Liz is Diversity and Inclusion Champion

Liz Curr, who has won a Nursing Times award. Photo shows her in nursing uniform looking at the camera.

Published on 4 February 2022

A nurse from Ashford has been named Diversity and Inclusion Champion of the Year in a national awards ceremony.

Liz Curr, who spent 23 years working for East Kent Hospitals at the William Harvey Hospital and the Kent and Canterbury Hospital, won the accolade at the Nursing Times workforce awards, for her work on a training programme around the importance of using the correct personal pronouns.

The training was developed as a result of her experiences as a trans woman, both as a nurse and as a patient, and aimed to highlight the impact misgendering someone can have.

The 52 year old, who has two sons and a granddaughter, was given a standing ovation by delegates when she received her award, but insists it was a team effort.

She said: “I could not have done any of the work in isolation. If it wasn’t for some amazing individuals, none of it would have happened. From the loving acceptance and moral support of my family to be the best and happiest version of me I could be, to the support of close friends and colleagues, as well as university tutors and managers; it all helped me to use my personal story as a positive teaching aid.

“I have always felt education is the key to understanding, and by raising knowledge and awareness about LGBTQ+ issues it might improve standards of care by encouraging people to be totally holistic and completely patient-centred.

“Getting a gender pronoun wrong, even accidentally, is hurtful and dehumanising. As a trans person I was acutely aware that most of the time when misgendering happened it was not aimed at hurting anyone, but it was still wrong – and many people did not understand why I corrected them or the implications of getting it wrong.”

Growing up, Liz always felt she didn’t quite fit in; enjoying girly chats with her sister and letting her experiment with different make-up techniques on her, as well as playing football with the lads.

She said: “I don’t know how old I was when I tried on girls’ clothes, or even why, but rather than feeling odd or awkward it was almost like being at home and at ease.

“I had girlfriends, my sexuality was never in doubt, and I didn’t identify as trans. I just viewed myself as male with a lot of female traits.”

In 2007, Liz was diagnosed with a rare form of metastatic skin cancer, and it prompted her to re-evaluate her life.

She said: “I questioned everything – my job, my career, my self-worth, and whether I was happy.

“It led to a period of reflection that helped me to accept who I really was, and to embrace my life as Liz.

“The decision came with awfully high stakes and huge uncertainty, about my career, my family and friends, as well as fears about social acceptance. But it gave me a new-found confidence to embrace the decision and follow my convictions.”

When Liz went back to work after her cancer treatment she came out as trans to some people. Then when she switched from working at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital to the William Harvey she was openly trans. She started her transition in September 2015, getting the go-ahead for surgery in 2019 and having the gender-affirming procedure in spring 2020.

Liz became chair of the Trust’s first LGBT staff forum, and last year helped organise the first Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Conference, where many colleagues were moved to tears after hearing her story.

Since then she has worked with Canterbury Christ Church University, Sussex Police, the merchant navy and a fostering agency to help raise awareness of trans issues.

She also worked with teams across the Trust to help improve the care they give to patients who identify as trans.

Liz said: “I heard from the paediatric team that the training I gave them changed a young person’s life, and there is nothing more important than that.

“The trans community is larger than the community of people with type one diabetes, or with dementia or asthma, but everyone knows something about those conditions and it seems very few people know about trans issues.

“All I have tried to be is a good ambassador for my community; to promote dignity and civility and above all humanity – we are all humans, however we identify, and we should treat each other with compassion and kindness always.”

Anyone who would like to contact Liz for support or advice can do so via ekh-tr.communications@nhs.net