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The survey asked nearly one thousand LGBT people across Scotland about a wide range of issues and the circulation of the survey was as wide as possible to encourage a cross-section of people to respond. A number of issues have emerged for consideration and these are detailed below.
openness about sexual identity
Openness about sexual identity with different types of people varied. Respondents were most open with friends and family (although this was often qualified to be some family members, but not others, particularly fathers). People were open with work colleagues and employers as appropriate but some people felt that they could not be open about their sexual identity as this would affect their chances of promotion and how colleagues interacted with them. Openness with banks and GPs was mixed as some felt that the issue had never arisen so they had not considered it, but a small core of people felt inhibited about revealing their sexual identity for fear of prejudice, particularly with regard to life insurance.
The majority of children appeared to be from heterosexual relationships, although some respondents had self/donor inseminated. Female respondents in particular had children who lived with them and the majority of comments around relationships with children were positive. A core of respondents would like to bring up children in the future so children may become more of an issue for these respondents and other LGBT people. This is obviously a sensitive issue.
Three in five respondents who felt the question was relevant would like to register civil partnerships, particularly female respondents. Given the recent announcement by the Westminster Government to allow the civil registration of same sex partnerships (with the accompanying benefits), the support indicated by respondents shows that a change in legislation would be welcomed.
Whilst over half of respondents felt part of the wider community, a quarter did not. There is obviously some work to be done in encouraging greater understanding, acceptance and integration of LGBT people within the wider community, as this sentiment ran throughout the survey.
Access to information was not as bad as anticipated, with 22% to 28% of respondents experiencing problems in this regard. Female and transgender respondents had more problems accessing information than male respondents. They should therefore be targeted more effectively.
consultation and research
Partnership rights, discrimination and equality generally were seen to be the main three issues facing LGBT people today and LGBT people would like to have a say on these issues. Respondents were much more active than other members of the community, as voting behaviour shows. Male respondents in particular have been regularly surveyed, particularly on sexual health issues, homophobic crime and drug use and there were some concerns over the effective use of research. Any research should therefore be widely distributed and researchers should work together to avoid duplication and resultant respondent fatigue. More importantly, action should be taken on the findings of research.
Two-third of respondents have been verbally abused or threatened by someone who has assumed they are LGBT and a third have experienced this in the last year. A quarter have experienced physical abuse because of their perceived sexual identity and 5% have experienced this in the past year. This has primarily happened in the street and male and transgender respondents have been more likely to have experienced this than females. However, these disturbing statistics are compounded by the under-reporting of these incidents to the Police. Many respondents stated that they did not think that the incidents were serious enough, and that the police would not or could not do anything about it. For those who did complain to the police, only half felt it was handled well. There is therefore work to be done in raising the profile of taking action if abused, and with the police to handle such complaints more effectively. A suggestion made by a focus group contributor was to appoint incident numbers to each complainant, who could then indicate advocates they were willing to have act on their behalf to pursue the complaint.
15% of respondents had experienced barriers to mainstream healthcare services. The main issues were inappropriate advice or treatment due to uninformed staff and homophobic staff. It is clear that more information and training must be provided to ensure that staff working within mainstream healthcare services are aware of the needs of LGBT people. In view of this, Beyond Barriers (UK) welcomes a new NHS project, Inclusion NHS Scotland, which has been established to work with health boards to improve services for LGBT people.
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