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Happy new year and best wishes for 2019!

2019 is a year of anniversaries. It’s the 20th anniversary of the Scottish Government and Parliament, which were founded on the principle of equal opportunities for all.

February is the 50th anniversary of the formation of Scotland’s first gay rights group, Scottish Minorities Group, which, with others, began a social and legal revolution for LGB people.

And June is the 50th anniversary of the protests by hundreds of LGBT people at the Stonewall Inn in New York that are considered to have kick-started the modern LGBT equality movement in the western world. (The photo is of protesters during a break in the second night of protests, 28th June 1969)

I am lucky enough to have been part of the last 32 of the 50 years of campaigning that we celebrate this year. In the 1980s, the groups I was in focussed mainly on LGB equality, and at that time, LGB people were subjected to outrageous slurs and misinformation, aided and promoted by much of the press. Many reasonable people heard these things so often that they thought some of them at least must be true.

We were told that equal rights for LGB people would lead to a big and problematic increase in the number of LGB people. We were told that recognising same-sex relationships would undermine straight people’s rights.

We were told that LGB people wanted to ‘recruit’ young people and ‘turn them gay’. And we were even told that LGB people posed a risk and should not be allowed to work with vulnerable adults and young people.

Disgraceful stuff, that wouldn’t be said today …

… except that it is being said today – it’s being said about trans people.

We are told that equal rights for trans people will lead to a big and problematic increase in the number of trans people. We are told that recognising trans people’s gender identity will undermine non-trans women’s rights.

We are told that trans people want to ‘recruit’ young people and ‘turn them trans’. And we are even told that trans people pose a risk and should not be allowed to work with vulnerable adults and young people.

This misinformation is aided and promoted by some of the press. Many reasonable people hear these things so often that they think that some of them at least must be true.

But they are just as untrue as they were when they were said about LGB people.

Just as many of us did three decades ago, when misunderstandings and deliberate falsehoods seemed sometimes to make progress on LGB equality almost impossible, the Equality Network will continue steadfastly to stand up for trans equality, speaking the truth, rebutting misinformation, and campaigning until equality is won, for trans people and all LGBTI people.

Just as the Scottish Executive and Parliament did in their first year, standing up for LGB equality, considering the real evidence, and repealing section 28, so we call on the Scottish Government and Parliament in their 21st year to stand up for trans equality, consider the real evidence, and repeal the barriers and unfairness in our gender recognition law, bringing it up to international best practice.

LGBT people stood together at the Stonewall Inn 50 years ago, and we stand together now. None of us has achieved equality until all of us have achieved equality, and the Equality Network is determined to see Scotland continue in 2019 to make progress towards the promise of equality for all.

Tim Hopkins, Director, Equality Network


News release: Passing of pardons bill welcomed by LGBTI charity

Scottish LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex) equality charity the Equality Network welcomes the expected passing today by the Scottish Parliament of the bill that pardons people convicted of the old discriminatory offences of sex between men. The Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) (Scotland) Bill has its final stage 3 debate in the Parliament this afternoon.

Tim Hopkins, Director of the Equality Network, said: “We very much welcome the Parliament passing this bill. This is concrete recognition of the huge harm that was done to people who were prosecuted or lived under these old laws. Together with the First Minister’s public apology in the Parliament in November, the message is that Scotland has changed for good, and that discrimination is no longer acceptable.

“The next stage will be to implement and publicise the new law. Publicity will be crucial so that all those affected by these historical convictions get to hear about it.

“LGBTI people continue to face prejudice and hostility, and there is much more to do. We look forward to continuing to work with the Scottish Government, on the forthcoming reform of the Gender Recognition Act for trans people, and other work to address homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, and to promote fairness for all.”

The bill states clearly that these historical convictions were wrong and discriminatory, and the First Minister made a public apology for this on behalf of the Scottish Government when the bill was published on 7th November last year. The bill gives a formal pardon for these convictions where the activity would not be a crime today. The pardon applies both posthumously to people who are no longer living, and to those who are living. The bill also enables people who have one of these convictions on their records to have it removed (called a “disregard”), so that it no longer shows up on criminal record checks for employment or volunteering.

Tim Hopkins added: “The bill does a better job than the equivalent legislation in the rest of the UK. Unlike that legislation, it provides an automatic pardon to people who are still alive, and also covers all the old discriminatory offences, including where men were prosecuted simply for chatting up other men – called ‘importuning’.”

Until 1981, all sexual activity between men was a criminal offence in Scotland. Legislation in 1980 (which came into effect in 1981) decriminalised sex between men over the age of 21 (the age of consent for sex between men and women, or between two women, was then 16). In 1994 the age of consent for sex between men was reduced from 21 to 18, but it was not until 2001 that the discrimination was removed, by equalising the age of consent at 16.

Prior to these changes, men were prosecuted for activity with another man that would have been legal then between a man and a woman, and that is legal today between two men. This included consensual sexual activity in private, and acts such as kissing another man in a public place, or just chatting up another man in a public place.

The Equality Network estimates that the total number of these historical discriminatory convictions in Scotland runs into thousands, and that there are hundreds of men alive today with such convictions on their records.


Sex between women was never criminalised in this way in Scotland, and the same rules applied to it as applied for sex between a man and a woman.

It is likely to take some months for the Scottish Government to put in place the regulations that will set out how criminal records will be updated when a disregard is granted, so it is expected that the new law will come into effect towards the end of the year.


For further information, please contact the Equality Network’s Director Tim Hopkins on 07747 108 967 or tim@equality-network.org

Notes to editors:

1. The Equality Network is a national charity working for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) equality and human rights in Scotland:

2. The First Minister’s statement of apology can be found here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=11174&i=101857

3. More information about the bill and consideration of it by the Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee, can be found here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/106817.aspx

Equality Network welcomes Lord Bracadale’s report on hate crime law

The Equality Network, the Scottish LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex) equality charity, welcomes the publication today of Lord Bracadale’s independent review of hate crime legislation.

Tim Hopkins, Director of the Equality Network, said: “We welcome the report, and we hope that the Scottish Government will soon introduce a bill to update the law. We are pleased at the recommendation to update the existing law on hate crimes that target transgender people and those that target intersex people, recognising the difference. And we welcome the proposal for a new offence to deal with the stirring up of hatred through threatening or abusive conduct. This will fill a gap created by the repeal of the non-football related provisions of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act. Changing the law is not the whole answer though; more needs to be done to further improve responses by police, prosecutors and courts, and to encourage people to report crimes to the police.”

The Equality Network’s Scottish LGBTI hate crime report 2017 found that 64% of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Scotland have experienced hate crime. For transgender people the figure is 80%, and for intersex people 77%. Nine out of ten LGBTI people who had experienced hate crime had experienced it more than once, and a third of them, more than ten times. 71% did not report any of these crimes to the police.  Of those who did report hate crimes, many were not satisfied with the responses of the criminal justice system.

The Equality Network worked closely with Patrick Harvie on his hate crime member’s bill, which became the Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act 2009, but the organisation has been calling for some years for further review and updating of hate crime law.


For further information, please contact the Equality Network’s Director Tim Hopkins on 07747 108 967 or tim@equality-network.org  

Notes to editors:

1.    The Equality Network is a national charity working for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) equality and human rights in Scotland:

2.    Lord Bracadale’s report can be found here: http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0053/00535892.pdf

3.    The Equality Network’s Scottish LGBTI hate crime report 2017 can be found here: https://www.equality-network.org/resources/publications/policy/scottish-lgbti-hate-crime-report/

An Open Letter to LGB people and Allies

Dear friend,

In 2004, after three decades of campaigning and legal challenges, the Gender Recognition Act finally provided a way for trans people in the UK to change the legal gender on their birth certificates. It was a hard fought victory for LGBTI equality, but it wasn’t perfect.

Trans people are required to submit intrusive psychiatric evidence to a faceless tribunal panel in order to change the gender on their birth certificate, something that isn’t the case will all other identity documents (such as passports and driving licences). Many trans people aren’t even recognised in law and trans people under 18 have no access to the legal recognition they need. It’s time to end this dehumanising treatment.

Access to gender recognition is important to uphold trans people’s privacy and dignity and also to ensure that their pensions, insurance policies, civil partnerships and marriages are administered correctly.

The Scottish Government are currently consulting on reforming the Gender Recognition Act to bring Scotland in line with international human rights best practice, including allowing recognition for non-binary people (who do not identify as men or women).

Please urgently respond to the consultation to support trans rights, you can read our guide at: www.equalrecognition.scot/consultation

Over the last few weeks and months we have seen anti-trans articles in the media ranging from frustratingly ignorant to outrageously hostile. Anti-trans forces within and outside Scotland are mobilising intensively to try to block progress. A horrible sustained campaign of misinformation and incitement to moral panic has taken its toll and I’m not the only person who has had trans friends left hurt and fearful. Sadly, trans friends are being demonised by the same anti-equality arguments made during the campaign to repeal section 28 and against same-sex marriage.

This is not the Scotland I want to live in.

Despite the demeaning headlines this change doesn’t affect access to toilets, changing rooms or other services. Honestly, name a time when you’ve EVER had to show your birth certificate to get into the loo? Nor does legal gender recognition affect participation in sports competitions, this is all misinformation. This change simply makes the legal process easier and more accessible to greater numbers of trans people.

This is a debate about how some of the most marginalised people in our community are treated. It’s about making things just that little bit easier for trans people. It’s about dignity but most of all its about making Scotland a more equal place.

Trans people have always been with us in the fight for the realisation of equality. From the first brick at the Stonewall riots to our modern day fight for Equal Marriage right here in Scotland, trans people have stood side by side with LGB folk.

It’s always a difficult thing when a small minority has to persuade the majority of the need for their rights to be recognised. Given the level of the anti-trans campaign, it is likely that many hundreds, if not thousands, of negative responses have flooded in to the consultation.

Earlier this month Bermuda became the first country in the world to roll back same-sex marriage. Hard won equality disappeared overnight and LGBTI people lost important rights. Be in no doubt, the opponents of LGBTI equality are buoyant. A loss on trans rights would have potentially catastrophic consequences for all of us – LGBTI rights we have taken for granted would face renewed challenge. We cannot let this happen.

That’s why if you care about LGBTI equality, you need to be a trans ally.

For every trans friend you’ve ever had or will ever have, for every time the trans community have stood side by side for the realisation of our rights, I’m asking you to respond to the Scottish Government consultation in support of trans equality.

Please urgently respond to the consultation to support trans rights, you can read our guide at: www.equalrecognition.scot/consultation

You don’t have to answer all of the consultation questions, and comments are optional. The key questions are 1, 5, 6, 12 and 13 – please give your answer to any, or all of those.

This is what Scottish Trans Alliance is saying on those questions

  • Q1: We AGREE with the proposal for a self-declaration process.
  • Q5: We AGREE with allowing applications by 16 and 17 year olds
  • Q6:  We support OPTION 3 – PARENTAL APPLICATION for under 16s
  • Q12: We support YES for non-binary recognition
  • Q13: We support OPTIONS 1, 3, 4 AND 6 to ensure full non-binary recognition.

The consultation closes at 5:00pm on 1 March, that’s just three days from now. Please respond and get everyone you know, who cares about equality, to respond now: www.tinyurl.com/GRAconsult

Today I’m making a stand for my trans friends, I ask you to join me.

You can find out more on our Equal Recognition Website: www.equalrecognition.scot/consultation

Yours for Equality

Scott Cuthbertson

Development Manager

More gay and bisexual men able to donate blood from today

New blood donation rules for gay and bisexual men have today come into effect in Scotland and Wales, and will come into effect in England tomorrow, meaning more gay and bisexual men will be eligible to give blood.

Gay and bisexual men in Britain will be able to donate blood from three months after having sex with another man. The new rules replace a twelve-month deferment period which has been in place since the lifetime ban was lifted in 2011.

Scottish LGBTI equality charity, the Equality Network, has welcomed the new blood donation rules which they say will reduce, but not eliminate, the discrimination faced by gay and bisexual men.

Scott Cuthbertson, Development Manager, said, “We welcome that more gay and bisexual men will be eligible to donate blood from today.

“We hope many gay and bisexual men who are now able to donate, do so with their peers. These new rules are a welcome and significant step forward, we remain concerned, however, that for too many low risk gay and bisexual men these new rules are, in effect, a continued ban.”

He continued, “The blood service has committed to explore ways in which a more personalised risk assessment could be introduced. We look forward to continuing to work with both the blood service and the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) to eliminate all unwarranted discrimination from the UKs blood donation rules.”

The blood donation rules were changed after the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments instructed their respective blood services to implement the recommendations of a recent review of blood donor criteria and risk assessment by the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO), which advises health ministers and departments for health across the UK. Northern Ireland has only recently removed the lifetime ban on MSM blood donations, but with the Stormont Assembly suspended is unlikely to implement the new rule changes any time soon.

The rule change also affects people who have sex with partners who are classed as high risk.

Sports Review

We’re reviewing LGBTI inclusion in Scottish sport over the past two years since the launch of the Scottish LGBT Sports Charter. If you are a Sports Governing Body, or organisation involved in the delivery of sport in Scotland we’d love to hear from you. We’ve developed a simple questionnaire we’d like you to fill out.

Equality Network / Scottish Trans Alliance Statement on Arrests during Pride in Glasgow

Content Note: violence, hate crime

Pride marches exist primarily to call loudly and vibrantly for changes to make the world a better and safer place for all LGBTI people. Pride marches have always been vital protests as well as opportunities to celebrate our diverse lives, relationships and history. The 1969 Stonewall Inn riot against police oppression is the pivotal event commemorated by Pride marches. Strongly worded placards criticising the police and other institutions have often been carried by Pride marchers throughout the decades.

The ways in which police have engaged with Pride marches around the world vary greatly. We have trans friends whose lives were saved by Serbian police officers when far-right extremists attacked Belgrade Pride with petrol bombs in 2010. We have trans friends who were tear-gassed and shot at with rubber bullets by Turkish police officers this year when Istanbul Pride was banned. Within Scotland, we are fortunate never to have experienced either of these two extremes during Pride marches. Trans people in Scotland hold a wide range of views about the police and their engagement with Pride marches, from opposition, to those who see police inclusion in Pride as a sign of progress made. Although police attitudes towards trans people have improved considerably over the last decade, Equality Network / Scottish Trans Alliance continues to be involved in assisting marginalised trans people in Scotland who have had traumatic and discriminatory experiences interacting with the police and wider criminal justice system. The debate on the role of Police Scotland at Pride marches should not come as a surprise. We support the rights of people to peacefully express differing views.

We are concerned that on Saturday three trans people were arrested and charged with breach of the peace for protesting Police Scotland marching as the first bloc of the Pride Glasgow march. Our float was briefly near the incident but the speed and sightlines meant we did not realise at the time what was happening. From the information we currently have available to us, we have reason to believe that several trans people, including the three who were arrested, were attempting to protest at the head of the march carrying a cotton banner stating “No Pride in Police” and using a megaphone to shout various anti-police statements. We note that there have been very similar protests at some Prides in England this summer, including protests at the London and Leeds Pride marches, but there were no arrests or charges there. We have therefore raised concerns to Police Scotland about the way this protest was handled by police, including level of force, arrests and charges.

In a separate incident, two other people were arrested, held overnight, and charged with offences, including a breach of the peace with homophobic aggravation. It appears that this relates to a placard one of them was carrying saying “These faggots fight fascists”. We have raised concerns about this with Police Scotland. It is vital to understand that some LGBTI people reclaim words like “queer”, “dyke”, “poof” and “faggot” to use about ourselves, and when we do that, it is not a hate crime. When a person reclaims a word in this way, there is no malice and ill-will towards LGB people involved, and malice and ill-will is a core requirement for a homophobic hate crime in Scotland. We have also raised concerns about the stop and search of an LGBTI asylum seeker at the march in a further separate incident.

We will continue to pursue these concerns with the police. There are many ways to take action to improve trans equality and we respect each trans person’s right to decide their methods and priorities for themselves. Equality Network / Scottish Trans Alliance uses a mixture of policy engagement work, research, staff training, formal complaints, advocacy, empowerment of trans people to understand their legal rights, and strategic litigation to try to hold to account and improve all Scottish public bodies, including Police Scotland. The existence of equality laws and LGBTI staff groups do not on their own eliminate transphobia and other discriminatory behaviour. Huge amounts of work remains to be done in many different ways by many different activists.

Football Teams up to Tackle Discrimination

Football Teams up to Tackle Discrimination

Rangers Striker Kenny Miller with the Scottish LGBT Sports Charter sign,

Stuart Malcolm, Brian Kerr (Manager) & David Douglas (Chief Executive) of Albion Rovers

In a Scottish first, professional football clubs in all four of the SPFL divisions have teamed up to better include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people by signing up to the Scottish LGBT Sports Charter.

It’s the first time in Scotland that so many clubs have made a commitment to better include LGBT people in the beautiful game and it includes the biggest clubs in Scottish Football.

The Charter includes a set of five principles which aim to remove the barriers to sport for LGBT people. Over thirty governing bodies of sport have already signed up, including the Scottish Football Association.

Signing up to the charter today are Aberdeen, Celtic, Hearts, Hibs, Partick Thistle, Rangers, St Johnstone, Dumbarton, Airdirionans, Albion Rovers, Forfar Athletic, Elgin City & Peterhead.

Scott Cuthbertson, Development Manager of the Equality Network said, “We’re delighted that these clubs, from across all four SPFL divisions, are today making a commitment to LGBT supporters, officials and the next generation of LGBT players.

Today’s message is loud and clear, everyone is welcome at football and we are working for a more inclusive game.

We don’t yet have any openly LGBT professional players in the men’s professional game in Scotland but we know there are plenty of LGBT fans. Thank you to those clubs who have already taken this step. For clubs who haven’t yet signed up and who want to make their club more inclusive, our door is always open.”

The charter states as its aim that “Scotland will be a country where everyone can take part, enjoy, and succeed in sport at all levels whatever their sexual orientation and gender identity”, it was developed in consultation with sports governing bodies (SGBs), other sports stakeholders and LGBT people.

Celtic’s Scott Brown said, “This is an issue which needs to be addressed and tackled and therefore we are delighted to sign up to the Charter, and promote the very important message that sport is for all.”

Rangers striker Kenny Miller commented, “Rangers is an inclusive club and strives to promote equality and inclusion and we are delighted to sign up to the Scottish LGBT Sports Charter. “Everyone should be able to take part, enjoy and succeed in sport whatever their sexual orientation or gender identity and we are proud to support this initiative.”

Ann Park of Heart of Midlothian FC said, “We’re pleased to sign up to the charter and are fully supportive of its aims in promoting equal participation and access to sport.”

Hibernian Chief Executive Leeann Dempster said, “Sport has the power to break down barriers, and Hibernian has equality and inclusion at the roots of our heritage. We are happy to sign the LGBT Sports Charter and promote a more inclusive game.”

Russell Anderson of Aberdeen FC said, “Aberdeen FC is proud to have been the first Scottish club to have signalled our intent to sign up to the LGBT Sports Charter and we are delighted that so many other clubs have joined us in doing so.”

Ian Maxwell, Managing Director at Partick Thistle Football Club said, “Football can be a very powerful tool to help fight all types of discrimination. Football is a universal language so no matter what your race, religion, background, gender or sexuality, kicking a ball about or watching your team on a Saturday helps put everyone on a level playing field. That is why, as a club, we are very proud to sign up to the Scottish LGBT Sports Charter.

“There is no place for discrimination of any kind in football – or sport more generally for that matter – so being able to play our own small part in helping to eradicate it was a no brainer for us as a club. We look forward to working closely with the Equality Network in the coming weeks and months in order to play our part.”

Ann Marie Ballantyne, Chief Executive of Airdrie FC said, “When people say sport for all, they don’t necessarily mean sport for all. In signing up to the Scottish LGBT Sports Charter, and working with the Equality Network, Airdrie FC truly mean sport for all.”

David Douglas, Chief Executive of Albion Rovers FC said, “Albion Rovers FC are fully committed to implementing this charter and believe that our football club should be inclusive, diverse and welcoming to any individual or group. Football teams and football players have a vital role to play in sending out strong signals that everyone has the right to be included and treated with respect and dignity. This is an important area for us and all football teams who want to be seen as modern, progressive and determined to be more than just a football club.”

Martin Johnston, General Manager of Peterhead FC said, “Peterhead FC are delighted to sign up to the LGBT Sport Charter and this reinforces our on-going commitment to ensure people throughout the footballing community, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity are able to support, work and play for the club in a warm, friendly and welcoming environment.

We are proud to say that we have had no reports of homophobic abuse and bullying at our club in recent times, and whilst it appears to be virtually non-existent at Balmoor Stadium, we will continue to work within our club to ensure this remains to be the case.”

Hugh Torrance of LEAPSports Scotland said, “We welcome the news that thirteen Scottish football clubs have now signed up the Scottish LGBT Sports Charter, which is an important step in the work that needs to happen to transform the men’s game.

Our work with LGBTI sports fans and communities in Scotland underlines how important strong messages of commitment to equality and inclusion can be when coming from professional teams.”

The Equality Network say this is the first step in coordinated efforts that they hope will encourage more LGBT people to get involved in football. A study by the Equality Network launched in 2012 showed that 57% of LGBT people would be more likely to participate in sport if it was more LGBT friendly, and that football was the sport identified as having the biggest challenges to overcome in relation to LGBT inclusivity.

Blood Donation Briefing

The Equality Network prepared the following briefing for The Scottish Parliament in May this year on blood donation by gay and bisexual men.

Blood Donation Briefing Updated

Scotland loses European top spot for LGBTI equality

Scotland loses European top spot for LGBTI equality

Scotland has been overtaken by Malta in the European league table of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) equality laws and policies. Scotland is now in second place, with a score of 82%, with Malta on 88%. Malta has risen to first place after introducing new laws protecting the rights of trans and intersex people.

The table is published today as part of Rainbow Europe 2017, an annual review by European LGBTI equality organisation ILGA-Europe. Its publication marks International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT – May 17th).

The UK as a whole is now in fourth place on 76%, behind Norway on 78%. The UK composite score is pulled down by the lack of equal marriage law in Northern Ireland.

Tim Hopkins, Director of national Scottish LGBTI equality charity the Equality Network, said, “We congratulate the government and equality activists in Malta for introducing the best laws in Europe to protect trans and intersex people. The Scottish Government have promised to bring Scotland’s laws in this area up to international best practice during the 2016-21 parliamentary session, and to consult on this later this year. Those changes would put Scotland back in contention for the top spot.”

He continued, “The UK as a whole also falls short of best practice in two reserved areas: equality law and asylum. During this Westminster election campaign, we are calling on all parties to commit to amend equality law to fully protect trans and intersex people, and to ensure that people fleeing persecution because they are LGBTI can find asylum here.”

Silvan Agius, Director on Human Rights in the Government of Malta, said, “I am delighted to see that Malta’s efforts in this area continue to inspire others to move forward towards LGBTIQ equality. In essence our story is based on two main foundations – a strong LGBTIQ movement and political will on the part of government.”

The full league table of 49 European countries can be found here (note that the table shows the UK as a whole, not Scotland, but ILGA-Europe have separately rated Scotland at 82%).

More details of the changes needed to devolved gender recognition law, to bring Scotland up to international best practice for trans people, can be found here.

More details of the Equality Network’s five-point election pledge for Westminster candidates can be found here.