What life is like for LGBT+ people in Scotland

NHS Greater Glasgow and NHS Lothian have teamed up to research the experiences and health needs of LGBT+ people in Scotland. The full report is here. It’s part of a wider study that includes a literature review and that will help inform future planning.

It’s a long and often very saddening report, with people sharing some often very traumatic experiences.

A couple of bits that jumped out for me:

A common theme in the interviews and group discussions was the change in recent years to society in general becoming more accepting of LGBT+ people, particularly people with gay and lesbian identities. This was in part attributed to equality legislation. Societal attitudes towards trans, non-binary and bisexual people were felt not to have become as accepting to the same degree. Indeed, many felt that attitudes towards trans people, particularly trans women, had taken a ‘backward step’ in recent times, largely attributed to a very negative narrative around trans identities widely reported in the media and particularly social media, often in reference to the campaign around the Gender Reform Act. Many felt that inflammatory media reporting had a measurable impact on how trans and non-binary people were treated in public.

Despite the progress, almost every participant had experienced homophobia, biphobia or transphobia in a wide variety of settings.

Many LGBT+ people who participated in the research recounted incidents where they had been threatened or intimidated because of their identity – but they rarely viewed incidents such as being shouted at in the street or name calling as ‘hate crime’, and did not report them to the police.

…Exposure to negative opinions and stories in the media, particularly social media had an effect particularly on how safe trans women felt. Many trans women spoke about how media reports affected their anxiety and feelings of safety.

…There was much discussion from all LGBT+ groups about the current discourse on social media against trans people, particularly trans women.

Depression and isolation were common.

A common theme for all LGBT+ identities was the struggle to work out their sexual orientation and/or their gender identity, and the toll which their period preceding their self-discovery took on their mental health. Usually, there was a period where they fought against their identity or did not want to accept it. This was more pronounced in environments and circumstances where having an LGBT+ identity would be more difficult (e.g. more deprived areas, rural areas, certain faith and cultural groups), and could lead to internalised homophobia/transphobia which could prevail after coming out.

…Trans men and women and non- binary people were particularly likely to speak about suicidal thoughts, although these tended to subside after transition.

LGBT+ people of all kinds reported being unable to take part in certain forms of physical activity. Trans men and women reported no longer being comfortable in swimming pools or gyms, while gay men often felt excluded by the “laddish culture” in many sports.

Many trans and non-binary people spoke about doing exercises such as yoga alone at home rather than in a class setting because they did not feel they could participate with others. One trans woman described how she went to the gym at 2am because the gym was almost empty at that time and she was also able to use the disabled changing cubicle. A trans man said he could only use the gym if he changed at home.

There is much, much more – GPs lacking crucial knowledge, lesbian and bisexual women being treated terribly by healthcare providers, horrific waiting lists for pretty much everything, people being scared to talk about mental health issues for fear it would be used against them. The report also explores the experiences of people of various faiths, of people with disabilities and of asylum seekers.

The research isn’t entirely negative, but the picture that emerges again and again is of LGBT+ people struggling against multiple issues including severely underfunded health provision, social isolation and other people’s prejudices – and of social and mainstream media actively fuelling those prejudices.