A paramedic has said patients have refused her care because she is transgender.
Steph Meech, who works for the South East Coast Ambulance Service (Secamb), has been a paramedic for 20 years.
Since coming out she has received verbal and physical abuse from patients.
Nationally there were 11,749 reports of abuse or attacks on ambulance staff in 2021. A 35% rise on 2020.
‘What are you?’
Mrs Meech, who is based in Polegate, East Sussex, said: “I’ve had times where I’m treating people and I get spat at, just for who I am.
“As I come to the door usually I get ‘what are you?’. It’s really not okay. I’m a paramedic first and foremost and I’m here to help.
“The majority of people we go to are so agreeable and appreciative of the help that the ambulance service brings. It’s just that few minority that spoil it for everybody.
“When I come away from these incidents, they do really hurt you deep down.”
She said since coming out she feels “enlightened”.
“I can be my true self. This is who I am and I’ve had to keep it hidden for such a long time.”
Secamb, which covers Kent, Sussex and Surrey, has joined a national “Work Without Fear” campaign to target growing aggression and violence aimed at ambulance staff.
Mrs Meech, 53, has become one of the faces of the campaign locally.
In the south east, reports of violence and aggression towards staff grew from 548 in 2019, to 921 in 2021.
David Monk, a violence reduction support officer at Secamb, said call handlers as well as paramedics have been abused.
He said: “We are trying to get staff to have the confidence to come forward and report it so we can identify how much of an issue it is.
“It’s not acceptable for emergency service workers to come to work and be faced with violence. They are normal members of the public like everybody else.
“We are supporting our staff when they are subjected to the abuse, to get the [perpetrators] to court where necessary and get the highest possible sanction we can.”