RESEARCH into the experience of LGBT people is like buses, it seems. Not a dickie bird and then two major reports arrive at once. The first, at the start of last week, was the Equality Network’s Scottish LGBT Equality Report.
A kind of state of the nation assessment, based on a survey of 1,052 people from all across Scotland, it made for sobering reading. Ninety-seven per cent of LGBT people had personally faced prejudice or discrimination, including 79 per cent within the last year and 49 per cent within the last month. Nearly a quarter had experienced discrimination when accessing employment. Is it any surprise then that 89 per cent of those asked believe Scotland still has a problem with inequality, and 94 per cent say that more needs to be done to tackle the day-to-day prejudice and discrimination that LGBT people face? You’re not kidding.
And then came Stonewall’s Unhealthy Attitudes report. Conducted by YouGov, based on a survey of 3,001 health and social care workers across the UK, the headline shocker from this is that one in ten of those directly involved in patient care have witnessed colleagues express belief in a “cure” for gayness. Yip, a cure. I don’t think I’ve got the words to express how utterly repugnant I think it is that such quackery exists, never mind that anyone, never mind people involved in health care, believe that it works. Is this 1950?
It doesn’t improve much when you consider that a quarter of LGBT staff said they had personally experienced homophobic, or biphobic, bullying from colleagues in the last five years. A similar percentage said they’d heard colleagues make negative remarks about LGBT people over the same time period. Perhaps unsurprisingly, 60 per cent of those who had heard this kind of abuse did not report it. Why would they? If it’s this common then what would make you believe that at an institutional level, anyone would give a toss?
But they should. All of us should, including the many gay people, like me, who are fortunate enough to live lives largely insulated from this kind of ignorance and intolerance.
I can’t tell you how sad it makes me to read research findings such as these. I live a completely out life. Out at home, at work, to anyone who asks me. It’s not entirely simple, I still know what it is to check my surroundings before I kiss my partner. I have experienced abuse, but the last time I did was a long time ago. I’ve built a life in which I am surrounded by supportive, loving, tolerant people. On the basis of both of these reports, we’ve still got a horribly long way to go.
From the Equality Network document we know that one in four LGBT people experienced discrimination when accessing services such as healthcare, education or policing. Just think about that. You’re ill, you go to hospital, you’re vulnerable, needing care, and you experience discrimination on the basis of who you love. It’s no wonder I find it painful to contemplate. I can scarcely imagine anything more grim. Can you?