Scotland’s LGBTQ community discuss what it’s like to be Scottish and Queer in 2022.
Here in Scotland hate crimes against gay and transgender people are on the rise.
Despite once being named the ‘best place to be gay in Europe’ according to the Rainbow Index in 2016, Scotland has seen a worrying trend similar to nations such as the United States.
Although Scotland has not seen the same armed groups of protestors arriving outside of venues hosting ‘Drag Queen Storyhour’ events this does not mean that the LGBTQ community in this country has been free of opposition.
Miss Peaches, a 23-year-old drag performer from Dundee, was recently forced to cancel one such show at the city’s DCA after receiving death threats and online hate. Speaking on the day she was forced to cancel the show Miss Peaches said:
“I am a health care assistant; by law, I am more than safe enough to be around children.
I was being called awful names like p**dophile and n*nce.”
Accusations of grooming and paedophilia are common sticks opposition groups use to beat LGBTI+ people, and particularly trans people. Miss Peaches continued:
“If I were what they called me I would be that without the wig and the makeup, yet one [person] asked why I couldn’t do the event without the drag.
“I realised then that it wasn’t about the safety of the kids … it’s about the drag.”
Won’t somebody think of the children?
Miss Peaches had been invited to host the story hour as part of the ‘Transcendent’ event hosted by DCA, a prominent creative arts centre in Dundee. The occasion was intended to be an “exploration of those pushing the boundaries of perceived gender norms.” The abuse and accusations which led to it being canceled represent a snapshot of the opposition those who do not conform to gender expectations still face in Scottish society.
The event has made Miss Peaches consider the mindset of anti-trans protestors. The performer described how the threats of the protestors made her feel:
“It got to the point where I was thinking if there is a mob outside of the building today not only is it not safe for me, but it’s also not safe for these kids.
“What they have tried to prevent, they have done, they have made it unsafe for children.
“Why should children be exposed to a bunch of angry people holding up signs and shouting? If that were me as a child that would traumatize me more than seeing a drag queen.”
Hate shows its ugly face
Miss Peaches’ experience is not unique. While hate crime in Scotland falls overall, figures released by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) show that crimes directed towards the LGBTI+ community are rising, and have been steadily for a while.
Clearly, the bigotry queer people face is not confined to online spaces. A group of students at Harris Academy in Dundee started a lunchtime LGBT group in order to give students a safe place to go and eat lunch after finding there wasn’t one already.
A place to explore for themselves
I would have a picture with Kirsty here. This will hopefully include at least one of the children who helped create the club along with a quote from the student.
Kirsty Jessop, a 23 year old teacher at the school, agreed to host the club to support the students:
“The group that started the club is taking part in YPI (Young Philanthropic Initiative) and chose to do their presentation on Dundee Pride.
“They had a great relationship with the charity and said to me that the school hasn’t been awarded an LGBT charter and doesn’t have an LGBT club!”
The students were keen to put this right as Kirsty described:
“I told them the school is always looking for people to start clubs and about an hour later they came back to me saying they were starting the club and asking if I was still okay to help out.
I think it is important to show that the school is supportive, but it’s the girls themselves who are leading it.”
It is clear that Scotland has made progress on these issues, but the students felt the club was still necessary. One of the students who helped create the club said:
“It’s only 40 years ago that Pride was illegal which is not that long. A lot of kids are seeing LGBTQ in a positive way … but, there is still bullying going on.
“There are a lot of kids who don’t want to express their identity. What the club does is provide them an opportunity and a place to explore for themselves, even if they decide it isn’t for them they have space.”
Growing up queer in Glasgow
The outlook for LGBTI+ people in Dundee is challenging, but the determination of the high school students to create a place where they are free to be themselves is an indication that attitudes are continuing to evolve.
But, what about Glasgow? Once voted Scotland’s most gay-friendly city, what is it like to grow up queer in No Mean City?
A look at which MSPs voted for and against the Gender Recognition Reform Bill presents another mixed picture. While prominent Glasgow MSPs such as Humza Yousaf (SNP member for Pollok) voted in favour of passing the bill (Humza Yousaf | Scottish Parliament Website) others did not, for example, John Mason, SNP MSP for Shettleston, voted against John Mason | Scottish Parliament Website.
The city with Scotland’s largest Pride parade is not free of challenges for non-cis-gendered, non-heterosexual-identifying people. Queer Glaswegians suffer the largest number of hate crimes in Scotland (per 10,000 of population) according to official studies Characteristics of police recorded hate crime in Scotland: study – gov.scot (www.gov.scot).
The backlash faced by Miss Peaches is not out of the ordinary, rather it is a small part of a larger pattern; a shift in Scotland that has seen hate crime increase even while Pride events take place across the nation in places as diverse as Glasgow, Perthshire, and the Western Highlands.
It is clear to see that there will be no easy path forward for the LGBTQ community of Scotland, however, the actions of young people like those who created a safe space in their high school demonstrate that there is hope that things will continue to improve if people are willing to stand up.