Scottish Government Equality Outcomes: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Evidence Review

This evidence review was prepared to support the production of the Scottish Government's Equality Outcomes, with regard to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.


5.1 Many of the sources consulted in the preparation of this Evidence Review refer to LGBT people as a single group with common interests. This section presents this LGBT evidence for both the LGB and Transgender protected characteristics together, as it has not been possible to divide it down into its component groups for reporting in the preceding sections for LGB and for Transgender.

School education

5.2 The evidence for LGBT school pupils focuses on bullying and the protection of rights.

5.3 The EHRC's Equality issues in Scotland: a review of research, 2000-08[104] reports homophobic bullying as a "common concern" (p45) for LGBT young people in Scotland, with negative impacts on physical and mental health, and on educational performance. It reports a research gap in the long-term impact of school bullying on LGBT young people in Scotland; in the UK, Stonewall has suggested that bullying impacts on adult mental health[105].

5.4 A paper from LGBT Youth Scotland[106] reports the findings of its survey conducted with LGBT young people, aged 13-25. The survey revealed that LGBT young people identified education as the environment where they faced the most discrimination; within education, schools appear to be the place where LGBT young people feel least protected. A slight improvement was seen in college, with university providing the least homophobic, biphobic or transphobic environment.

5.5 LGBT Youth Scotland[107] has also drafted a Charter of LGBT Rights, addressing areas of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that some LGBT people feel that they are denied due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. It includes a "right to education", expecting all "places of learning" to recognise and value diversity. These are further reflected in the six strategic outcomes[108] that guide the work of LGBT Youth Scotland.

Further and higher education

5.6 The Scottish Government does not currently have information on the experiences of LGBT people in further and higher education[109].

5.7 The EHRC Triennial Review[110] reports that the UK's Higher Education Statistics Authority does not collect data on sexual orientation or Transgender status, that no robust statistics are collected from other sources, and that little research has been conducted into the experiences of LGBT students in higher education. It does, however, summarise the results of a study by the Equality Challenge Unit (2009)[111]:

The study was based on 2,704 online responses of LGBT students in Higher Education Institutions in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; 12 focus groups with LGB staff and students; and 18 individual interviews. It found that LGBT students report being treated negatively on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender status by fellow students, and to a lesser degree by tutors, lecturers and other staff. In the same study, Transgender students reported encountering higher levels of negative treatment than LGB students.

5.8 A report on diversity in the further education workforce (2005)[112] found virtually no research on staff experiences in relation to sexual orientation or gender identity. The case studies of colleges in this report found that, whilst most of the staff interviewed suggested that there was no discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, there were several suggestions that this is a sensitive area and some felt it was a private matter that should not necessarily be discussed.


5.9 The evidence for housing focuses on needs and homelessness. The limited amount of published research is supported by papers from the voluntary sector.

Housing needs

5.10 The EHRC's Review of Research[113] observes that little research has explored the housing situation of LGBT people, and with no population-based information on LGBT people, it is not possible to identify even baseline information relating to housing tenure. The Review cites a survey of 1,000 LGBT people in Scotland (Morgan and Bell, 2003)[114] which asked about a broad range of issues affecting LGBT people's lives: the issues raised by respondents included ageing and the fear of losing one's home, access to information, and limited awareness of housing rights.

5.11 The LGBT Housing Project[115] was led by the LGBT Centre for Health and Wellbeing, and involved the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations and Stonewall Scotland. It conducted consultations and focus groups, which contributed to the five standards it drafted for housing providers:

  • Showing leadership on LGBT issues
  • Tackling discrimination against LGBT employees
  • LGBT housing applicants welcomed
  • Services take account of LGBT people's needs and concerns
  • Associations talk to LGBT people and groups.

5.12 The LGBT Housing Project's report, Safe and secure? LGBT experiences of social housing in Scotland[116], is based on focus groups for LGBT social housing tenants, and it identifies and addresses issues of housing access and service provision. Problems centre on LGBT people's distrust of housing authority staff, homophobic abuse (verbal, physical, vandalism), and the failure of housing authorities to respond to abuse. There is frustration that such incidents are perceived not to be taken as seriously as racial abuse, and that .0 people are not given more priority in housing allocation (in terms of re-housing following abuse). Some focus group participants suggest stronger policies against discrimination of all types, rather than focusing on LGBT in particular. The report reiterates (p27) the LGBT Housing Standards listed above, supported by key tasks required to achieve each standard, and examples of evidence that would show that the task has been completed.


5.13 A research study by the National Centre for Social Research, in collaboration with Stonewall[117] and based on interviews held in six UK cities, highlighted that LGBT individuals may experience a range of causes of housing crisis that are familiar to others such as family breakdown, disruptive parental behaviour, violence, abuse, leaving care, bullying, and religious and cultural expectations. Moreover, Stonewall Housing[118] observes that LGB people can face further marginalisation on multiple levels when trying to find appropriate accommodation - for example, if they are disabled or are from black, Asian or other ethnic minority groups, or are Gypsies/Travellers, migrants, refugees or asylum seekers.

5.14 Two papers by the voluntary sector add further detail. According to Homeless Link's 2011 Survey of Needs and Provision (SNAP)[119], on average approximately seven percent of clients in projects for homeless people identify as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or Transgender. A literature review by Crisis (2005) entitled Sexuality and Homelessness[120]suggests that sexuality issues are often overlooked for homeless people, particularly for those who are older; it reiterates that organisations often assume clients are heterosexual which can have a negative effect on LGBT people's ability to reveal their sexuality or gender identity.


5.15 The Scottish Government's user strategy for the National Transport Strategy[121] found that LGBT respondents were one of the most likely equality groups to report that they did not have specific transport needs. When asked for issues of relevance to the LGBT community, many spontaneously said that there were no real issues, and they only raised concerns over safety and training after more detailed consideration. Some interviewees felt that while safety and training were key transport issues that LGBT people would raise, they were primarily issues for the general population as well.

5.16 Transport Scotland's report on its Consultation on initiatives related to the ScotRail franchise extension[122] reports that it found little information about LGBT experiences on trains or other forms of public transport. It concludes that it is not clear whether there are any specific concerns or issues for LGBT people regarding rail transport. Similarly, the Equalities impact assessment for Scotland's cycling strategy[123] found no information about the particular needs or experiences of LGBT groups regarding cycling, and adds that "we have no reason to believe that there are any particular issues to consider".

5.17 In a more extensive piece of research into the barriers that prevent people from using the Tube more, Transport for London[124] also reports that very few differences exist between heterosexual and LGBT people regarding spontaneously mentioned barriers to increased Tube use. Some differences exist when people are prompted with a list of potential barriers: LGBT people are more likely to cite overcrowded services (73% compared to 60% of all respondents), the cost of tickets (54% vs. 43%) and unreliable services (50% vs. 33%) as potential barriers to increased Tube use. Fears of intimidation and/or abuse are sometimes mentioned by people from LGBT communities. The Transport for London authors suggest that the extent to which these fears affect travel behaviour depends on "people's personalities, previous experiences and the degree to which they perceive themselves as being visibly LGBT" (p184).

Harassment and good relations

5.18 This section addresses harassment of LGBT people, and relations between LGBT people and the wider population.


5.19 The EHRC Review of Research reports on a 2003 research study, comprising a survey[125] (with 920 responses) and focus groups of LGBT people in Scotland. The survey found that 68% of respondents had been verbally abused or threatened at some time in their lives by someone who had assumed that they were LGBT. One-third (35%) had experienced this in the previous year, with most incidents taking place in the street. A quarter (23%) had experienced a physical assault because someone had assumed that they were LGBT, with five percent having experienced this within the previous year. Only 17% of those who experienced verbal or physical abuse reported the incident to the police, with 29% of those who had experienced both verbal and physical abuse reporting it. Focus group participants stated that it was not worth reporting incidents to the police, as previous experience showed that nothing was done or that it would be too difficult to explain what had happened.

Good relations

5.20 In its briefing on The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill[126], the Equality Network questioned the Bill's definition of threatening communication that only includes religious hatred. In its submission of evidence to the Justice Committee dated 20/6/2011[127], the Equality Network specifies its criticism of the offence - communication of any threats intended to stir up religious hatred (p3) - that it feels ought to include sexual orientation. It points out that in England and Wales, hatred offences include both religion and sexual orientation. The bill passed on 14/12/2011[128] retains its reference to threatening communications "intended to incite religious hatred".


5.21 In a summary of sports research over a 15 year period[129], the EHRC reports that it found no comprehensive research into LGBT people's participation in sport.

5.22 The Equality Network's report Out for Sport[130](2012) supports this by citing gaps in data[131], which they attribute to self-censorship by survey authors who choose not to ask about gender identity and issues. The Equality Network report further claims that that Sport Scotland, sports governing bodies, local authorities and clubs are all looking to the Scottish Government for clear leadership on the issue of LGBT participation in sport. In its survey (with 1,722 respondents who replied to advertisements by the Equality Network, sportscotland and the Scottish Sports Association) 79% of respondents felt that "there is a problem with homophobia in sport", and 66% felt that "there is a problem with transphobia in sport"; 66% again felt that homophobia and transphobia were barriers to the participation of LGBT people in sport. The report gives quotes in which interviewees attribute their reluctance to participate in sport with their past bad experiences, which are generally associated with bullying in school; the commentary observes that the fear of possible abuse might be a bigger barrier to participation than actual abuse suffered.

5.23 Research conducted in 2003[132] for the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, explored barriers to participation in certain sporting activities. It reported a perception that facilities in leisure centres did not meet the needs of LGBT people. Reasons included issues relating to changing rooms, lack of privacy, feeling 'threatened' by the presence of heterosexual people in the same changing room, and the exclusivity of changing rooms for either men or women.


Email: Social Research

Back to top