We're pleased to welcome Christina McKelvie MSP, Minister for Older People and Equalities, as our special guest blogger for the final week of LGBT History Month 2021.
LGBT History Month is one of the highlights of the LGBTI calendar, and while the ongoing coronavirus pandemic means that we need to enjoy events in different ways, we are still bringing people together from across Scotland to celebrate our diverse and vibrant LGBTI communities.
Traditionally, History Month allows us to celebrate achievements and look forward to a brighter future, whilst also reflecting on the struggles and challenges of generations before us. That is even more apparent with this year’s “unsung” theme, which looks at underrepresentation caused by the selective documenting of history and culture, and the importance of intersectionality.
Coined by the American academic Kimberlé Crenshaw, intersectionality is about the ways in which different types of inequality can compound and aggravate each other. That idea is at the heart of our vision for tackling inequality in Scotland – we must take a holistic approach, and see ourselves, and each other, as the full and complex people that we are.
This has been even more apparent over the past year, as coronavirus has had some of its worst impacts on people already suffering inequalities, – for example for people at the intersection of those groups, such as older LGBTI people, or those from ethnic minorities. For those vulnerable to loneliness or isolation, and who might not have digital connections, the challenges will also have been acute.
I am deeply grateful to all the organisations, big and small, across Scotland who have risen to the challenge of providing vital services to LGBTI communities throughout the pandemic, particularly those most vulnerable, perhaps due to intersectional inequality or loneliness. I am proud that the Scottish Government has been able to provide nearly £75,000 in additional funding to support a range of projects. This includes increased provision of the LGBT Helpline; a project providing Zoom accounts to local community groups; and an online digital platform to deliver a safe community space for LGBTI young people.
Of course, 2020 won’t be remembered just for coronavirus. The international resurgence of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement was another stark reminder of the significant impact that discrimination and inequality continue to have on people’s lives.
Like this History Month theme, the idea of ‘unsung’ voices played an important role in the BLM protests, and continues to do so in the conversations that followed. Intersectional voices, like the activist Marsha P. Johnson, who played a key role in the 1969 Stonewall riots, must be remembered and built on alongside new voices who are sharing their lived experience. This is vital as we work towards a society that is equal for all and reflective of our complicated, intersectional identities and realities.
For us in Government, that has been a key lesson over the last year, and will continue to be a focus for the future.I want to say again that I, and the Scottish Government, will continue to protect and promote LGBTI rights, to stand against homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia, and to stand alongside our LGBTI communities.
This year, including on the Scottish Government’s own Twitter feed, I have seen more of the so-called ‘Progress Pride’ flag, which features the rainbow stripes of Gilbert Baker’s original 1970’s Pride flag, alongside black, brown, pale pink, pale blue, and white, to symbolise the inclusion, and vital contribution, of minority ethnic and trans identities within the LGBTI communities.
I hope the inclusivity, togetherness and empowerment that the Progress Pride flag – and every Pride flag – stands for will be an enduring legacy of this challenging period in our history.
Of course, these visible expressions of support, solidarity, and inclusion must be matched by action. As well as our COVID-specific funding, the Scottish Government has provided more than £1m to organisations promoting LGBTI equality over the last year. We will continue to proudly support and work with these organisations as we move towards our goal of an equal Scotland, where everyone can feel encouraged and emboldened to fulfil their potential.
LGBT History Month serves to remind us of the hard times that have passed, and the struggles that LGBT people have overcome. It gives us hope that the challenges we face now and in the future will be overcome.