Between March and July 2020, LGBT Youth Scotland delivered two consultations with LGBT young women and girls in Scotland to learn more about their experiences of inequality, prejudice, discrimination and gender-based violence.
The first consultation engaged 129 LGBT women and girls aged 13-25 and focused on identifying thematic issues impacting their lives while the second consultation, which reached 101 individuals, explored some of those issues in more depth.
We speak to our Development Officer, Janice Stevenson, who delivered the consultations, to find out more. Janice has 5 years’ experience leading much of our work focused on domestic abuse and gender-based violence.
What was the purpose of the consultations?
It’s quite simple really: we wanted to understand what’s going on for LGBT women and girls in Scotland. From our work with young people we recognise that LGBT women and girls face inequality, prejudice, and discrimination simply because they are young women and because they are LGBT. This includes experiences of sexism; homophobia, biphobia and/or transphobia; violence, abuse and harassment. We wanted to better understand those experiences so we can advocate more effectively for LGBT young women and girls and to ensure our own services respond to their needs.
What did you learn from the consultations?
The consultations confirmed that LGBT young women and girls face several challenges, both as young women and as LGBT people, including violence, abuse and harassment. They also face multiple barriers to reporting these experiences and accessing support.
The young women who took part identified that LGBT women and girls are often misrepresented and overly sexualised in the media and felt that this impacts on how they are perceived and treated in communities across Scotland. They felt that media representations were often stereotypical or portrayed LGBT women in an overly sexualised way to appeal to heterosexual men rather than truly represent how their lives are.
Some of the young women were also concerned about the impact pornography has on how LGBT women are perceived and treated. Some described feeling fetishized because of the representation of LGBT women online while others described feeling pressure to ‘perform’ their sexual orientation for the pleasure of others. One young woman commented: “LGBT women are incredibly sexualised online, to the extent of which boys would ask to see me kiss a girl because they find it ‘hot’ and it’s like free porn".
Many other young women described similar incidents as well as other experiences of violence, abuse and/or harassment being directed at them specifically due to being an LGBT young woman. This includes physical violence; sexual violence; verbal abuse; online abuse and other forms of gender-based violence.
Many of the experiences the young women described are reportable to the Police, however; 73% of those who experienced incidents of violence, abuse or harassment did not report it. Many felt that their experience was not ‘serious enough’ to report to Police while others stated that fear of being outed or not being taken seriously prevented them from reporting. Similar reasons were given as to why LGBT young women and girls find it difficult to access specialist support services.So what happens next?
So what happens next?
Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that these consultations only scratch the surface of what’s going on for LGBT young women and girls in Scotland and there is lots more to learn and understand. LGBT young people are at the centre of everything we do here at LGBT Youth Scotland, so we are looking at new ways to get young people involved in our gender-based violence work over the year ahead.
It’s essential that LGBT young women and girls are able to access appropriate information and advice around these issues, so we will be reviewing the content on our own websites and social media to ensure that it is fit for purpose and relevant to their needs. We’ll also be re-developing training for our own youth work staff and volunteers to make sure they have the knowledge and confidence to provide effective support to LGBT young people affected by gender-based violence.
Awareness-raising is crucial to affecting real change, so we will also be looking to find and create opportunities to highlight the experiences of LGBT young women and girls and to encourage service providers and decision makers to consider what they can do to better to support these young women and to prevent violence, abuse and harassment from occurring in the first place.
We have written a briefing paper that provides an overview of the consultation findings that people can use to inform themselves and others, along with a more detailed report which will be available later in the year.
How can people find out more about LGBT experiences of gender-based violence and the work you are doing in this area?
I’m also keen to share our expertise, learn from others and explore opportunities to work with other organisations and services from across the gender-based violence and related sectors as well as LGBT young people, so that we can to create positive change together.
Please email enquiries to Janice.Stevenson@lgbtyouth.org.uk