Saturday 20th August saw the start of Glasgow’s Pride weekend, with thousands attending events at both the original Pride and its younger counterpart, Free Pride.
Individuals, charities, and other groups from across Scotland took part in the parade that left from Glasgow Green. Scottish Labour, the Equality Network, and the Terrance Higgins Trust were all in attendance. Amongst a sea of smiling faces and upbeat music were placards supporting the likes of transgender and intersex rights.
While the main focus of Pride Glasgow was the Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) campaign – which works towards improving LGBT+ education and support in Scottish schools – HIV was a prominent topic at the community expo in Glasgow Green, which also housed stalls for the transgender youth charity Mermaids and the LGBT+ helpline Switchboard. What seemed to be lacking, however, was the highlighting of discrimination against LGBT+ people worldwide. I asked a number of activists whether or not they felt that Pride was doing enough to target discrimination against members of the LGBT+ community.
“Some people experience Pride more commercially, and for some it’s about celebrating who they are,” said Liam Beattie of HIV Scotland. “There are people who want to engage in human rights organisations like ourselves. Pride spans a wide range of areas and it could be a great beacon of tolerance and liberty.”
“The LGBT community needs to link up with its international partners,” answered TIE’s Craig Paterson, “but it’s very difficult in places where there’s so much oppression of the community to make links. We should be showing international solidarity.” Paterson also discussed which areas of LGBT+ education he believes should be prioritised, stating that, “[We must] educate all pupils that people are no different because [they’re LGBT+]. We need to teach kids this so that in 20 years, when they’re in work, that has a knock-on effect and there’s no longer stigmatisation. [We need to teach them] the power of their words, because constant haranguing of what kids feel is a joke that is leading others to self-harm and suicide.”
Vic Valentine, who ran the Scottish Transgender Alliance stall at Free Pride in the Glasgow School of Art, explained: “79% of young transgender people have experienced bullying in schools, 42% of whom left education as a result. If you don’t include LGBTI people in the curriculum, that sends the message that they’re different, which fosters an environment in which bullying seems more acceptable.”
Beattie and I also discussed pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), anti-HIV medication used to prevent infection, and its place in the fight against the virus: “Safe sex promotion messages… have got us to a certain point, but people are continuing to be diagnosed. We think it should be available for people most at risk.”
“We hope that the Scottish Government will license PrEP,” said David Cameron of Sx, a charity for gay and bisexual men’s health and wellbeing. “It’s a real chance – alongside condoms – of eliminating HIV.”