Empowering the Voices of Rainbow Youth at National Youth Summit

Article on LGBT Youth Scotland's Youth Summit by Laura Piper reporting for STV on Saturday 23 August 2014

Empowering the Voices of the Rainbow Youth as Hate Crime Rises

"You know that dream everyone has. You know, the one where you try to run but you can't. Or when you're trying to scream but nothing comes out. Well that's what it's like.
"I used to try to scream, speak up, to make a noise. But all there was, was silence. Now, I don't even try. Neither does anyone else. It just stays silent."

The words may be spoken by one teenage boy, but they echo the thoughts of many young people across Scotland currently batting homophobic bullying in their schools.

The 'Shh! Silence Helps Homophobia' campaign video was scripted and produced by young Scots as a call to action against findings from an LGBT survey which showed that nearly 70% of all LGBT youths in Scotland have experienced homophobic bullying.

Of these, many stated they felt forced to drop out of schools, colleges and universities as a result.

Recent reports from the Scottish Government show that incidents of hate crime across Scotland are on the rise, with the number of charges with an aggravation of transgender identity almost doubling within the space of a year.

But while the report states that the overall number of charges remains low at 25, the true number of incidents is hard to pin down.

It's a number that is large enough though, for the young people it directly effects to come together and take a stand.

"This weekend we're hosting our first ever LGBT National Youth Summit," said Nancy Russell, one of the young organisers behind the new event.

"We've had national gatherings before, but this will be the first time that we'll have had one that is dedicatedly youth led, revolving around an agenda set by the young people themselves."
Taking place in Edinburgh on the weekend of August 23, young people from across Scotland will travel to the capital for workshops and discussions on the theme of education.
In 2012, a report cited by the NSPCC showed that over half of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people had experienced homophobic bullying at school.

"It was very much like that for me in school," said Nancy, 22, from Edinburgh. "I had horrible teenage years, they really were quite bad. I was badly bullied. I left school in sixth year and it was still going on then.

"I discovered LGBT when I was 15 and in a pretty bad place. It was mind boggling for me to find out that non-judgmental people do actually exist. I gained a whole new different group of friends who didn’t judge me."
Along with four other young people, each with their own story of coping in Scotland's education system, Nancy has helped to drive forward this gathering of young voices to help empower and enable them to build their confidence.

"Empower is my go-to buzzword. They should be able to feel that they can make a difference," explains Nancy.

"A lot of young people out there have been having a pretty rough time. Life in general is an education."

"It’s difficult for staff at school as well, particularly around transgendered issues and a lot of young people simply don’t know what it is and the teachers then don’t know how best to help.

"Having support opened up my eyes to the possibility of change," Nancy adds.
"I feel so much better. It’s really cheesy, but the 'it gets better' tagline really does apply to me.I still encounter some horrible people. But because I’m more confident in myself I challenge it now. I’m so happy now.

"To other young people out there I just want to say, hang in there. Things definitely do change when you get older.

"There are so many people out there just like you."

We'll be bringing you more from Nancy and the National Youth Summit next week as the young people share their thoughts, images and views from the weekend.

See full article on STV online HERE

Donate to Shh! Silence Helps Homophobia Crowdfund Campaign HERE