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Capturing LGBTQ+ history delivers hope for the future  

This opinion piece is 11 months old

"No matter your age, the need for connection, community and somewhere safe where you can just be yourself and be loved for who you are is the same"

However much sets us apart from one another, we all have one irrefutable thing in common, and that is that, at some point, we were all young.  

For some of us the memory is fresher than others, but I encourage you to reflect to what life was like when you were young – what challenges there were and how the world looked, what’s stayed the same and what is different? 

As you do this, you might ask yourself if you knew any lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or trans people growing up?   

If not, or you aren’t sure, it may well be because it really wasn’t something people could discuss as easily for many reasons.    

Maybe you are old enough to remember when homosexuality was illegal - that’s less than 50 years ago in case you are wondering. 

Perhaps you were at school between 1988 and 2000 when Section 28 was in force, prohibiting the “promotion of homosexuality” in local authority services such as schools.   

Maybe you remember happier milestones, like the sense of celebration when the Equal Marriage Bill passed in 2014?    

Capturing key societal changes is vital and even more so for the LGBTQ+ community, where basic human rights have been debated and fought over for decades and yet there is still so much more to be done to create a truly inclusive Scotland.    

The impact of a lack of rights is more keenly felt by young people, they may not understand what their basic human rights are, and so when they are infringed, they may be less sure of how to challenge or ensure they are upheld. 

This year we partnered with The Heritage Lottery Fund, who awarded a grant to fund a new and innovative three-year programme, (Un)seen, (Un)heard.  

The objective of this project is to capture the intergenerational voices of the LGBTQ+ community in Scotland.  

(Un)seen (Un)heard will preserve a snapshot of what life is like now, and what life was like for some of our former young people. 

Through our partnerships with the National Library, Our Story Scotland, and others, this will create the start of an archive to record changes and progress across the years. 

We are six months in and we’re finding that the societal narrative has evolved across generations with frighteningly similar rhetoric.  

From the supposed ‘dangers of the gay community’ to the perceived ‘dangers of the trans community’. 

Though this is alarming, we also hear from older members of the LGBTQ+ community that there is hope, that this too shall pass into history, as they witnessed before, with the provision of stronger rights and protections for this minority group.    

We are also seeing stories echoed through the generations, such as hearing the joy of a young person feeling confident enough to be themselves in public by holding their partner’s hand.   

No matter your age, the need for connection, community and somewhere safe where you can just be yourself and be loved for who you are is the same.  

It is a fundamental right for every young person across Scotland. 

I started by suggesting we all have one thing in common, but I think we have much more than that. I think most of us share a hope for the future and the next generation.  

That they benefit from what has come before and can flourish and thrive.  

They will be the ones looking after us, after all and it is important that they are seen and heard.  

Let’s make sure their stories don’t remain unseen or unheard. 

Dr Mhairi Crawford is chief executive, LGBT Youth Scotland. For more information on LGBT Youth Scotland, please visit:



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