While the hours count down on 2017, we hear from founder and co-convener of the Scottish Parliament’s cross party group on LGBTI issues, Jamie Greene MSP, as he reviews his top LGBT highlights of the year.
“As the curtains start to close on what has been a turbulent year, it’s good to look back at what has been accomplished.
For me, setting up the Scottish Parliament’s first ever cross-party group on LGBTI+ issues after joining was a huge privilege and I’m proud that we’ve kept the group going through 2017. As founder and co-convener of the group, I take the view that we should not shy away from the challenging issues, like intersex and transgender equality, hate crime, bullying in schools and gay men’s blood donation.
By bringing together politicians with people we are able to not only raise the challenges facing Scotland’s LGBT+ community, but actually start to tackle them. Government ministers and MSP’s have attended our meetings and listened to speakers and evidence sessions. I believe that it has played a part in shaping how politics and the LGBTI community can engage constructively.
The big news in April, from a medical perspective, was the introduction of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) in Scotland. This was a significant leap forward in reducing the spread of HIV. The most important thing to do with regards to HIV is to reduce the stigma associated with it and that is why our cross-party group continues to work to promote this. I also chaired an HIV Scotland anti-stigma consortium meeting, the first of its kind, and that campaign is going from strength to strength in tackling the every day stigma around HIV. We even saw the First Minister take an HIV test to publicise how simple it was.
The Glasgow Pride event in August was another triumph for the LGBT+ community. Around 5000 of us came together in support of LGBT+ acceptance. I marched with many colleagues from my party and I was pleased at the friendly atmosphere and warm welcome we were given despite our many political differences.
In November, of course, we welcomed the news that Australia had legalised equal marriage. This was internationally celebrated, if long overdue. Having lived in Australia myself for a year, I know just how important that result was for so many people in the country. Surely by next year we will see more of the same – perhaps progress could be made in all parts of the UK itself?
Then, just last month, I wrote an article in Pink News welcoming the First Ministers apology to gay men convicted of historic sexual offences. My biggest concern however remains, that we are still not doing enough. I found recent reports held disturbing figures of cases of LGBTI+ abuse, highlighting the issue as an inherent problem in Scotland. Which is why progress in the TIE Campaign’s call for inclusive education remains a top 5 campaigns of progress in 2017 – coming on leaps and bounds – but the proof will be in the pudding. The Scottish Government’s working group on this must follow through on its aims.
It will therefore be my New Years resolution to ensure that all elements of Government, at every level, continue to strive for equality in Scotland.”