‘(Un)seen, (Un)heard’ Communications Officer, Chloe Gardner, shares her excitement at the launch of our first national exhibition on 15th February.
This LGBT history month, we are launching our first (Un)Seen, (Un)Heard exhibition, showcasing the stories of some of Scotland’s young LGBTQ+ people. In the UK, LGBT History Month was created to claim LGBTQ+ past, celebrate LGBTQ+ people’s present, and create their future. These are goals shared by the (Un)Seen, (Un)Heard project.
(Un)Seen, (Un)Heard is a 3 year social history project that works with young LGBTQ+ people to document their lived experience and celebrates their stories. The first year of the project has allowed us to collect stories in many different ways such as drawings, songs, poems, banners, comics, zines, voice recordings, short stories, and even potato portraits submitted to the archive! Seeing the creativity of Scotland’s young people has been one of the greatest joys of the project. Our team have attended Pride events in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Oban, and Inverness and interviewed attendees.
We have also done workshops across the country, in partnership with Our Story Scotland, the National Library of Scotland, Perth Archives and Creative Stirling among others to conduct individual and group interviews with young people, as well as facilitating creative workshops where attendees have been able to make artistic and written submissions too.
Many people have contacted us via social media and submitted their stories to us online. Schools have also been involved thanks to LGBT Youth Scotland’s amazing education charter team who supported Schools in Glasgow to attend an excusive film screening of the Past, Present and Proud film and a short film from the Queer Youth Arts Collective. The education charter have also worked with us to develop an (Un)seen, (Un)heard Education Pack that will allow schools across Scotland to engage with the project. Finally, we’ve been discovering the stories of influential Scottish figures about their experiences of being LGBTQ+ in Scotland, in the hopes that they can continue to inspire young LGBTQ+ people for generations to come.
Over the course of the project, we have heard stories from all over Scotland, from people with all different identities and backgrounds. Some submissions are heart-wrenching accounts of the challenges faced by young LGBTQ+ people today and the many steps that still need to be taken to protect young LGBTQ+ people. Others are uplifting tales of the progress that Scotland has made over the years and the things that make Scotland such a great place to live.
We have heard from young people in rural communities about the specific challenges faced by LGBTQ+ people in these areas compared to urban centres. Some have shared their experiences of coming out to friends and families and how those experiences wildly differ. There have also been important discussions around how religion, race, gender, or economic status affect one’s sense of identity and how the intersection of these identities affects how we are perceived by others. Pride has proved a popular topic for submissions – people’s recalling of their first prides, what pride means to them, and the importance of pride for both celebrating how far the LGBTQ+ community has come, and how far Scotland still has to go until LGBTQ+ people can live in complete peace and safety.
While as a whole the submissions celebrate the diversity of Scotland’s young people, there are some strands that run through almost every story we have heard. A common theme is the importance of community and how LGBT Youth Scotland groups, Pride events, and safe online spaces have helped young people to cultivate their own communities even if they do not feel wholly welcomed by their larger communities or society as a whole. Similarly, we have heard immeasurable accounts of how crucial friendships and family (including chosen family) are to young people’s sense of wellbeing, and how finding people who understand and accept them for who they are is essential for helping them come to terms with their own identity and creating their own happiness. And finally, there was a shared hopefulness, a desire for a more inclusive and welcoming Scotland, where people are free to be and love who they want without fear of stigma, discrimination, or physical danger.
Personally, having heard these stories and met so many inspiring people in the past year, I have seen how passionate, eloquent, and open-hearted this generation of young people is, and how determined they are to change the world. I have no doubts that they will work to make their dreams of a better and more inclusive Scotland come to fruition because they are already making it a better place.
2024 is a super exciting year for us at team (Un)Seen, (Un)Heard. On the 15th February we launch our first digital exhibition in Glasgow, at a film screening in Kelvinhall, showcasing some of the inspiring content we’ve gathered over the past year, sharing the stories that show what it’s like to grow up as a young LGBTQ+ person in Scotland. This will be closely followed by a second exhibition in Perth on the 27th February at the AK Bell Library exploring the local experiences of young LGBTQ+ people. We will also unveil our online space (via our shiny new website) where everyone and anyone can view and engage with our archives and enjoy the submissions wherever they are in Scotland (or beyond). Finally, look out for more events and workshops happening across LGBT History Month and beyond via our Instagram account. I personally can’t wait to see the project come to life, and for the stories that so far only we have had the privilege of hearing to finally be out there in the world to educate and inspire people of all genders, sexualities, and generations for years to come.