We had the pleasure of interviewing one of our favourite faces of the UK medial industry and one of the stars of the Channel 4 hit series ‘Embarrassing Bodies’. Yep, you guessed it – Doctor Christian Jessen! We spoke to Christian about Ditch the Label, his sexuality, being in the public eye, Twitter and prejudice towards patients in our first of many celebrity interviews.
Ditch the Label: Hi Christian, thanks so much for your time. Are you familiar with Ditch the Label? Dr Christian Jessen: Hi guys, not a problem. Yes I am and I think that it’s great. It is important for teens to have somewhere to go when they need advice and support.
Ditch the Label: Thank you! Now your sexuality has often been the topic of various articles and comments within the media but how did you find growing up with it? Was your childhood affected in anyway? Dr Christian Jessen: Well I was very fortunate because my school was very open minded. It didn’t really matter what your interests were and sexuality was always seen as a non-issue. However, I do remember growing up feeling very alone – it was difficult and I remember wishing that my sexuality wasn’t the way it was turning out. I knew that it was okay to be different but I didn’t have anybody to talk to. My friends were out getting girlfriends and I felt left out and alone. I like Ditch the Label because it gives people a place to find likeminded people to talk to. Bullying isn’t always as dramatic and I think that sometimes people just need somebody to talk to and some advice.
Ditch the Label: How did you deal with feeling like you were alone? Dr Christian Jessen: Well I put a lot of effort into my work; not necessarily my academic work, I was very interested in music and theatre and didn’t really understand relationships. I buried it all in other activities and it sorted itself out in due course.
Ditch the Label: We all know you as one of the main Doctors from Embarrassing Bodies and many of us are following you on Twitter for your health Q&A sessions but have you ever been treated differently because of your sexuality whilst being a doctor? Dr Christian Jessen: There is a massive prejudice around being a gay doctor. It was different for me as I have never been ‘obviously’ gay and so people are often surprised when they find out. I have been exposed to off-the-cuff homophobic comments from other doctors, especially when being trained in sexual health. Prejudice towards patients and sexual health do exist. I never hid my sexuality but never wove a flag either; I don’t see it as being relevant. I am a doctor and not a ‘gay doctor’. I have also had comments from other doctors calling me an embarrassment to the profession but the Guardian recently noted me as the friendly face of the medical profession so it’s all swings and roundabouts.
Ditch the Label: Aside from others in the profession, have you ever experienced prejudice from the public? Dr Christian Jessen: Yes. I get quite a few hateful comments through Twitter. For instance, Alan Carr recently interviewed me on Channel 4 and spoke about my sexuality; within minutes I had lost 500 followers on Twitter, which was really sad. It’s sad to discover that some people still see it as being an issue. Twitter can be really grounding for that reason! The media also like to bring up my sexuality a lot, probably because they see it as being a revelation as it isn’t something that everybody knows about me.
Ditch the Label: How do you deal with the negative comments on Twitter? Dr Christian Jessen: Well the best thing is to just leave and ignore them. If something is especially foul I will ReTweet it with comments and have often received apologies.
Ditch the Label: Does prejudice towards patients ever exist? Dr Christian Jessen: It isn’t a good thing but we are all guilty of stereotyping but prejudice and health is a dangerous thing. I have always been vocal about religious doctors and am anti-religious because of the prejudice that is sometimes tied to it. There is treatment prejudice in the profession, which seems to be more towards the elderly.
Ditch the Label: Do you have any advice for people going through a situation that is similar to your own experiences? Dr Christian Jessen: Don’t go it alone. Always tell someone but choose whom you tell carefully. If for example you are being discriminated against at work and don’t say anything until something has happened it isn’t easy to backtrack. You should always make your problems known and speak to somebody at every step of the way; either at Ditch the Label, a teacher, friend or family member; not only does it build support but it also develops evidence.
Ditch the Label: Thank you for your time! Do you have anything you’d like to add? Dr Christian Jessen: Well I think that Ditch the Label is a really positive project and I’m happy to be part of it. I like the idea of an online support network and I could have definitely benefited growing up.
We would like to thank Christian for his time and continued support for our cause and look forward to reading your comments.