Hide me!

Today marks the start of Lesbian Visibility Week 2022

Our Policy Officer, Eleanor, on lesbian joy, and the importance of our LGBTQIA+ family and kinship…

There is much joy to be found in queer friendships. Growing up, I knew very few LGBTQIA+ people and definitely no ‘out’ or visible lesbian women. My journey has seen me grow up, and in to, queerer friendship circles – and I have grown into my queerness too. I’ve grown in to being visible – reaching a point where I feel, not just accepting of myself as a lesbian woman, but able to see beauty and feel great pride in that.

My queer friendships have been instrumental in helping me grow. Being around other lesbian women has brought connection, a sense of belonging, emotional support, and love.

These feelings of worth, understanding and belonging have not just come from lesbians. My network of queer friends include folk from across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, and the solidarity and support we give to each other makes us so much stronger. The depth of this support, and the importance of these friendships, means that I consider them not just friends, but my queer family, something that I know a lot of LGBTQIA+ people experience.

Equality Network is exploring how these important relationships, our chosen, LGBTQIA+ family, support us, and how policy might reflect this. We want to ensure that these relationships are considered where it matters. We began our Kinship project this year.

Recently we have been looking at support and what that means to lesbian and bi women. Responses have revealed themes of building confidence, solidarity, healing, and representation:

“Having other queer women around definitely help me build a sense of identity, solidarity and we all fought for visibility together.”

“I think support networks are important for anyone but especially for groups that have experienced discrimination of any form.”

“Friendship groups are really important to me, and I feel most at home with other queer women.”

“My queer friends have helped me grow and heal as a person. They support me to learn about myself and deal with tough times.”

We’re going to work with the experiences we gather through surveys, workshops, meet ups and focus groups to ensure that these support networks are visible. It’s crucial LGBTQIA+ women, and the ways in which we support each other, are not only reflected in policy but also celebrated.

Happy #LesbianVisibilityWeek!

We hope you find joy this season…

The season is upon us! It’s that time of year again… for cosy evenings, good food, old friends, and family… After the year we’ve all had, it’s a well-earned break, with celebration perhaps feeling more needed than ever.

To everyone celebrating Christmas, of course, we wish you the merriest and most joyous of times!

But we also know that not everyone feels they quite fit at this time of year. Not all of us feel the warmth and, aside from that, not all of us celebrate Christmas. For many reasons. Some of us come from diverse faith backgrounds, and some of us come from none. Others of us, for quite different reasons, just don’t feel safe, welcome, or supported. For those of us feeling outside of Christmas, we want to say that we see you, and we encourage others to see you too. For many, the festive period can evoke complex and difficult emotions, and we want to take the time to recognise that.

Many LGBTQIA+ people feel estranged, isolated, their boundaries may be pushed. Some struggle with unsupportive or passive aggressive families. Some suffer violence. Some of us struggle financially at this time of year, some despair at the consumerism, and for some, the festive period can invoke trauma from the past and present. Some of us will be longing to celebrate this year, but instead be stuck working long hours or shielding due to COVID. For many LGBTQIA+ people and beyond, Christmas is a difficult and painful time of year, or bittersweet, with moments of joy, and others of sadness and anger. This season may be a reminder that our family does not accept us for who we are. This may mean a Christmas spent with chosen family instead, or alone, or anxiously spent hiding a part of ourselves away. For others, it means a day fraught with tension or arguing. Some may be remembering loved ones who are no longer here, while others may be struggling to feel OK, and to get into the ‘Christmas spirit’.

We want to say, to everyone out there who may not be feeling the positive vibes this festive season, that we see YOU. YOU are NOT alone.

From everyone at Equality Network and Scottish Trans, we send you strength, love and, we hope, a little bit of joy to carry you into the new year. Bring on 2022, where we will fight even harder for positive change for you and our community.

             … We will see you next year, ready to find some more!

 

For those that might need these:

10th December is International Human Rights Day – what does that mean for LGBTI people?

“Human rights” can feel like an abstract concept, talked about by politicians and policymakers, disconnected from our everyday lives. But human rights are, and should be, central to our lives. The right to life, to freedom of thought, to education, to health, to a fair trial, to not be discriminated against; these rights and more are enshrined within the UK’s Human Rights Act 1998. They form the foundation of Scottish legislation through the devolution settlement. This legislation is vital to living with dignity, with respect, and with freedom, and it should protect us.

But does it?

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that it does not. It is clear that some people are more equal than others. Our human rights legislation, as it currently stands, does not always protect the most marginalised people. Add to this our withdrawal from the EU, and with it the disapplication of EU equality law guarantees, and we begin to see how fragile our human rights are. Add to this that the UK government is in the process of reviewing the Human Rights Act, with the potential outcome of changing or weakening this, and we are teetering on a knife edge.

The watering down of our human rights should matter to us all, not least if we consider ourselves to be a ‘modern democracy’, but because real harm is happening to real people. When we begin to roll back rights, everyone suffers, and everyone is at risk. But there is hope, and this Human Rights Day, we have an opportunity to make a real difference.

The Scottish Government, based on recommendations from their National Taskforce, have pledged to introduce a new Human Rights Bill for Scotland, and with it the incorporation of four international human rights treaties. For more, see here.

This matters for the simple reason that incorporating international human rights into domestic law makes those rights enforceable, ultimately in the courts. These four treaties are more comprehensive in scope than what we currently have, and they send a clear message: discrimination is not welcome here, and there are consequences for not upholding everyone’s rights.

The incorporation of these treaties could shift the balance of power; it could be a step towards making our human rights real, towards embedding a ‘culture’ of human rights, and to putting those most marginalised at the centre of policies and actions of governments.

Currently there are no specific mentions of LGBTI people within treaties, so we are working with the National Taskforce, Amnesty International and the Human Rights Consortium Scotland to ensure that LGBTI people are protected. When we look to the future amid COVID-19, Brexit, and a review of the Human rights Act, this is crucial.

On this Human Rights Day, we look to a future when all of our community is free from human rights violations.

 

 

Mental Health Awareness Week 2021

Nature is a powerful tool in maintaining and improving mental health. It can bring perspective, moments of inner peace, joy and wonderment. It can make us feel physically and emotionally better. But nature is not something everyone has access to. 13% of households in the UK do not have access to a garden[1], other people are unable to get out into nature, and there are inequalities in access to green space. People of colour, young people and lower-income households are all less likely to have access to nature.

Nature should not be a luxury.

 

Nature is everywhere, nature is local, nature is us! – We all belong in nature” – Becky Crowther, Policy Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

It is a resource that must be available for everyone to enjoy – as basic as having access to clean water or a safe roof over our heads. Local and national governments need to consider their role in making this a reality for everyone[1]”. – Mental Health Foundation

This mental health awareness week, the Mental Health Foundation have made their theme nature, in recognition of how important this is to our wellbeing. With LGBTI communities at greater risk of poor mental health, this is a time to celebrate how you connect with nature. The Mental Health Foundation ask that this week we take moments to:

  • Experience nature: take time to recognise and grow your connection with nature during the week. Take a moment to notice and celebrate nature in your daily life. You might be surprised by what you notice!”
  • “Share nature: Take a photo, video or sound recording and share the connections you’ve made during the week, to inspire others. Join the discussion on how you’re connecting with nature by using the hashtags #ConnectWithNature #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek”
  • Talk about nature: “discuss in your family, school, workplace and community how you can help encourage people to find new ways to connect with nature in your local environment”.

We asked our team what nature means to them, and to share their favourite pictures. For some staff, nature represents beauty, and has a ‘grounding’ effect. Oceana, our Community Engagement Officer, writes:

This is “my go to “I need grounding – paddling required” spot overlooking Arran. 

And sends us something beautiful from their garden:

Scott, our Development Manager, finds that connecting with nature gives him time and space to reflect, on good days and bad”. His favourite spot is on the end of the Granton Harbour Breakwater, where he is sometimes joined in his reflection by a crane:

 

 

 

Ella, our Policy Officer, sends us a picture of her favourite local nature spot, Arthur’s Seat (left), and writes:

“If ever I’ve got a lot on my mind, the climb helps me work it out and distract myself and the view just reminds me what a beautiful city Edinburgh is”.

 

 

 

 

 

And Eleanor, our Community Development Officer, writes:

“During lockdown I found an old pallet on the street and have been using it to grow tomatoes, carrots and herbs. Watching seedlings slowly emerge and grow has given me small moments of joy. Seeing the fruits of my labour (no pun intended) has made me feel more connected to nature and to the food I consume. Hopefully I can keep the tomatoes alive long enough to see one appear…”

[1] https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week/why-nature

[1] https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week/why-nature

LGBTI Visibility Mark survey opens

Between 2017 and 2020, we visited people all over Scotland, as well as surveying hundreds online, to capture the diverse experiences of the rural LGBTI community. We collated these stories and statistics into our research report ‘Further Out‘; the first of its kind in Scotland. We found high levels of poor mental health for LGBTI people living rurally, stemming from greater prejudice, isolation and minority stress, as well as a lack of access to inclusive services and spaces.

Recognising this, and the need for community-led approaches, the Scottish Government approved funding for the development of an LGBTI visibility mark. Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said:

“Recent research by the Equality Network tells us that feelings of social isolation can be compounded further for LGBTI people living in a rural setting. This new funding will allow the Equality Network to create an LGBTI Visibility project, working with a partnership of organisations and ‘ambassadors’ from the LGBTI community itself to advocate for the needs of LGBTI people in rural and island Scotland.

It will seek to encourage willing local community spaces, such as cafes, cinemas, theatres and leisure centres, to sign up to the scheme to show that they are a safe space where LGBTI people can go and be themselves. The Scottish Government is committed to advancing equality for LGBTI people, and promoting, protecting and realising the rights of every LGBTI person in Scotland. This fund is another step in the direction to do that.”

We are pleased to be working alongside Highland Pride, Four Pillars, Somewhere and Dumfries & Galloway LGBT Plus to make this project a national success. We also want your input on the design and features of the mark. There is still time to fill in our survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/ruralLGBTIvisibility