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Campaigners call for action on non-binary equality

 

Commitments to improve the lives of non-binary people and tackle the barriers they face in their everyday lives have been published by the Scottish Government.

Charities and campaigners across Scotland have said awareness must become action from the Scottish Government over non-binary equality. 

During non-binary awareness week, national LGBTI groups have urged ministers to go further following their publication of thirty-five recommendations from the Working Group on Non-Binary Equality.

Scottish Trans, Equality Network, LGBT Youth Scotland, Stonewall Scotland, and LGBT Health and Wellbeing welcomed that the Scottish Government’s response to the group’s recommendations acknowledges the challenges and barriers that non-binary people face to achieving full equality in Scotland. 

They say it is positive to see the Scottish Government’s commitment to meaningfully engage with these issues, in stark contrast to a UK Government that is increasingly hostile to all trans people, and refuses to make progress on trans equality.

But the LGBTI organisations have said there must be meaningful progress on non-binary equality in Scotland. 

Vic Valentine, Scottish Trans Alliance Manager and a member of the working group, said: “The opportunity to make wide-ranging recommendations to the Scottish Government on how they could improve non-binary people’s lives was a welcome one, and it is an important first step towards improving the Government’s understanding about what our experiences and needs are and how barriers we face can be addressed.

“However, it is disappointing how much of the response to our recommendations relies on assuming that existing work will address these barriers. 

“The working group set out in detail in its report to the Government how non-binary people are almost never considered in the development of policies or law, or in the design and delivery of services, and the significant impact this has on us. Simply doing more of the same will not bring the meaningful changes needed, or improve people’s lives.”

The organisations all agree that the Scottish Government could have been much more ambitious in its response to the group’s recommendations.

The working group made recommendations across a broad range of areas – including healthcare, data and law, and access to services. 

The Scottish Government has accepted eight of the recommendations in full, fifteen in part and agreed to consider a further eight. Three recommendations were declined.

Action in the areas which were accepted could make a real difference to people, campaigners said - in particular, the acceptance of the recommendation to fund mandatory training for mental health providers to understand non-binary people’s needs, and the acceptance of the recommendation to support specific research and evidence gathering in this area.

Even with the welcome acceptance of around a quarter of the group’s recommendations, LGBTI organisations are disappointed that so many of the recommendations are only partially accepted, with no commitment to ensure that this work specifically addresses the needs of non-binary people. 

The groups are now calling on the Scottish Government to ensure that the non-binary action plan, due in Spring 2023, details specific, concrete steps that the government will take to make a difference to non-binary people’s lives.

Dr Mhairi Crawford, chief executive of LGBT Youth Scotland, said: “This working group has allowed the voices of non-binary people to be heard, which is an important step towards meaningful equality, however further action is required if non-binary young people are to be fully included in Scotland.

“We welcome commitments such as producing guidance to support schools. Our recently published research shows that trans (including non-binary) young people now come out on average at age 15, so it’s important that schools, health providers and so on are supportive and validate the experiences of non-binary young people.

“We are frustrated that not all recommendations have been accepted and will continue to push for meaningful progress with all the recommendations of the working group.”

The commitments made by the Scottish Government cover areas such as healthcare, education, and access to services. 

Equalities Minister Christina McKelvie said: “I’d like to thank the working group for producing this report, which clearly articulates the barriers and exclusion faced by non-binary people, such as when they interact with or seek support from public services. I’m particularly grateful to the group members with lived experience for sharing their insights, which are at the heart of the group’s ambitious recommendations.

“We have accepted the majority of the recommendations, partially accepting those with which we agree in principle but not to the full extent suggested by the group. Others we have committed to consider further so we can fully consider their impact or feasibility, and in a few cases we have declined the recommendation as it’s not achievable.

“We want to improve equality and bring about real, positive and lasting change to the lives of non-binary people, and we will now develop an action plan based on the group’s work to set out more fully how we intend to do this. I believe that advancing equality for marginalised groups ultimately advances rights for all. This is an opportunity to begin improving conditions for the non-binary community as well as other marginalised groups in Scotland.”

 

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