The Highlands and Islands make up one third of the national landmass, are 3 billion years old in parts, and offer a landscape that people travel from around the world to see. There may be the Loch Ness monster but there’s not a single LGBTI+ cafe, bar or nightclub to be found, anywhere.
This lack of an established scene might be put down to a number of contributory factors, including geographical distance, the predominance of small rural communities, intimately interconnected social networks and, in some areas, the less-than-liberal attitudes that still hold sway. The implications for the LGBTI+ members of the Highlands, and of the islands that make up Shetland, Orkney and The Hebrides, can be social and emotional isolation, limited scope to share and learn from common experiences, or the need to hide sexuality or gender difference in ‘the closet’ or behind a facade of cisgendered heterosexuality. Too many LGBTI+ people move away from the area in search of a community within which a truer sense of belonging might be found.
Although there are already some well established groups in the area, the question remained: how to enable a readily accessible level of region-wide engagement, of voices meaningfully shared, to help develop a more organic sense of community? Well, there was one obvious solution, and with that the idea of the first Highlands and Islands LGBTI+ magazine was born.
UnDividingLines‘ founder and editor, David Downing, says: “The title was chosen to suggest the process of bridging divides, of blurring boundaries and distinctions between the different elements of the LGBTI+ community regardless of gender, sexuality, location, age, or in fact almost any type of divisive labelling. The allusion to Plato’s ‘Analogy of the Divided Line’ is also suggestive of recombining knowledge and opinion, which is one of the things the magazine aims to do.”
To ensure it can involve and reach as many people as possible the magazine is produced only in electronic form. This means it can be produced and distributed entirely for free thereby disentangling it from financial restraints and the limitations of external politics, agendas and interference. As such it ensures that as many viewpoints, voices and interests of Highlands and Islands LGBTI+ people can be openly expressed and shared.
The pilot issue of UnDividingLines was published in October 2014 and received unanimous praise from its readers. By the time the second issue appeared, in March 2015, fronted by the internationally renowned porn actor Philipp Tanzer (aka Logan McCree), himself now a Highlander, copies were being requested from across the UK, Europe, USA, Canada and Australia.
As for the future: “I have been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and commitment the magazine has already received,” David says. “And the more LGBTI+ people I get to meet, from across the Highlands and Islands, the more I realise just how fascinating and inspiring we are as a community. It’s so rewarding being able to ensure that these stories are told and these voices are heard, not only within the Highlands and Islands themselves but nationally and internationally too. It seems this is just the beginning for UnDividingLines and those who read it, contribute to it and speak through it.”
These days there really do appear to be queer things going on in the Highlands and Islands.