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N010. Coming out about IBD: transferable skills from the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) population in the UK

L. Dibley1, C. Norton1,2, J. Schaub3, 1King's College London, Florence Nightingale School of Nursing & Midwifery, London, United Kingdom, 2Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, 3Bucks New University, High Wycombe, United Kingdom


As part of a UK study to identify the needs of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) people, we aimed to identify how ‘out’ participants were about their sexual identity and their IBD, and to determine whether they use similar techniques to handle both pieces of information. Previous researchers have drawn parallels between coming out about sexual orientation and coming out about chronic illness [1,2]. This original work explores both issues amongst the same population.


Using a series of traditional and online methods we recruited GLBT people into a mixed methods online or paper survey. In Phase 1, we collected demographic, degree of outness [3] and coming out techniques data (analysed using Excel and SPSS), with the opportunity for free text responses (analysed using a simple coding technique). In Phase 2, we interviewed participants about their disease-related needs. Following transcription, data was analysed using a pragmatic thematic approach. Phase 1 data is presented here.


66 people requested study information, 57 took part (55 online, 2 on paper). 50 sets of complete data were included in analysis. GLBT people use the same techniques for coming out about IBD that are used to come out about sexual identity. GLBT people are “out” to the same degree about IBD and sexual identity, but are more out about IBD to family than in work or religious domains, and more out about sexual identity to family (except father) and work peers than to work supervisors and religious contacts. The same methods are used to come out about IBD and sexual identity. Some people tell no-one about their sexual orientation, but everyone tells someone about their IBD. Techniques include waiting for an opportunity to be presented and using it to share information which provides clues about sexual orientation or having IBD. Sharing information was seen as necessary to ensure understanding and support (for IBD) and to avoid misconceptions and embarrassment (for sexual orientation).


There may be useful lessons for others with IBD in managing the issue of how, when and to whom they should disclose their IBD diagnosis. By drawing on the coming out experiences and methods of GLBT people with IBD, nurses can develop information leaflets and provide advice that can help anyone with IBD, regardless of sexual orientation, to manage the way they share information about their IBD more effectively and less stressfully.