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Pride 2023: “We are proud of our identity”

Vera Joren, junior sister, Newham Hospital

This Pride month, we’re sharing the story of Vera Joren, a junior sister in Newham Hospital’s Stratford ward, a proud transwoman and advocate for the LGBTQ+ community.

"I knew then that this was the right career for me"

“I grew up in one of the biggest cities in the Philippines, Cebu City and had a happy childhood with many happy memories like playing traditional Filipino games with my siblings and cousins after school.  

“When I was applying for college, I didn’t plan on getting into nursing. I saw how challenging nursing when my cousins were studying it at the time, and I did not dream of carrying those heavy books like the Fundamentals of Nursing like they did! But after passing my exams in school, I decided to follow their footsteps and become a registered nurse. 

“Since becoming a nurse in 2012, I have been exposed to different areas and situations that have allowed me to consistently develop my skills and experience as a nurse, but no matter what department I’m in, my passion is caring for my patients. I knew then that this was the right career for me."

"My journey wasn’t easy, but I knew what I wanted"

“While in the process of building my career, I was also in the process of my transition. Transitioning did not happen overnight. My journey wasn’t easy, but I knew what I wanted. In 2010, when the first pageant for transwomen happened and reached the tabloids and local news in Cebu, I remember seeing the winner and thinking to myself, ‘I want to be her’. It was the first time I came across the term ‘transwoman’ which led me to do my own research. I learnt about the process of transitioning through hormone therapy and decided that this was something that I knew I wanted for myself – I started taking hormones and my transition journey officially began. 

“I am blessed to have the support of my parents and family throughout the process but transitioning came with a lot of challenges. Transwomen in the Philippines are publicly celebrated but are not legally protected from any harm and violence. Despite being a fully qualified and licensed nurse, I was still being discriminated against just because I was a transwoman. Nevertheless, it made me want to do more to make sure that people in the LGBTQ+ community are uplifted and know they belong.  

“Alongside my passion for nursing, it became my personal mission to work towards empowering, celebrating and advocating for the LGBTQ+ community. I want to let people know that we are proud of our identity and that for those of us working in healthcare, there is no need to justify our sexuality when looking after patients because at the end of the day, what matters is that we are provide competent and compassionate care towards our patients.   

“Some people will call us hurtful names and look down at us, but even though there have been people trying to pull us down, their negative words don’t mean anything. I have my loved ones and a community who support me no matter what and that is all that matters."

"Everything will work out in the end"

“Despite these challenges, I’ve also been blessed to have many positive experiences in my transition journey as well. Like the first pageant for transwomen in the Philippines that inspired me to start my own transition journey, I started joining pageants to help build my self-confidence. The pageants helped me to become more comfortable in my own skin, and I am proud to have been crowned Miss Trans Global UK – Europe in 2021! The pageants were such an amazing opportunity for me to not only boost my confidence and embrace my identity, but also to meet other transwomen and inspire people in their transition journey. 

“At work, since moving to the UK in 2019, I’ve been grateful to work in an environment where I am not questioned nor dismissed as a nurse because I am a transwoman. I believe that what’s more important is that my patients receive good care and that my colleagues work alongside a compassionate and competent nurse.

“Since starting my first nursing role in the UK at the endocrine ward in Whipps Cross Hospital, to becoming a coronary care unit nurse at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, and now as a junior sister at Newham Hospital, the support I received from my colleagues at Barts Health has been exceptional. My colleagues have been the ones who encouraged me to believe in myself and progress in my career, and I am so thankful for them all. 

“It also makes me feel so safe and supported to know that there is now a new policy in place across the trust protecting trans colleagues. I hope that as a trust, we can all continue to be open-minded and welcoming to our colleagues and patients in the LGBTQ+ community. 

“To those struggling with their identity and who are still in the stage of finding themselves, don’t rush on getting the answers. Time is the ultimate truth teller and what you do now will have great impact in your future. Never be afraid to express what you feel or what you are going through to your support system and be reassured that everything will work out in the end.”  


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