s going on in the world. To highlight the trials and tribulations of people and what they may have gone through, and maybe why they would not disclose certain information. To be mindful of the fact that they may have been put through electric shock treatment or conversion therapy and other things like that, to deter them from wanting a same-sex relationship whether they’re male or female.