LGB&T people and public services

A good practice guide from Stonewall Scotland

Case study two — Contracting services

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Learning Points

LGB&T people often feel that their home is their safe space and coming out to neighbours can often mean that they feel they are putting that safety in jeopardy.

In recent Stonewall Scotland research, more than half of the respondents fear discrimination from staff and other service users. And in our recent community safety research, we found that a third of people did not feel safe in their neighbourhood, and half of those felt it was because they are LGB&T.

An LGB or T person is likely to be concerned that someone who is working in their house, such as a plumber, electrician, or even firefighters doing a home safety check, will identify them as LGB or T. Given that two in three LGB&T people have experienced a verbal attack and one in three have experienced a physical attack, people are very likely to be concerned about their safety in this type of situation.

"I have a neighbour who is very vocally homophobic, which makes me feel very uncomfortable."
"Most neighbours are fine but I did over hear one set talking about us … they were very cruel how they described us without even knowing us."
— Quotes from How Safe Are You?

Stonewall carried out research in 2012 which explored Scottish attitudes to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The research showed that three in five people say there is still public prejudice against LGB&T people in Scotland. Although the majority say that it is right to tackle this prejudice, they feel that society in general treats gay people differently from the way it treats straight people.

When working with public services in Scotland, some of the most common issues raised were about gay people 'shoving it' [their sexuality] in people's faces. Society often accuses lesbian, gay and bisexual people of being too obvious about their sexual orientation - basic things can be seen as 'flaunting' your sexual orientation such as displays of affection, holding hands in public or talking openly about your partner. However, these same actions in a heterosexual relationship would rarely be noticed, let alone questioned. Of course everyone has the right to express their opinions as long as those opinions don't violate the dignity and rights of other people around them, or fuel prejudiced behaviour. In places like the workplace, or in the provision of goods, facilities and services, there are legal protections in place to ensure that no one person has a more negative experience than anyone else. As a public service provider, you must take responsibility for the role that you play in the lives of the people that use your service. It's best if you can enable people to be 'out' without having to constantly come out – don’t make assumptions about people.

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