LGBT Youth Scotland

Speak Out: A research report into the needs and experiences of LGBT young people in four health board areas in Scotland

The Group
The research was commissioned by LGBT Youth Scotland, which is a national voluntary youth organisation working towards the inclusion of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) young people in the life of Scotland. The research was led by a research team from the Centre for Youth Work Studies at the University of Strathclyde.

What were they trying to achieve?
The aim of the research was to identify the unmet needs of LGBT young people and explore how LGBT Youth Scotland and local partners should meet these needs.  The focus was on areas where little or no specialist provision currently exists: Dumfries & Galloway, Forth Valley, Grampian and Tayside.  The specific aims were to:

  • bring together LGBT young people to gather data and allow them to express their perceived needs
  • engage steering group participants in training in research techniques
  • present a positive image of LGBT young people
  • challenge policy makers and influence policy making via dissemination of findings
  • raise the profile and inform the work of LGBT Youth Scotland
  • raise awareness of these issues in the wider community

How did they go about it?
Data was gathered by a questionnaire, focus/discussion groups, semi-structured interviews and video diaries.  The quesionnaire was circulated to respondents at LGBT promotional and social events, and 119 completed or partially completed quesionnaires were returned.  During outreach work, staff from LGBT Youth Scotland facilitated 'Big Brother' style video diary sessions with LGBT young people who access commercial LGBT 'scene' venues.

According to the researchers, however, it was difficult to maintain a youth-led approach to the project, due to the tension between the requirements of 'professional' research and the requirements of greater participation.

What did they learn?
Discrimination, including institutionalised discrimination, is still widespread.  Although the age range 11 to 18 is a crucial target group for service providers, schools do not address the needs of LGBT young people, and often ignore their experience in the curriculum, pastoral care and school policies.

The existence of LGBT youth groups and support groups provide essential support and advice, safety and a place where young LGBT people can socialise, and raise and address issues that concern them.  Smaller towns and villages lack social and support groups and safe services for LGBT young people.  People from traditional or working class towns expressed difficulty in being 'out', in being safe and in participating openly in LGBT activities.  Attending University allows access to a network of LGBT young people, to a support and advice structure, and comparative freedom to 'come out' or be out.  The 'scene' has the potenial both to support and to to threaten.  It allows networking, information exchange and mentoring, but young people are not always valued on the scene and may on occasion be targets for exploitation.

There is a pressing need to conduct further research into the needs of LGBT people with disability and from black or ethnic minority backgrounds.  There is a need for a separate investigation into the needs of transgender young people, who were not represented in this research.

The report made several recommendations, summarised below.

Mainstream LGBT equality considerations in policy making at all stages - formulation, implementation and evaluation.

Use all available instruments to combat discrimination and promote equality for LGBT young people.  Scottish Executive and Local Authority funding sources should be conditional on organisations subscribing to and enacting the LGBT Youth Scotland 'Youth Charter of Rights'.  The Charter Mark is one way the new Youth Charter Toolkit can identify good practice and promote it within organisations.  This should be extended to include all public organisations.

Mainstream non-discrimination against LGBT young people across all social policy areas.  All public sector organisations should be obliged to demonstrate that anti-discriminatory practices are part of their every day routines.  In Education there is an urgent need for the Scottish Executive and Local Authorities to take action to ensure that LGBT Youth Scotland's Education For All campaign is supported and enacted in every school.

Continue to develop a network of youth groups and support organisations through local partnerships.  LGBT Youth Scotland should continue to build networks and support specialist provision for LGBT young people in the four areas.

LGBT Youth Scotland
John Cotton Centre
10 Sunnyside
Tel:  0131 622 2266