Dr. Brad McKay: Celebrating LGBTQ+ Pride Part 3

June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month! Project Sleep is proud to highlight insights from LGBTQ+ members of our community throughout the month of June.

Meet Dr. Brad McKay:

Hi Dr. McKay! Please tell us about yourself.

I’m a family doctor in Sydney. I live with my fiancé and our toy cavoodle, Humphrey. I was born in New Zealand, but moved to Australia as a teenager. I work at a medical clinic where we provide healthcare for anyone, but we’re especially focused on caring for the LGBTIQ+ community. In addition to seeing patients, I also work in the media and present health segments for TV, radio, and podcasts across the country. I’ve hosted the TV show ‘Embarrassing Bodies Down Under’ as well as Australia’s premiere science show, ‘Catalyst.’ I’ve recently published a medical myth-busting book called Fake MedicineIt’s not your average science book because I’ve also woven into it an autobiography about my own health journey.

What is your sleep disorder? At what age were you diagnosed?

My symptoms started when I was about 19 years old in the middle of my medical training. It wasn’t until more than a decade later, when I was in my early thirties, that I finally received a diagnosis of narcolepsy.

In your experience, are there similarities and/or differences between living with a sleep disorder and identifying as LGBTQ+?

It’s difficult enough to figure out your sexuality and gender identity when you’re a teenager or young adult, but it’s even more difficult when you have a religious upbringing and a sleep disorder that makes it seem like you’re possessed by demons (due to hypnogogic hallucinations). I was raised in a Christian community where being gay was unacceptable. I was taught that my sexuality was broken and needed to be fixed. Understandably, it took me a long time to come out. In the beginning, I thought my exhaustion was God’s punishment for being gay. Influenced by my religious upbringing and convinced I was possessed by a sleepy, gay demon, I felt the only solution was to undergo prayer and exorcism. This treatment didn’t work, but I was then fortunate enough to see a sleep physician and eventually received a formal diagnosis.

What does Pride Month mean to you?

It’s common to feel like the black sheep of the family when you grow up and discover you’re LGBTQ+. It can be incredibly isolating, frustrating, and confusing, especially when your family isn’t supportive. Pride Month is an opportunity to tell people they’re not alone.

What advice would you give someone who is earlier in their journey in the sleep and/or LGBTQ+ community?

It’s so important to find a sleep physician you trust, someone who can help guide you through the more difficult times in life. Sleep disorders aren’t easy to manage because everyone responds differently to treatment. You might need to trial quite a few different medications before you hit on the right combination. Sleep disorders affect both your mental and physical health, so a clinical psychologist who specialises in sleep can be invaluable.

Brad and his fiancé Jamie stand outdoors on a sunny day and smile for a photo. They are both wearing jackets and ties with rainbow pride buttons on the lapels.
With my fiancé Jamie (right)
There are many hurdles to face when you’re LGBTQ+ and there are even greater hurdles when you also have a sleep disorder. If your experience of life and understanding of the world don’t align with the community or religion you’ve been brought up with, it might not be you that’s the issue. There are a lot of caring people in the world and if you’re feeling at a low point, I’ll offer you my reassurance that it sincerely does get much better.
A photo of the cover of Brad's book, 'Fake Medicine'

Thank you, Dr. McKay, for sharing your story and insights! Please check out Dr. McKay’s new book and stay tuned for more Pride in the sleep community throughout the month of June!

Visit Wake Up Narcolepsy’s website to learn about and register for their LGBTQIA online support group.

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