Pride and Prejudice: experiences of an LGBT midwife

I would like to preface this article by stating that the views expressed in this article are completely based on my own opinions and experiences. These cannot be held as a representative of the entire LGBT+ midwifery community, of which we admittedly know very little about. The latter part of this statement is what has inspired me to write this article.

It is imperative that midwifery is research-informed to ensure safety and modernity. As you undergo your midwifery degree this idea is repeated numerous times and it forms the backbone of practise of all midwives. Midwifery is a beautiful art with an abundance of research on every aspect and principle, including midwives themselves. However; if you search for research about LGBT midwives experiences in their field in the UK you will find very little (Mander and Page 2012). Surely if there were LGBT midwives, in a profession with a natural tendency towards research, there would be some documentation of their lived experiences within their fields? So are we suggesting that there are no LGBT midwives? With the Office of National statistics reporting that in their last report in 2017 2% of the British population regard themselves as LGB and a further 0.6% regarding themselves as ‘Other’, the theoretical notion of their being no queer midwives seems highly unlikely (Office of National Statistics 2019).

Why do queer midwife’s voices matter?

So why then are there no LGBT+ midwives’ voices? Why do queer midwife voices matter? I hope by sharing my experiences that I may initiate these conversations.

I identify as a cisgender lesbian and have been a qualified midwife for over 2 years. Throughout my training and career I have had a mixed array of emotions and experiences regarding my identity largely shame, guilt, isolation and of being ostracised.

As a student midwife I was also a school leaver. I was witness to many conversations on the debate surrounding if school leavers could appropriately provide good quality care to birthing people as they themselves, for the large majority, had not given birth and were assumed to have little life experience. With some midwives having very strong opinions against school leavers and passionately expressing those views whilst I was present. This was one of the first things I had learnt, that my appropriateness for the role was under deep scrutiny. During my practical assessments within the trust I felt I had to work harder and go above and beyond in order to earn the trust and respect of my mentors in comparison to my classmates who were older or who had had children themselves. So, disregarding my sexual orientation I had always felt that my place on the course was controversial and many of my colleagues and classmates would believe that I should not occupy the space I held.

In addition to this, I was gay. I was also witness to passionate discussions on the appropriateness of lesbian and bisexual midwives. I particularly recall overhearing gossip and slander about one particular matron in the speculation of her sexuality. This led to a conversation of the respective midwives’ views on homosexuality, which were not positive. They applied these views to midwifery with the argument that it was inappropriate for a lesbian to care for a birthing person as the role could include contact with genitalia. Consequent arguments were posed on if the sexuality of the midwife should be disclosed on commencement of the care of the client so if the client felt uncomfortable with the possibility of a lesbian midwife performing internal exams on them they could decline, in a similar manner that they could decline the care of a cisgender male midwife or doctor.

Overhearing these conversations was heartbreaking as the inference was that I was inappropriate, perverse and I could be rejected by clients. It was almost dehumanising.


I was extremely disheartened as… I was assumedly doubly inappropriate.

I was extremely disheartened as, not only was I inappropriate for the role as I was a school leaver, I was also a homosexual school leaver, therefore I was assumedly doubly inappropriate. In a time where places on a midwifery course were fought for tooth and nail I began to question if I had done the right thing and if indeed I deserved this opportunity I had earned.

This had a great impact on my personal life. It was highly important to me that no one in the trust or my course knew of my sexuality. I was having to work harder to prove that I was worthy of decent grades in practise as my care was under constant scrutiny due to my age, I did not then need further scrutiny due to my sexuality. In addition, the idea of being the topic of such harsh gossip such as that I had witnessed by midwives I worked with and respected made me extremely anxious and morose. Therefore, it became a mission that nobody knew my sexuality. In order to achieve this I did not involve myself with romantic relationships as I lived close to many of my colleagues and the idea of them seeing me in public with a female partner led to anxiety. Additionally, I did not think it would be fair on a romantic partner to feel as though I was ashamed of them or to make them suppress their personal expression for my comfort. I considered it the lesser of two evils for me just to abstain from romantic relationships.

During this time I felt isolated. I attempted to search for people in a similar situation as me for support but I could not find any support networks for LGBT midwives. I did not know any LGBT midwives as I assume they were probably doing a similar thing as I was by keeping their identity private. There was no research on the experiences of queer midwives, so I could not seek abstract solidarity in that. My LGBT+ friends did not quite understand what I was feeling as they were in more accepting fields. My heterosexual friends definitely did not understand what I was going through and I also did not have the comfort and support that comes from a romantic relationship. I was alone and isolated. My self worth within the course was greatly diminished, my mental health was affected and I found myself almost leaving the course on numerous occasions.

 I was left… questioning my appropriateness for the job.

With the encouragement of my family and friends I managed to complete my degree and I got a job within a continuity team. However, I was still left with a deep subconscious impact and remained questioning my appropriateness for the job. Would clients decline my care if they knew of my sexuality? As I was in continuity, clients would want to develop a deeper relationship with me, we spent a lot of time together and they would ask about my personal life. They would frequently ask if I wanted children, if I had children or a partner.

I recall one particularly odd experience in which a couple joked about how their newborn son would “have the girls lining up round the block” then made a vague reference to how it would be so awful if he chose to be with a man and then minutes later asked if I was seeing anyone myself. This was not an uncommon occurrence with clients, there were many mild jokes surrounding their child’s future spouse or gender and occasionally gender identity. This only affirmed my idea that they would decline my care should they know, and as I lived close to the clients I cared for, I still abstained from engaging in a romantic relationship myself.

About a year post qualifying, I felt confident in my practice and in my colleagues. I had a lot of positive feedback and validation from clients. This helped me stop questioning my validity and appropriateness within my role. As for my colleagues, I had gotten to know them very well, due to the nature of the team and role they were quite liberal and their morals centred around choice and empowerment. I was an integral part of the team and they needed me as I did them. Therefore I felt slightly more confident and so I decided that I could allow myself to engage in a romantic relationship without as much concern. 

When making small talk with colleagues I wasn’t as guarded, if they asked me about my plans for the weekend I would reply more freely and if I was going on a date I would say so. This occasionally would lead to a follow up question about what he was like and I would politely reply with the correct pronoun of “she”. I did not receive any negative responses from them and I don’t believe myself to be the centre of many conversations. It was pleasant and freeing. I largely felt more comfortable doing so because of the nature of the role and them as people. Had I been on a ward where there was more gossip and harsh opinions like I had experienced in training I do not think I would ever have felt comfortable enough to have those conversations.

Two years on, I am now in a position where I feel confident and comfortable enough to write this article. I am appalled that in 2020 these kinds of conversations are still taking place and that there is still a taboo around LGBT+ people in any profession. I am appalled that LGBT+ people are being silenced in midwifery and that it appears no one cares enough to start this conversation and I am appalled by my personal experiences and the affect that it had on my life.

So why does this matter? Why are LGBT midwives important?

While there are no official statistics of babies born to LGBT+ families, with more efficient, accessible and cheaper fertility treatments, a reduced stigma of LGBT parenting and an increasing population of LGBT+ people in the UK, it can be logically argued that the population of children born to LGBT+ families will increase. Therefore, more LGBT+ people will be accessing maternity care. 

Consequently it is imperative that we tackle stigma surrounding LGBT rights, and this should start within the workforce. If these voices were heard readily and freely from colleagues it would give non-LGBT colleagues a first hand insight into some of the struggles and adversity we face in society and in accessing healthcare. Therefore it would enable non-LGBT colleagues to become more aware, sensitive and provide compassionate care for the increasing LGBT population that will be accessing maternity care.

Equally as important, the stigma faced by LGBT+ midwives in the workplace can lead to a feeling of isolation and ostracisation which could contribute to workplace stress. Consequently, increased stress in the workplace that can lead to problems in retention (Hunter et al 2019).

There is so little research on the experiences of LGBT+ midwives that it is difficult to determine if my feelings and experiences are shared by other LGBT midwives. However, the lack of conversation on the topic could suggest a fear or reluctance to speak openly. This could indicate a perception of stigma. Therefore, primarily it would be important to conduct research on the experiences of this demographic in order to highlight key issues and themes and in order to determine if indeed there is a problem faced by this group of midwives and secondarily what could be done to overcome it.

I do not wish another midwife to feel the way I felt. It is not your sexual or gender identity that has an impact on your care it is your individual characteristics such as compassion, the way you communicate, the way you make people feel about themselves, your passion, your conviction, your knowledge and experience that make you a good midwife.


Mander, R., Page, M (2012) Midwifery and the LGBT midwife. Midwifery. 28[1]. pp. 9-13

Hunter, B., Fenwick, J., Sidebotham, M., Henley, J. (2019)
“Midwives in the United Kingdom: Levels of burnout, depression, anxiety and stress and associated predictors.” 
Midwifery. [Online]

[Accessed 4/7/20]

Office for National Statistics (2019) 

“Sexual orientation, UK: 2017” [Online][Accessed 4/7/20]

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