The Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) works in partnership with several different voluntary organisations, with each electing two young people to represent their demographic, including Girlguiding Scotland, Who Cares? Scotland and… you guessed it… LGBT Youth Scotland.
Today, we talk to Owen and C-Jay: our two MSYPs (Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament) who were elected to represent LGBT young people at the Scottish Youth Parliament.
What made you want to become an MSYP?
Owen: I want to make a difference to the lives of Scotland’s LGBT+ young people. I think that it is wonderful how far we have come with regards to equality, but we are by no means finished; we still have a long way to go. I wanted to play my part in making sure that LGBT+ young people are part of the conversation. It is something that I will proudly advocate for long after my term as a Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament.
C-Jay: I started trying to speak out more about trans and LGBTQ+ rights, and just informing people about being trans myself. I began to hear people say it was inspiring to have a trans young person speak up - I realised a lot of trans people where too worried to speak up and I thought maybe I could do that! My friends, Josh Kennedy and Emily Harle, told me that one of the best ways to do that is by running to be the MSYP for LGBT Youth Scotland.
What was the experience of running a campaign and taking part in a hustings like?
C: I was quite scared; I’d never done anything like this before and I wasn’t sure how to run a campaign… and I didn’t even know what a hustings was. After a lot of research, I ran what I think was a great campaign.
O: It was nerve-wracking! Like it was for C-Jay, it was completely new to me! However, it was and still is one of my proudest experiences. My pride in being part of this community, this family, was what drove me forward and boosted my confidence to run for election.
What was your first sitting like?
O: Very much like my previous answer, it was nerve-wracking! There were so many members of staff and fellow MSYPs in attendance whom I had not met before. The experience was exciting and enjoyable overall and provided me with much-needed insight into the road ahead as an advocate for LGBT+ equality.
C: Unlike Owen I already knew a few MSYPs before my sitting but, even then, I still found it very nerve-wracking. It was very overwhelming and challenging; however, it was also one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life.
What have been the best moments of your MSYP tenure?
C: I had the opportunity to take part in a panel discussion on the Main Stage at MCM Comic Con, speaking on LGBTQ+ inclusion in videogames and the wider videogame industry. I also co-hosted an LGBT History Month Parliamentary Reception with Owen. At the Youth Parliament, I put forward two motions: one on safe spaces in schools, which passed in October, and one on the financial cost of a Gender Recognition Certificate, which passed in in the spring. I have Severe Social Anxiety, so speaking to more than 3 people I don't know is very difficult for me.
O: Presenting my motion on LGBTQ+ youth mental health in Scotland! It is an extremely important issue, and one that very much deserves more attention than it is given. Public speaking, especially in front of two hundred or so people, give or take, was frightening. Walking up to the podium and speaking on such a delicate issue, with the motion passing, felt remarkable. I would say that is my best moment as an MSYP.
How has the experience of being an MSYP changed you?
O: It has made me more confident, optimistic, and passionate than I was before I ran for election. I am a prouder person for it, and I could not be more grateful to be walking the road ahead, a changed man.
C: I have grown more confident and worked on trying to speak out more boldly to help ensure other LGBT young people, who might not have had the same chances as me, are being heard too. I’ve also made so many friends!
How will you use your new skills and this experience in the future?
C: I have learned a lot about what people can do to speak up for what they believe in and that anyone with a voice can change the world. I will use mine to ensure that all LGBTQ+ young people and other minority groups are treated fair and equally.
O: I know what it is like to campaign. One of the most important things someone running for office or interviewing for a job should have is this: the ability to listen. When campaigning for office, you are asking for people to lend you their voices, so it is very important to listen to them, as much as them listening to you. I will definitely carry this forward.
What skills or qualities make a good MSYP?
O: Passion. Dedication. Determination. Understanding. Patience. There are so many things that I could list here, but these are probably the most important in a good MSYP. Self-confidence also makes a good MSYP; if you don’t believe in yourself, how can you expect the voters to believe in you?
C: I think Owen hit the big ones! I think it’s important to be the type of person who listens to everyone’s point but also doesn’t give up on their constituents when they get a little bit of push-back. You need to be passionate about whatever you fight for.
What advice would you give to someone considering running to be an MSYP now?
C: Have a goal in mind: what you want to accomplish as an MSYP. Before I ran, I knew that I wanted to push for reducing the cost of a GRC and since then I’ve done a motion on it at both SYP and GYC (Glasgow Youth Council). Show that you are passionate; people (especially LGBTQ+ people) love passionate speakers! Most importantly, just be you. You are probably pretty amazing.
O: Research! It is important to know what you stand for. Find out what the concerns of your voters are. Voters need to know how you will use your time in office, so use it wisely. Be yourself and be proud to live in a country that seeks to embolden young voices.