Updated: Aug 8
This month, our youth panel members Olivia and Rebecca are back together to react to July’s So What But What If safety campaign panel event on LGBTQIA+ perspectives. Although our original panel saw representation from different generations of LGBTQIA+ people - including our very own youth panel member Elijah - Rebecca and Olivia provide yet another younger perspective and in particular, how young people can be allies to their peers who identify across the rainbow spectrum of LGBTQIA+ identity.
You can watch the original panel event here.
Our youth panel included:
Rebecca Clark, age 19 & a social media coordinator at One4Growth
Olivia Brocker, age 22 & a TV production assistant at Two Rivers Media
Host Laura Maginess, CEO of Glasglow Girls Club
Benefits and drawbacks of labels for describing gender and sexual identity
Olivia felt her own views on this subject approximate Elijah’s arguments that labels have both broadened and deepened understanding of LGBTQIA+ people: ‘I agree with Elijah in the fact that labels from our generation have definitely helped identify individuals and make them feel represented in the right way. By those labels being created, it’s made me, as someone who isn’t part of that community, more aware of how to address people correctly as well’ (19:05-23). She continued: ‘I think if it just fell under the umbrella of gay or lesbian, it’s not representing that full community [...] For the people who are in that community, they’ll feel more represented as well’ (19:50-20:09).
Rebecca agreed, noting how it has helped her respect people’s pronouns: ‘I completely agree, I think it helps educate other people without people going to use the wrong pronouns [...] I do think it’s important’ (19:24-48).
Olivia understood the converse argument against labels, however: ‘I totally understand Sheila’s point of view as well where she doesn’t feel like labels are necessary because some people don’t see it as an importance’ (20:13-22). Because identity is so vast and complex, sometimes words on their own fail to fully capture that. It’s also important to recognise that not all LGBTQIA+ people think the same way about labels, and to respect how they want to be referred to.
Feeling unsafe as LGBTQIA+ people
After hearing the panel’s stories, Rebecca noted how shocking it was to her as someone who was not raised in an intolerant environment: ‘I just think it’s shocking that in this day and age, people are still discriminating people for literally just being themselves. All you’re doing is being yourself, and people are still putting you down: as Elijah said, egging people [...] No one is doing anything wrong; they’re being themselves and that’s it’ (40:31-41:10).
Rebecca felt a renewed understanding as to why LGBTQIA+ often feel shame and anxiety about coming out to their friends: ‘One of my friends came out to me a few years ago, and she was like “Please don’t hate me or see me any differently because I’m bisexual” and I was like, “I would never see you any differently” [...] and I can’t believe some people actually do’ (41:14-42).
Olivia was also disheartened to hear about the panel’s experiences of discrimination: ‘I just think it’s really sad more than anything, it’s really disheartening to hear people on the panel and their stories and that’s cross-generational, and after all these years nothing’s changed really. It’s maybe celebrated a bit more in the media but that’s not for everyone like Elijah was saying. [...]. I don’t see why they’re being discriminated, as you said they’re just their own individuals; it’s who they are, and they’re not hurting anyone’ (41:48-42:30). If there is something positive to take away from this, however, is how shocked young people are to hear about the way LGBTQIA+ people are often treated, and how little they understand the perspective of someone acting hatefully.
Education and allyship
For Rebecca, education is the way forward in ameliorating the unsafe spaces LGBTQIA+ people often find themselves in: ‘A big thing is people do need educated, and asking questions is okay. [...] People who are discriminating are clearly not educated at all, they’re just going off maybe what they’re hearing at home from the older generation or whether it’s peers [...], each individual needs to be educated themselves and I think that would help stop so much discrimination’ (1:05:31-1:06:18).
Olivia agreed, and felt that the generational divide in understanding should be addressed: ‘When the panel were saying it would be key for the older generation to be educated, absolutely that’s definitely the case. I think everyone should be educated, no matter how old you are. For the younger generation now, [LGBTQIA+ issues are] definitely more prevalent and are getting talked about more, everyone should be educated on it and that it should be a key thing that people know about’ (1:06:20-41).
Having said that, Olivia herself felt that she learnt a lot from listening to this panel event: ‘I definitely think this panel in particular has educated me as well. Although I have friends who are part of the community, I’m not in it myself. Even though I’m very much aware of it and I know what goes on, by hearing it first-hand from members of the panel we just watched, it was really eye-opening for me, and it made me realise I need to do more in order to help them and make them feel safe and represented and included, so it was a really good panel to watch’ (1:07:32-1:08:02).
As a consequence, the main takeaway for Olivia was that allyship was key: ‘We probably need to do more to help them and be allies to them, and know that they’re not alone, and that we are trying to fight against discrimination’ (42:37-47).
Young people’s instincts around LGBTQIA+ issues are that of acceptance and empathy, which is a sign that there is greater cultural acceptance in Scotland of the community more generally. However, the panel was nonetheless eye-opening for our youth panellists who are not part of the LGBTQIA+ community, as they were not completely aware that prejudice and discrimination are still common experiences, especially for young transgender people. Our youth panel felt inspired to stand up for LGBTQIA+ people all the more having heard first-hand how they feel unsafe and unaccepted in a world that is still largely heteronormative. They felt that pathways for educating people of all ages would be a large part of the solution in promoting understanding and helping people of all genders and sexualities feel safe and accepted.
Thank you for listening to our youth panel’s important and fresh perspectives on this month’s panel event. Tune in next month for our upcoming event on the fight for making sex work safe (more on that here).