A new report published today by the Equality Network revealed that LGBT people still face widespread inequality in Scotland.
The Scottish LGBT Equality Report, a state of the nation report on LGBT people’s experiences of inequality in Scotland surveyed 1052 respondents from across the country.
It reveals that despite recent advances in the law and social attitudes, such as the legalisation of same-sex marriage, 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.
According to the report 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 verbal abuse (68%), physical attack (16%) sexual assault (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 finds 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 Equality Network says that the report sends a clear message about the huge scale of change still needed before LGBT people will have full equality in Scotland. It says the recommendations in the report are a blueprint for the progress needed over the next decade, including further work to remove inequality in the law, to change attitudes, to tackle prejudice and hate crime, and to ensure that public services and employers are meeting the needs of LGBT people. Among the 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.
Tom French, of 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 Scottish LGBT Equality Report includes over 250 personal accounts of incidents of prejudice, discrimination, and other forms of disadvantage experienced by LGBT people in Scotland.
Cathleen Lauder, a 38 year old transgender woman from Edinburgh, and KaleidoScot writer, said: “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 who recently moved to London to escape prejudice, said: “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 who faced homophobic bullying at school, recounted: “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.”
You can read the full report by clicking here.