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The Scottish LGBT Equality Report

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The Scottish LGBT Equality Report is a state of the nation report on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people’s experiences of inequality in Scotland.

(To order printed copies please use the form at the bottom of this page).

Published by the Equality Network in July 2015 it is the most comprehensive study of its kind to date, based on a survey of 1052 respondents from across every part of the country.

The report reveals that that despite recent advances in the law and social attitudes LGBT people still face widespread inequality in Scotland.

The report’s findings include that 89% of LGBT people believe Scotland still has a problem with inequality, and 94% say that more needs to be done to tackle the day-to-day prejudice and discrimination that LGBT people continue to face.

97% of LGBT people in Scotland have personally faced prejudice or discrimination, including 79% within the last year and 49% within the last month alone. Incidents reported by LGBT people ranged from homophobic, biphobic and transphobic comments and attitudes (82%), to acts of verbal (68%), physical (16%) and sexual abuse (7%), crimes against property (12%), and discriminatory treatment when accessing services (25%) and in employment (24%).

The report finds that as a result, a majority of LGBT people in Scotland still ‘never’ or only ‘sometimes’ feel able to be open about their sexual orientation or gender identity with their own family (52%), at work (60%) or when accessing services (71%), for fear of the prejudice they might face. 43% of LGBT people in Scotland have moved, or considered moving, to live in a different area or out of the country altogether because of the discrimination that they have faced, and in order to live somewhere more accepting of LGBT people.

The report also reveals that the experiences of LGBT people vary significantly across Scotland, with those living in rural parts of the country reporting a significantly worse experience than those living in urban areas. A quarter (24%) of LGBT people in rural parts of Scotland say that their local area is a ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’ place for LGBT people to live, compared to half that (12%) in urban areas. Almost half (47%) of LGBT people in rural areas say that they feel isolated where they live, compared to a quarter (23%) of those in urban areas. Over half (55%) in rural areas say that services in their area do not meet the specific needs of LGBT people, compared to a third (30%) of those living in urban parts of Scotland.

The report sends a clear message about the huge scale of change still needed before LGBT people will have full equality in Scotland.

In the report the Equality Network has outlined a comprehensive set of recommendations on the progress needed to secure LGBT equality. We have set out some of the key changes needed to remove remaining inequalities in the law, to change social attitudes, to tackle prejudice and hate crime, and to ensure that public services and employers are meeting the needs of LGBT people. Among our key recommendations is a call for the Scottish Government to publish an LGBT equality and human rights strategy and action plan, against which progress can be measured.

On launching the report, Tom French, Policy and Public Affairs Coordinator for the Equality Network, said; “The Scottish LGBT Equality Report reveals the stark reality of the prejudice, discrimination and other forms of disadvantage that LGBT people continue to face in Scotland. It is clear that while we have made welcome progress in recent years there is still much more to do before LGBT people will experience real equality in their day-to-day lives. The scale of the challenge is considerable and with the next Scottish Parliament election rapidly approaching we will be looking to the Scottish Government, and all the political parties, to set out clear plans for how they will tackle inequality and make Scotland a fairer and more equal place for LGBT people to live.”

The report includes over 250 personal accounts of incidents of prejudice, discrimination, and other forms of disadvantage experienced by LGBT people in Scotland. Many of the accounts echo the experiences outlined by the following LGBT people:

Cathleen Lauder, a 38 year old transgender woman from Edinburgh: “People think that because we’ve got same-sex marriage in Scotland LGBT people now have equality but nothing could further from the truth. Being transgender in Scotland is still very difficult, attitudes can at times be back in the dark ages even in Edinburgh. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve had abuse hurled at me when I walk down the street just for daring to be who I am. People shout at you, call you names, give you dirty looks, make crude gestures and try to humiliate you. Sometimes you worry you might get attacked. I have been touched up while travelling on a bus, and one guy tried to bully me off the street and into a pub so he and his mates could laugh at me. I got away, crossed the street and didn’t dare look back. I grew up on a council estate so I know when to keep my head down, when to stand up for myself, and when to get out of there as fast as you can. I like to think I’m a confident person but sometimes it’s terrifying. Even on those days when I feel stronger, a part of me always goes into alert mode, my heart is always in my throat for at least an instant when something like that happens. It’s not enough for politicians to just sit back and hope attitudes will have changed in a few decades. I have to live my life now, and being constantly reminded by other people that they do not consider you equal is one of the worst feelings there is. Something needs to change.”

Felix Rayna, a 24 year old gay man from the north east of Scotland: “I came out at the age of 15, living in a small rural town on the north east coast. It wasn’t easy for me to hide who I was and I was verbally assaulted on a daily basis by other students in my high school and even people in the street. Teachers would tell me I was “bringing it on myself” because of how I dressed, because of who I was. At 17 I was physically assaulted by three men who punched me in the head. I didn’t feel I had anyone to go to and I didn’t think there was any point reporting it to the police. These memories and the narrow-mindedness of people in my town left me hating the place. I stopped going outside and would only get jobs that were at least an hour away so people didn’t recognise me. This week, at age 24, I moved to London and can honestly say I will never return to the place I once called home. Not after 9 years of hiding away from the world and being scared to walk down my own street.”

Susannah McWhirter, a 17 year old lesbian student from Kilmarnock: “In my second year of secondary school I was bullied for being gay and although some teachers wanted to help they had no experience in how to deal with it. The whole situation was badly handled. I was called names such as “lesbo” and “dyke”. I received abusive comments and death threats on social media. Other pupils harassed me and questioned my sexuality. I even had to drop PE altogether because other students felt uncomfortable with me being in the same changing room. I felt alone. Some days I couldn’t face going to school. I started self-harming and had suicidal thoughts. I know my experience is not unusual. Most LGBT people get bullied at school and some never recover. I feel very strongly that there needs to be more support for LGBT people in school, and more needs to be done to stop homophobic bullying so no one has to go through what I went through.”

Rose Marshall, a 46 year old transgender woman from Glasgow: “As a trans woman in Scotland you get used to the occasional stare, comment or laughter from people in the street. I usually have the self-confidence to just shrug it off and get on with living my life, but sometimes it’s not that easy. There have been times when I’ve felt intimidated and scared. Recently there have been several occasions where groups of young men have targeted me and tried to humiliate me, mocking me on the train or following me and shouting abuse at me in the streets around my home. I’ve reported some of these to the Police, but even the process of reporting it is stressful and traumatising. Having to go over what happened again and again adds to the feelings of shame and hurt, and besides nothing much seems to happen as a result. I still have to see the same groups of people when I leave the home and on the way back from work, and I feel anxious because it could happen again at any time. LGBT people just shouldn’t have to put up with that, you shouldn’t feel scared you might be attacked or humiliated in your own street just because of who you are.”

Ryan Breakwell, a 22 year old gay man from Hamilton: “The Equality Network report doesn’t surprise me at all. As a gay man living in Lanarkshire homophobic abuse is something you have to live with on a weekly basis. My school years were particularly bad – I used to get shouted at, called ‘gay’ in corridors, at break times and even in classes. Staff members knew it was happening but they didn’t know how to deal with it and if they did say something it usually just made things worse. It took me to a really dark place. I felt alone, scared and I didn’t dare come out. In the end I decided to move away, and while I’m out now and more confident about these things, it still hurts when I get abuse for my sexuality. People really need educating in Scotland, particularly in schools. Many people grew up at a time when it was illegal to be gay and even now many young people still think it’s wrong.”

Stuart Russell, a 23 year old gay man from Fife: “I was bullied throughout my time at high school for being gay. I was outed before I even had time to figure myself out. The bullying was all day, every day. At lunch times I would have younger kids throw food at me and shout abusive comments at me. People would occasionally follow me home shouting abuse and try to beat me up. The police were involved a few times. I had very few friends so high school was lonely.  I was made to be an outsider and felt so insecure about myself. When I went to teachers about the abuse I was suffering, nothing was done. I was sent to a therapist and nothing happened to the bullies. By sending me to therapy, my school made me feel even more insecure, as if I was in the wrong. They pawned me off on someone else and swept it under the rug, something that happens a lot in Scottish schools. Teachers need training, they are not trained to support LGBT students or deal with homophobic bullying. I made numerous attempts on my life as a teenager because of the bullying. Even today I still don’t find living in Scotland a very positive experience as a gay man. I am still made to feel like an outsider and I still spend the vast majority of my time alone, escaping to London when I can. I think gay equality still has a long way to go in Scotland, especially in small towns, closed mindedness is still a big issue. I think many people believe that because gay marriage is a thing now that’s it, that’s equality achieved. That’s not the case. There is a lot more to it. LGBT bullying in education is a major issue and not enough is being done about it.”

The next Scottish Parliament election will take place in May 2016, and the Equality Network is calling on all political parties to set out firm manifesto commitments on LGBTI equality in the run-up to the election.

All of the Equality Network’s work is based in LGBTI people’s priorities, as identified by regular consultation with LGBTI people. Alongside the findings of our other consultations and surveys, the issues and recommendations outlined in The Scottish LGBT Equality Report will form a key part of our work with government, parliament, public services and other organisations and stakeholders in the coming months and years.

As noted in the report itself, the Equality Network added intersex equality to our charitable aims after the research for The Scottish LGBT Report was complete and as such this report does not explore intersex people’s experiences of inequality in Scotland. We will be working with intersex people and organisations this year and in the years ahead with the aim of publishing further materials on intersex equality and human rights needs in Scotland.

Download a PDF copy of the full report here.

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