LGBT people and public services

A good practice guide from Stonewall Scotland

Case study two — Contracting services

To download these files, you may need to right click on the relevant link and select 'Save Target As…' from the resulting menu (the exact wording will vary according to your choice of web browser).

In the box below you can record your reflections on the issues arising from this scenario. What would you do if faced with this situation in your job, or how might you advise someone you manage? After submitting your reflections, you will be able to print them out for future reference and read Stonewall’s advice and guidance on this topic.

Learning Points

LGBT 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, one in six LGBT people have experienced discrimination from a public service provider in the last three years. More than two in five LGBT people are not confident in Police Scotland’s ability to address homophobic, biphobic and transphobic hate crime in their area.

An LGBT 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 LGBT 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. Given that one in six lesbian, gay and bisexual people have been the victim of a homophobic or biphobic hate crime or incident in the past three years, people are very likely to be concerned about their safety in this type of situation.

"I was told I had to bid for properties where there is a higher rate of crime against LGBT people. I also had to explain myself as being bisexual, rather than gay. They understand the words, and know the diversity training, but don’t understand what it means to the person."
– Sam (bisexual trans man), 39, Mid-Scotland and Fife [ quote from Your Services Your Say ]

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

When working with public services in Scotland, some of the most common issues raised were about LGB 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 an opposite sex 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.

Pick another case study >