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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

New 2020-21 Hate Crime Figures

 

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) published the latest hate crime figures for 2020-21 on Friday 4th June.

The figures show that recorded sexual orientation aggravated crime continues to rise in Scotland, this could be a consequence of both an actual increase in hate crimes against LGB people (both real and perceived), and an increase in reporting by victims of hate crimes.

Sexual orientation aggravated crime is the second most commonly reported type of hate crime. The number of charges reported increased by 5% in 2020-21 to 1,580. With the exception of 2014-15, there have been year on year increases in charges reported since the legislation introducing this aggravation came into force in 2010.


Transgender identity aggravated crime stayed roughly at the same level as 2019-20 with 46 charges reported in 2020-21 with an aggravation of transgender identity, compared to 47 in 2019-20.

COPFS statistics are useful but should not be regarded as reporting the whole picture of hate incidents and crimes experienced by LGBTI people. The Crown Office hate crime statistics count the number of reports by police to Procurators Fiscal (PFs). There is currently no national reporting in Scotland of the number of hate incidents reported to the police, or the number of hate crimes recorded by police. The new Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021 will require the annual publication of police statistics on hate crime, as well as conviction statistics from the courts, once the Act is fully in effect.

In addition, many hate incidents and crimes are not reported to police. The Scottish LGBTI Hate Crime Report (2017) reported that 81% of those who witnessed hate crimes did not report any incident to the police. Crown Office statistics therefore seriously under-report the level of hate incidents and crimes.

The Scottish Parliament passed a new hate crime law in March 2021. The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021 is not yet in force. It clarifies the existing law, and also extends the existing crime of stirring up racial hatred, to cover stirring up hatred against a group of people defined by age, LGBTI status, disability, or religion. The offence is quite narrowly defined – it makes it a crime to act in a way that a reasonable person would consider to be threatening or abusive, and which is deliberately intended to stir up hatred.

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

International Women’s Day 2021 #ChooseToChallenge

This International Women’s Day, three members of the Equality Network and Scottish Trans team reflect on what they #ChooseToChallenge in the fight for gender equality

Karen, Training Assistant

This IWD the theme is Choose to Challenge. In a world of Covid, division, and overwhelming challenges that threaten to tear so much apart, I would like to go small and personal.

Sometimes the challenge chooses you: My mother grew up during the authoritarian Apartheid years in South Africa, where women were taught to silently mind their place. She, a white girl, chose to challenge the injustices she saw to the extent that her father called in local politicians and pastors to talk sense into her. One councillor left, defeated, saying he wished she’d change her views (unchanged!) because the Party desperately needed someone like her.

Sometimes the challenge chooses you: Separated from my father, she was a single mother when both those things were frowned upon. My weekend father taught me about happy-go-lucky freedom from responsibilities and routines. Mom taught me the real lessons: About putting food on the table and shoes on my feet when her purse was empty. About attending my school events no matter what. About choosing to challenge a world that told her she couldn’t and shouldn’t and daren’t and yet she did. She shared her joys and sorrows, and taught me to challenge my own world with her grace and steel.

I may not have learned all the lessons instantly or linearly. But I learned.

Sometimes the challenge chooses you: She is 80 now, recovering from Covid. We travelled half-way across the world to care for her: her body is frail but her mind and humour remain sharp, her spirit as indomitable as when she chose to challenge the things that told her no.

She showed me how to challenge an intractable world and make it and myself better, one deed, teardrop and smile at a time. I am proud to call her my mom, and I hope to live up to her legacy.

Rowan, Intersectional Officer

I was not asked to write this blog for International Women’s Day, but I was able to volunteer. This is important to me because as an apparently female non-binary person it’s often either assumed I should automatically be included in “women’s stuff”, or assumed I should be banned. However, nothing about gender is that cut and dried – at least not for all of us. 

I am non-binary and agender, and because I don’t have a gender, the whole concept can feel like something imposed from the outside, that literally makes no sense. But this can be true for women as well as for non-binary people. The rules that societies impose about what it means to be female are often weird, alienating and downright oppressive. No-one, whatever their gender, should have to dress or make themselves up in a particular way, be limited in what jobs they can do, or how safe they are. 

The words “girls” and “ladies” feel alien to me, and “girly clothes” feel about as natural on me as they would on my cat – but I do relate, in a complicated way – to the word woman. Issues that disproportionately affect women affect me, sexist insults hurt me, and, on a practical level, women’s rights are my rights.

There’s a phrase that did the rounds on Twitter a while ago – “I caucus with the women.” It means that if there is a women’s group discussing women’s rights I want to be included. Not all non-binary people feel that way, of course, but where women’s rights are being discussed, I still feel my experience is relevant and I want my voice to be heard.

So, as a non-binary person, I caucus with the women today, and I choose to challenge misogyny, gender stereotypes, and especially the gender binary.

(By the way there is an International Non-Binary People’s Day. It’s on 14 July, and I’ll be celebrating that too.)

Becky C, Policy Co-ordinator

The F-Word

My feminism is intersectional. In order to tackle inequality and misogyny, it has to be. If our feminism is not intersectional, marginalised people are left to battle structural inequalities alone, and nobody wins. I #ChooseToChallenge exclusionary feminism and the co-opting of feminism against equality efforts around the world and right here in Scotland.

Feminism is more than fighting for equality in the workplace, which of course, we don’t have. Feminism, feminists, are fighting against the effects of inequality and misogyny on our self-image, on the way we carry ourselves with or without shame, on our interactions with each other and the world we live in, on the way we can walk in the streets, on the way we travel, on the way we are portrayed in the media, on the way the media indoctrinates our young people and tears down our role models, on the way we do or do not have relationships or sex, on the way we eat, the way we sleep, the way we might or might not experience joy, acceptance, respect, anger, passion, compassion, love – fundamentally – on the way that we live. Inequality and misogyny seeps and snakes into all facets of our life.

Feminism now has to be more than for just those women who are heterosexual, cis or able-bodied. So much more. Feminism is compassionate, empathic, powerful. Feminism considers the humanity of ALL women regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, trans status, disability, class, education, hormonal or chromosomal makeup, refugee status or age. My feminism considers the humanity of ALL people. My feminism does not distrust or denigrate men, the same men, who suffer under toxic masculinity, the bedrock of the patriarchy. Feminism has and will change the world for the better, but only if it is inclusive, only if it is intersectional. Feminism takes its root in the souls of those who demand equality. I #ChooseToChallenge feminists to step up for everyone in this fight.

Over £7k raised to support our work for LGBTI equality

We’d like to say a huge thank you to @AyeforScotland, @BlackeSkye and their team for raising an amazing £7240.66 to support our work for LGBTI equality. For 24 hours their online event on Twitch engaged many guests about LGBTI issues, all while the host played the Hollow Knight game.

All of our campaigning work is funded by donations, so we are hugely grateful to everyone who took part and donated.

If you missed the event but would still like to consider a donation you can do so on our JustGiving page here.