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Change is a marathon, not a sprint: reflecting on 20 years 

This opinion piece is 10 months old

This year alone marks several historic milestones that profoundly reshaped the landscape for LGBTQ+ communities

Anniversaries provide meaningful opportunities to pause, reflect and appreciate how far we've come.

This is especially important in times that feel stagnant or even regressive, especially when we look at a wider UK wide landscape and the apparent determination of a Westminster government to regress people’s rights across a whole range of areas. 

This year alone marks several historic milestones that profoundly reshaped the landscape for LGBTQ+ communities. 

These seismic shifts did not happen easily, nor are they the endpoint, however it is a time for reflection and appreciation for what has been and what is to come. 

In 2023, it will be 10 years since the passage of the Equal Marriage Bill in England and the introduction of the Equal Marriage in Scotland Bill. 

We also mark the 20th anniversaries of Section 28's UK-wide repeal - a discriminatory law banning the so-called 'promotion' of homosexuality. 

Additionally, LGBT Youth Scotland celebrates its 20th year as the national charity supporting LGBTQ+ youth across the country. 

I’m proud to look back at 2003 and how Scotland now has world-leading inclusive education curriculum in schools, gender recognition reforms which are streets ahead of the rest of the UK. 

The challenges and narratives we faced from just over 20 years ago are still present today, but reflecting on the progress that we, the Scottish third sector, has made in that time, gives me hope that equality and inclusion will continue to progress across our society. 

None of this progress could have been made without the third sector in Scotland joining together across their different areas of priority to support the progression of rights in Scotland. 

After years of determined advocacy and effort, we're beginning to see meaningful strides on issues central to LGBTQ+ equality and human rights. 

The government has demonstrated real commitment to banning unethical conversion practices once and for all. 

Additionally, new comprehensive legislation aims to further embed human rights protections. There has also been progress in enshrining the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into law. 

It's inspiring to see diverse advocacy groups banding together in solidarity for progress. Children and youth organisations are joining forces with LGBTQ+ equality charities, women's rights groups, human rights legal firms, and many more. This collaborative spirit strengthens our impact and demonstrates the interconnectivity of justice movements. 

As the only organisation in Scotland specifically supporting LGBTQ+ youth, LGBT Youth Scotland holds an enormously important responsibility - one we do not take lightly. 

While it is meaningful to serve as the sole provider of these critical services, we aim to fulfil this role with great care, humility, and a commitment to elevating youth voices. 

I was overjoyed this year to see our "Past, Present and Proud" campaign uplifting the progress made, while recognising there is still so far to go. 

My colleagues and I are honoured to have walked alongside LGBTQ+ youth, witnessing their power as agents of change over LGBT Youth Scotland's 20-year history. They inspire our ongoing efforts to advance young people's rights. 

It is our duty to amplify the righteous anger and frustration voiced by many LGBTQ+ young people experiencing discrimination. 

At the same time, we must instil hope by celebrating milestones and the many who stand in solidarity. 

Though the marathon toward equality is long, I am constantly uplifted by LGBTQ+ youth guiding us ever-forward towards equality. 

The road ahead remains difficult, but each morning we lace up our shoes and take the next step together. 

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