A new community group for LGBTI young people from across Renfrewshire has been launched in Paisley. Run by LGBT Youth Scotland, it’s based in the town’s West Primary School, with meetings held on a fortnightly basis. “The group is great. Everyone is friendly and welcoming,” said one young attendee.
The work of the project has been praised by Stephanie Smyth, a trans woman who hit the headlines after she was forced to leave her Johnstone home due to transphobic harassment by neighbours. Renfrewshire has been described as the part of the country where LGBT people feel most isolated, but group founder Craig Cochrane is confident that it can change for the better.
“A lot of the issues affecting LGBT young people in Renfrewshire is the fact it is remote,” said Cochrane. “Before LGBT Renfrewshire was set up the closest service was in Glasgow city centre. Although there are many tolerant areas in Renfrewshire there is also a high level of phobic abuse in schools… Renfrewshire is quite ‘close knit’ which means the process of coming out is difficult for many LGBT young people in the area.”
As well as running the group, LGBT Youth Scotland undertakes educational work in schools, hoping to reduce problems like bullying. This work is led by young people themselves. “We have been in Linwood High School and Glennifer High School to talk about what is LGBT, what is phobic behaviours and how do these affect young people in school, we then ask young people to make a pledge to help minimise LGBT abuse in school This we feel puts responsibility on young people to make change in their school through being educated of the issues,” says Cochrane.
“Typically many young people do not know the definitions of LGBT, specifically transgender definitions. Young people within schools are quite receptive to the topics in which we cover and they say that they have learned lots after each session.”
He says the work has been received very positively, with several schools saying they would like to engage with it on a long term basis. “They have stated that the work being done in Renfrewshire is valuable and is a great and engaging contribution to the school’s curriculum.”
Cochrane noted the contribution of fellow volunteers Paula Fleming, Gordon MacQueen and Lisa Clark, and urged people interested in attending the group to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
“It is brilliant that there are now services out there to support LGBT young people in Renfrewshire as well as throughout Scotland and I think these services do a lot to instil equality within society,” he said.