Hide me!

Search Results for: intersex

The variations of sex characteristics and intersex project

The Project

Acknowledge, Impact, Communicate, Engage, Develop

The Equality Network’s Variations of Sex Characteristics (VSC) and Intersex Project is a national project to facilitate intersex people, equality organisations, government policy makers, the NHS and other service providers to engage together to develop a shared understanding of intersex equality, rights and inclusion priorities in Scotland. Intersex equality has not previously been addressed by policy makers in Scotland. We believe that there is an essential need for engagement between intersex people and government policy makers, equality organisations and service providers to improve policies and practices affecting intersex people’s lives.

The project focusses on connecting intersex people with each other and with intersex allies and various stakeholders, in order to support intersex people’s engagement in equality policy and good practice development.


The intersex umbrella

There is a variety of terminology used with reference to variations of sex characteristics and intersex status. Some people prefer to use the term differences of sex development, some prefer ‘disorders of sex development’, and some prefer to simply describe their specific variation. In common with much international human rights activism we use the term intersex, with the knowledge that some prefer other terms when describing themselves.

We use the word intersex as an umbrella term for people who are born with variations of sex characteristics, which do not always fit society’s perception of male and female bodies. Intersex is not the same as gender identity (our sense of self) or sexual orientation (who we are attracted to) but is about the physical body we are born with. This is in common with Organisation Intersex international Europe (Oii Europe*), Ilga Europe and the United Nations:

“Intersex is an umbrella term used to describe a wide range of natural bodily variations. In some cases, intersex traits are visible at birth while in others, they are not apparent until puberty. Some chromosomal intersex variations may not be physically apparent at all.” – The United Nations**

* See here for Oii Europe

** See here for United Nations Intersex Fact sheet

The intersex flag: “The circle is unbroken and unornamented, symbolising wholeness and completeness, and our potentialities. We are still fighting for bodily autonomy and genital integrity, and this symbolises the right to be who and how we want to be.” – Intersex Human Rights Australia, formally known as Oii Australia.


Encourage, Facilitate, Network, Collaborate, Inform, Empower


Our approach

Within this project, representing the diversity of intersex people and people living with variation of sex characteristics is of the highest importance. Raising awareness of diversity, and most importantly, foregrounding lived experience takes precedence. We prioritise the voices of intersex people in discussion, collaboration, consultancy, decision making, and writing of legislation regarding the equality and human rights of intersex people. We endeavor to include intersex people and intersex voices in any conversations, writing, statements, training, engagement and lobbying that we do.

The intersex population and those living with a variety of sex characteristics are an often under-represented and misunderstood community. Like LGBT activists, intersex activists are fighting for bodily autonomy and the rights of people who fall outside of binary sex and gender norms. We recognise and respect that many intersex people do not see themselves as part of the LGBTI community, whilst some intersex individuals do identify as part of the LGBTI community or as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.



Becoming an ally and working in partnership and collaboration with others

One of the most important things for the Equality Network is that we engage with a wide diversity of people who identify as intersex or as living with VSC.

We are actively looking to further our partnerships and to collaborate with all levels of expertise, from those with lived experience to those working in intersex policy, activism, support, advocacy, law, health and research. We do this so that individuals who are living with VSCs or as intersex may feel empowered to participate alongside our other partners in the endeavor to make a difference to the lives of people living in Scotland.

We are very aware that we are not the experts in the remit of lived experience of being intersex. Our expertise is in progressing equality, human rights and social policy improvements in Scotland. Our partners are diverse and invaluable to us, and each have strong potential impact in many areas. These partnerships will allow us to facilitate positive engagement and to contribute constructively to the Scottish Government’s forthcoming consultation on intersex equality in Scotland. We value the expertise of others immensely.


Get involved!

The Scottish Government consultation on the rights of people living with VSCs and intersex people will be opening soon and we want to hear from you. We want as many people involved as can be. Your voice is absolutely vital in making a difference to the human rights of Intersex people and people living with VSCs in Scotland.


We would love to hear from you if you are interested in;


  • Engaging with equality organisations, government policy makers, the NHS and other service providers to develop a shared understanding of intersex equality, rights and inclusion priorities in Scotland.
  • Sharing your voice as an individual who lives with a variation of sex characteristics or identifies as intersex.
  • Promoting the human rights of intersex people
  • Developing the ‘I’ in LGBTI human rights work*


We acknowledge that people may not identify with the LGB or T and this is important to note. This project is not centred on anything other than the diversity of intersex people and their human rights and life experiences.


“The Government has decided that because people with intersex variations face issues that are distinct from those experienced by transgender people, we should consult separately on each set of issues. We will publish a consultation later this year seeking views about how we should address the issues experienced by intersex people/people with variations of sex characteristics.” – The Scottish Government, 2018


The Gender Recognition Act reform consultation opened at the end of 2017 and is now closed. The intersex equality consultation is due to be published soon. The forthcoming consultation is an important step towards government recognition of the specific needs, rights and issues that intersex people and people living with VSCs face in Scotland. This is what we are working towards.


We are currently trying to…

  • Facilitate dialogue with intersex individuals in Scotland. We aim to do this by carrying out forums, events, and training opportunities with intersex individuals in Scotland, who we believe are the most important people to be engaging with when it comes to understanding the life experiences, medical experiences, wants, needs and issues surrounding living with an intersex variation.
  • Develop training programmes with intersex individuals taking the lead in how these training programmes should be delivered. We also wish to enable intersex individuals to deliver workshop facilitation for schools, GP staff, midwives, doctors, employers, public bodies etc. These training programmes and workshops intend to inform regarding best practice, equal opportunities and support for intersex people.
  • Create leaflets and training recommendations as well as information for potential intersex equality allies. These will be used and distributed in workplaces, schools, higher education institutes, informal education institutes, surgeries, hospitals and parliamentary offices. They will include information for NHS nurses and clinicians, police, teachers youth workers, social workers, MSPs, government officials and civil servants. They will contain information as prescribed by intersex individuals on best practice, equal opportunities, key issues, the law and legislation as it stands, changes to be made and how to support a young intersex person.
  • Gather significant qualitative information regarding the experience of intersex people in Scotland and the UK.
  • Ensure that the voices of intersex people and groups are heard and seen in newspaper, TV and radio coverage. We also wish to ensure that an objective and balanced picture of intersex people and their human rights concerns is depicted as per the United Nation’s Intersex Factsheet on Free and Equal United Nations for LGBT Equality


International context:

In 2014 Intersex advocacy and activist groups gathered together in Riga and developed these four objectives for intersex equality work internationally:

  1. “To challenge the definition of sex as consisting of only male and female and promote the knowledge that sex is a continuum, as is gender.”
  2. “To ensure that intersex people are fully protected against discrimination.”
  3. “To ensure that all stakeholders that have a specific role to play in intersex people’s wellbeing such as, but not limited to, health care providers, parents and professionals working in the area of education, as well as society in general, are instructed on intersex issues from a human rights perspective.”
  4. “To work towards making non-consensual medical and psychological treatment unlawful. Medical practitioners or other professionals should not conduct any treatment to the purpose of modifying sex characteristics which can be deferred until the person to be treated can provide informed consent.”

for more info on this meeting see: https://oiieurope.org/statement-of-the-european-intersex-meeting-in-riga-2014/

Some intersex policy and support groups in the UK

  • Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome Support Group – click here
  • DSD Families – click here
  • Hypospadias UK (for men and boys with hypospadias) -click here
  • Intersex UK  – click here  and on Twitter follow them @IntersexUK here
  • Living with CAH – click here
  • Mayer Rokitansky Kuster Hauser website UK (Vaginal Agenesis, Mullerian Aplasia or Absent Vagina) – click here
  • Oii UK – click here
  • Turner Syndrome Support Society UK (for girls and women with Turner Syndrome) – click here
  • UK Intersex Association – click here
  • UK Klinefelters Association – click here 


Helpful sources of information and advice for people living with VSC and those who identify as intersex, as well as for those who wish to be a good intersex ally


“No body is shameful!”


  • Inter/Act – Advocates for Informed Choice – “Promoting the civil rights of children born with variations of sex anatomy”  – click here
  • Interface Project – “No body is shameful!” – “Founded in 2012, The Interface Project communicates the lived experiences of intersex people by recording the voices, transcribing the words, and publishing the stories of people born with a variation of sex anatomy […]”- click here 
  • Ilga Europe – click here 
  • Intersex Issues, a short list – click here
  • ‘How to be a great intersex Ally’ – Ilga Europe – click here

Keep an eye out here for new articles, links and books…



Intersex equality

We formally changed our charitable remit in December 2014, to add intersex equality and human rights alongside lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality and human rights. The first step in making that commitment a reality will be to engage in discussions with as many intersex people as possible across Scotland, and we will be prioritising that in the rest of 2015 and early 2016.

As with all our work, we will then base our future priorities for intersex equality work on what people have told us is important and needs to change, and what our part should be in that change, and we will prioritise intersex equality work alongside our ongoing LGBT equality work.


Scotland rated best country in Europe for LGBTI legal equality

ilga GRAPHICThe Equality Network has welcomed the news that Scotland is now rated the best country in Europe for LGBTI legal equality, by ILGA-Europe (the European Region of ILGA, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association).

According to ILGA-Europe’s annual review of LGBTI equality and human rights laws across the continent, published today, Scotland now comes ahead of the rest of the UK and other countries in Europe in the legal protections offered to LGBTI people.

The ‘Rainbow Europe Index’ measures progress in European countries on LGBTI equality against a 48-point criteria that includes legal protections from discrimination in employment and services, measures to tackle hate crime, rights and recognition for transgender and intersex people, and equality in family law including same-sex marriage and parenting rights.

Following the legalisation of same-sex marriage last year, Scotland now meets 92% of ILGA Europe’s criteria, compared to 86% for the UK as a whole. The UK’s overall figure is brought down by lack of protections for intersex people in England and Wales, and Northern Ireland’s failure to respect LGBTI human rights in a range of areas including its refusal to legalise same-sex marriage.

The documents made public by ILGA-Europe show a composite score for the whole UK, which is calculated by assessing each part of the UK that has its own laws (England & Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland) and combining the results. The figure of 92% is based on ILGA-Europe’s assessment of the laws and policies for Scotland.

The Equality Network welcomes the recognition of the progress made in Scotland, which is down to the efforts of campaigners and also to the Scottish Government and Parliament’s willingness to properly consult with LGBTI people and pass progressive legislation. However, we would also warn against any complacency as we know there is still much more to do in order to achieve full equality for LGBTI people in Scotland.

Tom French, Policy and Public Affairs Coordinator for the Equality Network, said; “The fact that Scotland now ranks best in Europe overall on LGBTI legal equality is welcome recognition for the efforts of campaigners and the willingness of our politicians to properly consult with LGBTI people and then act on the evidence by passing progressive measures. However, the Equality Network warns against any complacency, as we know there is still much more to do to achieve full equality for LGBTI people in Scotland. As ILGA’s review shows there are still areas where Scotland is failing to respect LGBTI human rights and falling behind the progress in other countries, particularly when it comes to the rights of trans and intersex people. There is also a big difference between securing legal rights and ensuring full equality for LGBTI people in their everyday lives. Despite real progress in the law, LGBTI people in Scotland are still facing unacceptable levels of prejudice, discrimination and disadvantage throughout their lives.”

Scotland is joined in ILGA-Europe’s ranking of the top five countries for LGBTI legal equality by the rest of the UK (86%), Belgium (83%), Malta (77%), and Sweden (72%). The five countries ranked worst for LGBTI legal equality in Europe include Azerbaijan (5%), Russia (8%), Armenia (9%), Ukraine (10%) and Monaco (11%). With a few exceptions, the human rights of LGBTI people are generally better respected in Western Europe than Central Europe, and are least protected in Eastern Europe.

It is worth noting though, that while Scotland is ahead of other countries in many areas of LGBTI legal equality we still have some way to go to achieve full legal equality. In particular other European countries such as Malta are ahead of Scotland in best practice on transgender and intersex rights, with more progressive gender recognition laws and better protections for intersex rights.

Last year the Equality Network launched our Equal Recognition campaign, which calls on the Scottish Government to ensure better legal protections for transgender and intersex people. You can support the campaign and find out more information by visiting the following link: www.equality-network.org/equal-rec

Further information about the ILGA-Europe Rainbow Europe Index 2015 can be found through the following links:

Intersex and Variations of Sex Characteristics Gathering, Scotland

On Intersex Day of Solidarity we invite you to join us for a gathering that is the first of its kind in Scotland.

Equality Network, in partnership with the University of Huddersfield, invite stakeholders and community together to hear and share knowledge, awareness and lived experience around Intersex and Variations of Sex Characteristics (I/VSC) in the UK. This gathering has a special focus on social policy, legislation and wellbeing in Scotland.

The gathering is free and open to all. A programme is available here.

More information is available at the booking link.

LGBTI Equality and the Scottish Independence Referendum

Referendum FlagsOn 18th September 2014 Scotland will hold a referendum on whether to become an independent country or to remain part of the UK.

The Equality Network wants to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in Scotland have the most information possible about the impact that either outcome could have on LGBTI equality and human rights before casting a vote.

We asked the leaders of the six main political parties in Scotland, on either side of the debate, to outline how their party would ensure continued progress towards LGBTI equality and human rights in each scenario of  Scotland voting for independence or voting to remain in the United Kingdom. The responses from all six party leaders can be found below.

Of course it goes without saying that LGBTI people, like everyone else, will have very many reasons for deciding how to vote, but we hope you find this information useful.

The present situation

The Scottish Parliament currently has devolved powers over some, but not all, areas affecting LGBTI equality and human rights:

  • It has powers over areas including: justice, family law, education, health, and can decide how it spends its block grant from the UK Government.
  • It does not have control over: constitutional issues, equality law, foreign affairs, asylum policy, or the overall level of Scotland’s block grant, all of which remain reserved powers of the UK Parliament.

That’s why the Equality Network wants to see clear commitments from the main parties on either side of the debate (the SNP, Labour, the Conservatives, the Lib Dems, the Greens, and the Scottish Socialist Party), for each outcome, before 18th September.

The impact of each outcome on LGBTI equality and human rights

In the event that Scotland votes to remain in the UK the Equality Network wants to know whether each of the parties will commit to:

  • Supporting devolution of equal opportunities powers so that Scotland can protect the progress made on LGBTI equality in recent years and deal with the deficiencies of current equality law
  • Ensuring that Scotland is able to commit adequate leadership and resources on efforts to secure LGBTI equality through public services (for example, through the level of Scotland’s block grant)
  • Ensuring that Scotland is able to play its part in promoting LGBTI equality and human rights throughout the world
  • Supporting the improvement of the UK’s asylum processes so that LGBTI people with a well-founded fear of persecution on grounds of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex status can find asylum in the UK

In the event that Scotland votes for independence the Equality Network wants to know whether each of the parties will commit to:

  • Supporting clear protections for LGBTI equality in a written constitution, including specifically on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, and intersex status
  • Ensuring that Scotland commits adequate leadership and resources on efforts to secure LGBTI equality through public services (for example, promoting equality in schools, tackling hate crime etc)
  • Ensuring that Scotland has a strong influence promoting LGBTI equality and human rights around the world including through diplomatic efforts and the provision of aid
  • Ensuring that Scotland has an progressive asylum system that welcomes LGBTI people seeking asylum from their home country because of a well-founded fear of persecution on grounds of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex status

We asked the parties to explain how their commitments in each of these areas will be met, and why they think LGBTI people should vote either for independence or to remain in the UK, both in terms of LGBTI equality but also the wider case for each outcome.

A full list of the questions we have asked the parties can be found at: LGBTI Equality and the Independence Referendum  (PDF)

You can now see the responses from each party below: 

Further information from the campaigns

Both Better Together (the campaign to remain in the UK) and Yes Scotland (the campaign for independence) have LGBTI campaign groups advocating their different positions on the referendum. Visit their websites for more on their opinions:

Our position on the referendum

The Equality Network is deliberately neutral on the question of the independence referendum as we recognise that our supporters, and LGBTI people across Scotland, will have a broad range of views.

However, we will continue to engage with parties and organisations on both sides of the referendum debate before and after the vote in order to ensure that, regardless of the outcome, we get the best deal for LGBTI equality and human rights.

What happens after the referendum?

  • If Scotland votes for independence: Our immediate priority will be to ensure Scotland’s written constitution provides clear protections for LGBTI equality and human rights, including on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status. Our work relating to independence will focus on the development of the constitution, and ensuring that the impact on LGBTI equality and human rights is fully considered during the process of negotiations between Scotland and rUK, and during the process of establishing any new policies, laws and institutions.
  • If Scotland votes to remain in the UK: Our immediate priority will be to secure devolution of equal opportunities powers so that we can protect the progress made in recent years on LGBTI equality and deal with the deficiencies of current equality law. Devolution of equal opportunities powers has been the Equality Network’s policy since 1998, and we will work with all the main parties, on both sides of the referendum debate, to make this happen.

Registering to vote

The deadline to register to vote in the Scottish independence referendum was Tuesday 2 September 2014.

To check whether you are registered and to find out more information about how to vote please visit: www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/referendum_scotland.aspx

If you would like further information about the Equality Network’s work you can contact us at: www.equality-network.org/about/contact

Organisation Intersex International UK (OII-UK)



Glossary (old)

This is a glossary of terms used in LGBT equality in Scotland.  If there’s a word you’d like to see defined, please contact us.

Ableism, androgyneacquired genderblack, black and minority ethnic, biphobia, bisexualcoming outcisgender, cissexism, complex identities, crossdressingdisability, discrimination, FtMgaygenderqueergender dysphoria, gender expressiongender identitygender reassignment, GLBTheterosexismhomophobia, heterosexualimpairment, intersectionality, intersexislamophobia, lesbianlesbian-feministLGBT, minority ethnicMtF, race, racism, out/outingpolygenderprotected characteristics, queer, sexual orientationsexualitysexism, straighttransgendertransphobia, transsexualtransvestite.


Refers to the practices and dominant attitudes in society that devalue and limit the potential of disabled people. See disability, discrimination.

Androgyne / Polygender / Genderqueer

Refers to people who identify their gender as not conforming to the traditional western model of gender as binary. They may identify their non-binary gender as a combination of aspects of men and women or alternatively as being neither men nor women.

Acquired Gender

This is a term used in the Gender Recognition Act 2004 to mean the gender role that a person has transitioned to live their life in and which matches their self-perceived gender identity. Therefore, the acquired gender of a Male-to-Female trans woman is female. The acquired gender of a Female-to-Male trans man is male.


Refers to the hatred or fear of bisexual people. Discrimination based on a person’s bisexual identity.


Refers to someone who is emotionally and sexually attracted to women and men. See sexual orientation.


In recent years “black” has been used less often in this all-encompassing sense, being replaced by such terms as “black and Asian”, “black and ethnic minority”, “black/minority ethnic”.
The term is still used in its broad ideological, inclusive sense but is increasingly used to refer to people of African and Caribbean origin.
The term “black” is acknowledged as a positive all-inclusive term for people who are not “white”.
People belonging to a racial group having brown to black skin, especially one of African origin.
People belonging to a racial group having dark skin especially of sub-Saharan African origin.
People having dark-coloured skin, especially of African or Australian Aboriginal ancestry.

Black and Minority Ethnic

A term used to describe people from minority groups, particularly those who are viewed as having suffered racism or are in the minority because of their skin colour and/or ethnicity. This term has evolved over time becoming more common as the term “black” has become less all-inclusive of those experiencing racial discrimination. “BME” was/is an attempt at comprehensive coverage. The term is commonly used in the UK but can be unpopular with those who find it cumbersome or bureaucratic.
Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) populations are distinct groups with their own identity recognised by themselves and by others. The definition of an ethnic group is still disputed and has changed from referring to people of African, African-Caribbean, Bangladeshi, Indian, East African, Asian, Pakistani, Chinese, Vietnamese and South Asian descent to include the white populations form Eastern Europe, Turkey, the Middle East and Ireland. Everyone belongs to an ethnic group. Defining ethnicity is complex and ethnic groups have been defined on the basis of skin colour, self-defined identity, country of birth and name analysis.


(abbreviation: cis)
Refers to a whole range of people who find their gender identity or gender expression matches the gender assumptions made by others about them when they were born. The term was created to challenge the assumption that cisgender people (as opposed to transgender people) are always the standard in discussions about gender and sex. It is not a derogatory term. See also cissexism, gender identity.


The belief that cisgender people represents a standard of some kind, and that all other gender identities, if acknowledged at all, are merely a deviation from this. Cissexist statements are statements that assume all people are cisgender or that fail to recognise the variety of gender identities that exist. For example, assuming that all women have uterus and all men have testicles. See also cisgender, transgender.

Complex Identities

Refers to identities which include more than one protected characteristic, e.g. gay and disabled.

Crossdressing / Transvestite

Refers to people who dress, either occasionally or more regularly, in clothes associated with the opposite gender, as defined by socially accepted norms. Cross-dressing people are generally happy with the gender they were labelled at birth and usually do not want to permanently alter the physical characteristics of their bodies or change their legal gender.


Having a physical or mental impairment that as a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on a person’s ability to do normal daily activities.


Treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favour of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit.


Refers to someone who is emotionally and sexually attracted to people of the same gender. Some women prefer to refer to themselves as gay women, but lesbian is the word more often preferred by women, and the word gay is sometimes used just to refer to men. See sexual orientation.

Gender dysphoria

This is a recognised medical issue for which gender reassignment treatment is available on the National Health Service in Scotland. Gender Dysphoria is distress, unhappiness and discomfort experienced by someone about their physical body not fully matching their gender identity.

Gender expression

This is an individual’s external gender-related appearance (including clothing) and behaviour (including interests and mannerisms). A person may have masculine, feminine, or androgynous aspects of their appearance or behaviour.

Gender identity

This is an individual’s internal self-perception of their own gender. A person may identify as female, male, or as androgynous/polygender.

Gender Reassignment

One of the protected characteristics defined by the Equality Act 2010. Refers to the treatment for gender dysphoria and may include taking hormones and/or surgeries.


Acronym for GayLesbianBisexualTransgender. Used in the United States instead of LGBT.


The belief that heterosexuality represents a standard of some kind, and that all other sexual orientations, if acknowledged at all, are merely a deviation from this. Heterosexist statements are statements that assume all people are straight or that fail to recognise the variety of sexual orientations that exist. For example, referring to husbands and wives rather than partners can be heterosexist, depending on the context of the statement.


Refers to the hatred or fear of gay/lesbian people. Discrimination based on a person’s gay/lesbian identity.


One or more medical  conditions that negatively effect a person’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities.


Identities, experiences or approaches to equality work that fall into more than one protected characteristic at the same time. For example: Muslim Lesbians. For more information please visit our Intersetional projects page.


This is a term used to describe people born with external genitals, internal reproductive systems or chromosomes that are in-between what is considered clearly male or female. There are many different intersex variations.


Refers to the hatred or fear of followers of Islam (Muslims). Discrimination based on a person’s identity as a Muslim.


Refers to a woman who is emotionally and sexually attracted to other women. See sexual orientation.


A woman whose sexual and political orientation, both, are to women. See lesbian.


Acronym for LesbianGayBisexualTransgender. This is the term most commonly used in Scotland to talk about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities. LGBT or GLBT is recognised in many countries in Europe, and around the world, as the preferred term to use when speaking formally.

Minority Ethnic

The term minority ethnic is a general term used to refer to all groups of people that are not recorded under the white British ethnic group category.
An immigrant or racial group regarded by those claiming to speak for the cultural majority as distinct and unassimilated.
A group that has different national or cultural traditions from the majority of the population.
A group within a community which has different national or cultural traditions from the main population.
Any minority group who have a shared race, nationality or language and culture.
People who are in the minority within a defined population on the grounds of ‘race’, colour, culture, language or nationality.

Out/Coming out/Outing

Being out is being open about being lesbiangaybisexual, or transgenderComing out is telling other people that you are LGBT. Being outed is having someone else reveal you as lesbiangaybisexual, or transgender, usually against your will. Outing is telling other people, to whom a person is not out, that you know that person is LGBT.

Protected Characteristics

A set of characteristics that are protected from discrimination according to the Equality Act 2010. Those are: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex, and sexual orientation.


Sometimes now used as an umbrella term that includes lesbiangaybisexual, and transgender people. If you do not identify as queer, a risky word to use, because of its long history as a disparaging word for gay men, lesbians, bisexual people, and trans people. If speaking formally, use LGBT: this is the preferred term.


Refers to a group of people defined by their colour, nationality (including citizenship) ethnic or national origins.


Division of humankind into fixed, closed and unalterable groups or as systematic domination of some groups by others. It is broadly used to refer to the ideology of superiority of a particular race over another and may be based on colour and physical features or on culture, nationality and way of life.


Refers to discrimination based on a person’s gender or sex. In a society where cisgender males are the dominant group, sexism refers to all forms of discrimination against women and transgender people. Sexist attitudes and behaviours are found on a personal and institutional level and are always harmful. See cisgender, cissexism, heterosexism.

Sexual orientation

Refers to the gender or genders a person is attracted to. See lesbiangaybisexualstraightsexuality.


Can mean simply sexual orientation, but has a broader meaning besides gender attraction: whatever sexually excites a person, turns them on, may be part of their sexuality.

Straight / Heterosexual

Refers to someone who is emotionally and sexually attracted to people of a different gender: not a queer person. See sexual orientation.


(abbreviations: T, TG)
Refers to a whole range of people who find their gender identity or gender expression differs in some way from the gender assumptions made by others about them when they were born. The umbrella terms transgender people and trans people can include: androgyne/polygender/genderqueer peoplecrossdressing/transvestite peopleintersex people, and others. Trans* is used by some people to more clearly indicate that the word is not being used as an abbreviation of transsexual but to include a broad range of trans people.


Refers to the hatred or fear of transgender people. Discrimination based on a person’s transgender identity.


(abbreviations: T, TS, trans)
This is a term used to describe people who consistently self-identify as the opposite gender from the gender they were labelled at birth based on their physical body. Depending on the range of options and information available to them during their life, most transsexual people try to find a way to transition to live fully in the gender that they self-identify as. Transitioning is also known as gender reassignment. Many, but not all, transsexual people take hormones and some also have surgery to make their physical bodies match their gender identity better.

A female-to-male (FTM) transsexual man (trans man) is someone who was labelled female at birth but has a male gender identity and therefore is currently seeking to transition, or has already transitioned, to live permanently as a man.

male-to-female (MTF) transsexual woman (trans woman) is someone who was labelled male at birth but has a female gender identity and therefore is currently seeking to transition, or has already transitioned, to live permanently as a woman.

The Scottish LGBT Equality Report

equality-social_final1_144rgb_2The 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 – click here to read a PDF copy of the report (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: www.equality-network.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/The-Scottish-LGBT-Equality-Report.pdf

Order Form: 'The Scottish LGBT Equality Report'

Please complete this form to order published copies of The Scottish LGBT Equality Report.
  • Please enter a number from 1 to 100.

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: http://equality-network.org/resources/publications/policy/scottish-lgbti-hate-crime-report/

LGBTI Human Rights in the Commonwealth Speakers

We are delighted to announce some of our confirmed speakers for the LGBTI Human Rights in the Commonwealth conference. You can register for the event here.

Key Note Speakers


Conference speakers:

Silvan Agius – Policy Coordinator (Human Rights), Government of Malta

Bisi Alimi – LGBT/HIV advocate and lecturer, Free University of Berlin (Nigeria).

Barbara Bompani

Dr. Barbara Bompani, Centre of African Studies, University of Edinburgh.

Morgan Carpenter – Intersex activist and researcher, President of Organisation Intersex International Australia.

Jonathan Cooper – Chief Executive of the Human Dignity Trust. He is a barrister and human rights specialist.

Jermaine Grant – University of Ghana alumni and former lecturer, awarded this year’s Chevening Scholarship for Guyana.

Pauline Kelly – Media and Campaigns Officer, Amnesty International – Scotland.

Pallav Patankar – Director of Humsafar Trust, Mumbai, India.

Shanon Shah

Shanon Shah – singer-songwriter, playwright and journalist from Malaysia.

Alistair Stewart – Assistant Director of the Kaleidoscope Trust

Mayur Suresh – Legal representative, Voices Against 377 (India)

Monica Tabengwa – Human rights defender and an activist from Botswana, now based in Kenya.

Peter Tatchell – Campaigner for human rights, democracy, LGBT freedom and global justice

Dr. Matthew Waites – Senior Lecturer in Sociology, co-editor of Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Commonwealth: Struggles for Decriminalisation and Change (London: School of Advanced Study, 2013)

Full biographies to follow and more speakers to be announced.