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!

Equality Network statement on the UK Government’s decision not to include trans people in the ban on so-called conversion therapy

The Equality Network, together with LGBTQ+ organisations right across the UK, shares the anger at the UK Government’s decision not to include trans people in a proposed ban on conversion practices in England & Wales.

As a result and in solidarity with trans people across the UK the Equality Network will not participate in the UK Government’s “Safe To Be Me” Conference. We fully support the similar decisions of other LGBTQ+ organisations. Trans people are not “Safe to Be Me” in the UK at present.

It has become increasingly clear over the past few days that while some in the UK Government support the rights of LGBTQ+ people, other parts of UK Government have no understanding of or consideration for trans people and are willing to sacrifice their rights.

We will continue to work to ensure the proposed ban on conversion practices in Scotland, which the Scottish Government have said will include sexual orientation and gender identity, is passed successfully by the Scottish Parliament while continuing to support UK wide efforts to ensure all LGBT people, including trans people are protected from this abhorrent practice.

Census 2022

Make sure LGBT+ people count!

Download our Census 2022 factsheet (PDF)

Complete the Scottish Census 2022

Every decade, the Scottish Government conducts a Census – a survey of everyone living in Scotland, to find out all sorts of useful statistical information about the people who live in different parts of Scotland. The information is used to help plan how money is spent on schools, roads, healthcare and other public services.

Every house is now being sent a letter asking the householder to complete the Census questionnaire online, or alternatively to request and complete a paper version.

The information released from the Census is statistical only – no personal information is released. The individual answers and personal details that people provide are kept secure and confidential for 100 years. The answers you give to the Census do not affect your legal rights, obligations or status in any way.

It is compulsory to complete the Census. It is a criminal offence not to complete it or to give false answers. You could be fined up to £1000 for those offences.

LGBT+ people and the Census

For the first time, the Census 2022 will ask questions about sexual orientation and trans status or history, alongside a wide range of other questions that include family relationships, housing, car ownership, health, religion, race, nationality, languages used, marital or civil partnership status, caring responsibilities, education, employment status, and veteran status.

The sexual orientation and trans status questions are only for people aged 16 and over, and they are voluntary, meaning that it is not an offence to skip either of these questions.

The Equality Network has long campaigned for the sexual orientation and trans status questions to be included, so that statistics can be obtained about LGBT+ people and how we live in Scotland.

We urge LGBT+ people to complete these questions, so we can get the best possible statistics in relation to LGBT+ people and have better planned services.

Remember that your answers are kept secure and confidential for 100 years. It is a serious criminal offence for anyone involved in the administration of the Census to reveal any information from it.

Confidentiality

The Census can be completed by the “householder” for everyone living in the house. However, that may not be appropriate in some cases.

Whatever your living circumstances, anyone aged 16 or over can privately complete their own Census questionnaire. You can find out about this, and request an individual private questionnaire, at www.census.gov.scot/individual

If you request an individual questionnaire, the rest of your household will not be informed of this. The answers you give on your individual questionnaire will override any answers about you given on the main household questionnaire. This means for example that if you are not out as LGBT+ to the people you share your house with, you can give different answers on your private individual questionnaire, and those will be the ones that are recorded.

The sexual orientation question

The sexual orientation question is voluntary, and for people aged 16 or over. It says:

Which of the following best describes your sexual orientation?

Straight / Heterosexual

Gay or Lesbian

Bisexual

Other sexual orientation, please write in: …

If you answer “Other” you can write in the way that best describes your sexual orientation.

The trans status or history question

The trans status or history question is voluntary, and for people aged 16 or over. It says:

Do you consider yourself to be trans, or have a trans history?

(Trans is a term used to describe people whose gender is not the same as the sex they were registered at birth)

No

Yes, please describe your trans status (for example, non-binary, trans man, trans woman): …

If you answer “Yes” you can write in the way that best describes your trans status. This will be the only place where information about non-binary people can be counted. If you’re a non-binary person, we’d urge you to use this box.

The sex question

The sex question in the Census is compulsory for everyone. It says:

What is your sex?

Female

Male

There is official guidance on this question for trans people. It says:

If you are transgender the answer you give can be different from what is on your birth certificate. You do not need a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC).

If you are non-binary or you are not sure how to answer, you could use the sex registered on your official documents, such as your passport.

A voluntary question about trans status or history will follow if you are aged 16 or over. You can respond as non-binary in that question.

So if you are a trans woman or trans man, you can answer with your lived sex.

The Census organisers had initially planned to include a third, non-binary, option to the sex question, that would have allowed non-binary people to respond in the same way that trans men and trans women are able to – in a way that reflects how they live their lives. But members of a Scottish Parliament Committee objected, and they returned to only providing ‘Female’ or ‘Male’ as options.

The online version of the Census requires you to answer the sex question with Female or Male before you can go on to the next question.

You can order a paper version of the Census –

Here for a paper questionnaire for the whole household: www.census.gov.scot/paper

Or here for an individual paper questionnaire: www.census.gov.scot/individual

Remember, it is compulsory to complete the Census. It is a criminal offence not to complete it, and it is also a criminal offence to give false answers. You could be fined up to £1000 for those offences.

Download our Census 2022 factsheet (PDF)

Happy Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week

February 20-26 is Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week. Most of us will know an aromantic person, even if we don’t identify with the label ourselves, so it’s a great opportunity to learn more about what that means so that we can be better allies to aromantic people.

Aromanticism is a romantic orientation, which is different to a sexual orientation. Aromantic people may be gay or lesbian, bi or asexual, but for the most this sexual orientation is separate from ideas of romance.

Romantic norms vary a lot over time and between cultures, and even those who experience romantic attraction might not want to buy into the full Hollywood/Valentines Day thing, but being aromantic is more than that.

People who are aromantic experience little or no romantic attraction and don’t have any desire to feel that way. Like every orientation, aromanticism is on a spectrum; demiromantic and greyromantic people, who only experience romantic attraction rarely or under some circumstances, are also included under the aromantic umbrella.

People who are aromantic may feel that:

  • They don’t experience feelings of romantic attraction
  • They don’t need a romantic relationship to feel complete or fulfilled
  • They don’t experience “crushes” or being “in love” with someone else
  • They have a hard time relating to romantic stories

This doesn’t mean that aromantic people don’t want partners or are incapable of intimate relationships. They may develop relationships based on shared interests, mutual respect, or forming a family. However, such relationships may be based on a different sense of love to a romantic one, such as platonic love, or the love you feel for family members.

It is important to remember that aromantic is not a one-size-fits-all label. Aromantic people vary a lot, and the best way to learn more is to believe people about their romantic orientation and listen respectfully to their lived experience. Hopefully the information here is a small step toward an increased understanding of aromanticism.

For more information on Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week and what it means to be aromantic visit arospecweek.org

And if you think you may be aromantic there’s some useful information here

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.

 

 

Our letter about conversion practices in today’s The National (23 Nov)

IN Monday’s long letter, Andy Anderson describes how he and his wife gave what sounds like excellent support to a young person who was questioning their gender identity. What he describes is certainly not conversion therapy, and would not be affected by any ban.

Conversion “therapy” is defined as practices directed at a person with the aim of changing or suppressing the person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. For example, “therapy” directed towards a trans person that has the pre-determined aim that they should continue living in the gender assigned to them at birth, or directed towards a gay person with the aim that they cease to be interested in a relationship with someone of the same gender.

Non-judgemental, non-directive counselling and support, which is aimed at helping a person explore what their sexual orientation and/or gender identity are, and freely decide what they want to do, is not conversion practice. It is not covered by the definition, and would not be included in any ban.

Conversion practices cause immense harm. In many cases, they cause severe and long-lasting mental health problems. That is why all five parties in the Scottish Parliament committed, in their election manifestos in May, to ending them.

The Equality Network welcomes the excellent work of the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee, examining this issue over the past three months, and the commitment by the Scottish Government last week to legislate to put an end to this harm.

Tim Hopkins
Director, Equality Network

Sanctuary, Safety and Solidarity practical guide

Sanctuary, Safety and Solidarity practical guide
Sanctuary, Safety, Solidarity - A guide for service users working with LGBT asylum seekers and refugees

 

Sanctuary, Safety, Solidarity is a guide for service providers on how to better support LGBT asylum seekers and refugees. The original research for this guide, in the report ‘Sanctuary, Safety and Solidarity — Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, trans Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Scotland’, was published in 2011 by the Equality Network, BEMIS and GRAMNet and in three separate short resources called ‘Sanctuary’, ‘Safety’ and ‘Solidarity’. This updated guide was published in October 2021.

Further Out

There are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in every part of Scotland from our biggest cities to our smallest settlements and islands. We know through our published research, Further Out; The Scottish LGBT Rural Equality Report, that while LGBTI equality has progressed considerably in recent years the lived experience of LGBTI communities in urban settings is vastly different to that of LGBTI communities in more rural and island settings.

51% of LGBT people living in rural areas have personally experienced prejudice or discrimination for being LGBT.

70% feel that more needs to be done to tackle inequality experienced by LGBT people living outside of Scotland’s biggest cities.

62% believe that LGBT people outside of Scotland’s biggest cities face more inequality.

81% said they had experienced LGBT+ phobic comments and attitudes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pandemic too has had a big impact on LGBTI people living rurally, with less opportunities to connect with other LGBTI people, increasing loneliness and isolation.

That’s why we we’ll be taking to the road in August and September with out street stall, pride flags and materials. We’ll be reconnecting with LGBTI people on high streets and town squares across rural and island Scotland, and we’re up for a coffee and a chat in places where we won’t be setting up the street stall.

We’ll be following the latest COVID-19 guidance at all times, and will be taking regular lateral flow tests.

Where we’ll be (follow our social media channels for exact times and locations):

Monday 16th August Dunbar Street Stall on High Street
Tuesday 17th August Galashiels (morning) Street Stall on High Street
  Hawick (afternoon) Street Stall on Bourtree Place
Wednesday 18th August Dumfries Street Stall on High Street
Thursday 19th August Stranraer Street Stall on George Street
Friday 20th August Ayr Street Stall on High Street
Monday 23rd August St Andrews Street Stall on South Street
Tuesday 24th August Blairgowrie Street Stall on Wellmeadow
Wednesday 25th August Arbroath Street Stall on High Street
Thursday 26th August Stonehaven Street Stall on Market Square
Friday 27th August Lerwick, Shetland Street Stall
Monday 30th August Peterhead (morning) Street Stall on Marsichal Street 
  Fraserburgh (afternoon) Street Stall on Saltoun Square 
Tuesday 31st August Elgin Street Stall on High Street
Wednesday 1st September Aviemore Street Stall on Grampian Rd
Thursday 2nd September Wick Street Stall on High Street
Friday 3rd September Kirkwall, Orkney Street Stall
Monday 6th September Durness Coffee Shop
Tuesday 7th September Ullapool Street Stall
Wednesday 8th September Stornoway, Na h-Eileanan an Iar Street Stall
Thursday 9th September Portree Street Stall
Friday 10th September Fort William Street Stall
Monday 13th September Mallaig Coffee Shop
Tuesday 14th September North Uist Coffee Shop
Wednesday 15th September Benbecula/South Uist Coffee Shop
Thursday 16th September Barra Coffee Shop
Saturday 18th September Tobermory, Mull Coffee Shop
Monday 20th September Dunoon Street Stall
Tuesday 21st September Campbeltown Street Stall
Wednesday 22nd September Bowmore, Islay Coffee Shop
Thursday 23rd September Colonsay Coffee Shop
Saturday 25th September Oban Oban Pride

If you’ve any questions about Further Out or would like to get involved please contact scott [at] equality-network.org

It is Pride month at the Shrub Co-op!

It’s Pride month at the Shrub Co-op!

Pride flags, badges and leaflets

Mini Pride table at Shrub co-op

Shrub is an Edinburgh cooperative working for a world without waste, and includes a charity shop and food sharing hub. When they came to us for intersectional inclusion training they were already good at LGBT inclusion but now they’re even better…

For the month of June the window display at their shop on Bread Street Edinburgh features a range of Pride flags borrowed from us and outside there’s a rainbow rail of clothes for sale.

There is a selection of badges and leaflets available in store and an opportunity to donate to the Equality Network.

Mannequins wearing Pride flags in a shop window

Pride window display at Shrub Co-op

Unlike some businesses who just put up rainbows for Pride Month, Shrub are very inclusive all year round, they have gender neutral toilets, with gender inclusive and body positive messages in the loo and changing room. They are the only charity shop in Edinburgh as far as we know who don’t sort their clothes by gender. In the past Shrub has used the shop for meetings, including queer friendly events, and hopefully they’ll be able to do that again when Covid restrictions ease.

You can find out more about Shrub or become a member at https://www.shrubcoop.org/

If you would like training for your organisation from our intersectional team contact us at Mel@equality-network.org

A rail of colourful clothes sorted in rainbow order outside Shrub co-op

The rainbow rail welcome people from the street outside the shop