Why we should care that Kezia Dugdale is gay
Since Kezia Dugdale came out on Friday, Buzzfeed published an article entitled “The Scottish Labour Leader Just Came Out And No One Batted An Eyelid”. With anxiety, I scrolled down to read the comments which are usually numerous and often hate-filled to find… nothing. Well, nothing offensive to the LGBT community or Kezia, but a few debates on who should and shouldn’t be covering LGBT news and whether or not Scotland is actually a country (!).
I rejoiced! Buzzfeed were right: being gay in our society is now “normal” and “acceptable”!
However, after spending a bit of time on social media I did come across some negative comments regarding Kezia Dugdale’s statement. The usual ones like religious objections, sexist comments and even unintentionally hurtful comments. Also, incredibly, that it is some kind of publicity stunt and that she has made it all up for political sympathy (or something?).
Now Scotland, like every other country, has its bigots and I am not going to get into a debate over the rights of the LGBT community over the rights of people to be offended by even the concept of “gayness”. I think it is obvious where my loyalties would lie. But I saw a lot of people commenting with the sentiment that they “don’t care” if Kezia is gay, or that it is “irrelevant” and it is that that I would like to address.
While, as an individual, you might not care what a senior Scottish politician’s sexuality is, society as a whole does. While you may not discriminate, it can be unhelpful to ignore differences of sexuality, just as it can be harmful to claim that you do not see race, in this vein, people often say that they “see no colour”. While that person’s intentions are good, this “colourblindness” assumes prejudice no longer exists and makes the subject taboo: to talk about race is somehow racist. (Short vid on colourblindness here and full length documentary here).
As in the case of “colourblindness” to say that it is irrelevant that one of Scotland’s most prominent politicians has come out (and that we have three other openly gay party leaders) is to deny gay people’s experiences and identities. No one can argue that LGBT people face challenges that straight people do not. Some facts from a report published by the Equality Network in July 2015:
- 97% of LGBT people in Scotland have personally faced prejudice or discrimination
- Incidents reported ranged from homophobic, biphobic and transphobic comments and attitudes (82%), to acts of verbal (68%), physical (16%) and sexual abuse (7%), crimes against property (12%), and discriminatory treatment when accessing services (25%) and in employment (24%)
- A majority of LGBT people in Scotland still ‘never’ or only ‘sometimes’ feel able to be open about their sexual orientation or gender identity with their own family (52%), at work (60%) or when accessing services (71%), for fear of the prejudice they might face
- 43% of LGBT people in Scotland have moved, or considered moving, to live in a different area or out of the country altogether because of the discrimination that they have faced, and in order to live somewhere more accepting of LGBT people
Personally, I find those statistics incredibly sad and, call me naïve, shocking.
One of the reasons I want an Independent Scotland is the pursuit of progressive, inclusive ideals that lead to a fairer and more equal society. The fact that Kezia Dugdale has mentioned that she is in a relationship with a female should be an indicator that we are succeeding. That she, Patrick Harvie, Ruth Davidson and David Coburn have successfully ascended to the heads of their parties indicate that, despite the discrimination reported above, LGBT people are able to rise above this. Love or hate their politics, LGBT role models are important.
For all those people saying they are for equality, it is fine for people to be gay but they don’t want their “noses rubbed in it”, think on this – invisible is not equal.
Most people know who SamCam is, that Nicola Sturgeon has a husband, the world loves Michelle and Barack, political couples: Tony and Cherie, John and Norma, Ronald and Nancy, Bill and Hillary (and Monica!). Why should anybody have to keep quiet about their relationship when they are under public scrutiny to the extent that our politicians are?
Scotland is the only country in the world to have a majority of political party leaders who are LGBT. This is not irrelevant or trivial. We should be celebrating this!
When the Scottish Government came into being it was a priority to abolish Section 28, which stopped the promotion in schools “of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”. Last year Scotland was found to be “the best country in Europe for LGBTI legal equality”. Yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon vowed to reform gender recognition law for trans people if the SNP is re-elected.
In Scotland today I wish that it was truly the case that we didn’t care that Kezia Dugdale is gay, that it was irrelevant what people’s sexuality is. I wish that people genuinely didn’t care that a woman loved a woman or a man chose to have sex with another man. All the steps Scotland has taken over the years to improve life for the LGBT community should be recognised, applauded and continued, just as the brave step Kezia Dugdale, and all LGBT people take when they come out and put themselves in the face of judgement and criticism. You might not care as an individual, but there are others that do. A fairer society for marginalised groups means a fairer society for everyone.
Image taken from Third Force News.
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