Scottish Conservative MSP Jamie Greene says “difficult debates” around trans rights and LGBT+ mental health have to take place in the new parliament.
Mr Greene, who identifies as a gay man, says this Pride Month is a chance for the Scottish Parliament to start again on issues such as self-identification and access to support services for Scotland’s LGBT+ community.
Pride Month, which is a celebration of LGBT+ communities all over the world, takes place throughout the month of June.
Politicians need to support Scotland’s LGBT+ community
Mr Greene says with this Pride Month taking place during the coronavirus lockdown, it is important to make sure politicians such as himself stand in solidarity with the wider LGBT+ community.
He said: “We need to understand there is a huge section of society where Pride might be their only interaction with the LGBT+ community.
“For many young people Pride is their big experience of coming out to their families in a safe crowd, which you don’t get on Zoom.
“We have a new parliament that is different – there has been a huge turnover and it looks and feels more diverse than it ever used to.
“We had some high-profile LGBT+ members of parliament leave like Kezia Dugdale and Ruth Davidson, and for those of us left we have a job to do.
“I want all LGBT+ people to feel those in power have their interests at heart, and promise to work together on difficult issues.”
GRA reform is a ‘difficult debate’ parliament has to have
During the last parliament, ministers debating reforming the Gender Recognition Act, to allow trans people to legally change their gender without a medical diagnosis.
However, this debate was not solved and these changes were not brought forward.
Mr Greene says this new parliament has to have these difficult conversations to make sure everyone’s rights are respected.
He said: “Legislation in the last parliament was defunct and there were very sensitive debates around the rights of women and the rights of the trans community.
“These are difficult debates that we have got to have.
“When you look at the debate on trying to change the census, that was the starting point for a lot this and it ballooned when the hate crime bill came around.
“The conversations got worse and the government shelved the Gender Recognition Act reform which the trans community is calling out for.
“It will rear its ugly head again, and I call on all parties to look at it sensibly and respectfully.
“Everyone should have a voice if they are going to be respectful.
“Let’s use this new parliament as a restart button to have these debates.
Let’s use this new parliament as a restart button to have these debates.
“The debates need to be comprehensive and respectful, otherwise we will just disenfranchise both communities and go back to square one where the trans community feels it is not listened to, and women campaigning for their rights feel they have been gaslighted, and that is not helpful.”
Vow to improve access to mental health for the LGBT+ community
Since being re-elected last month, Mr Greene says he is also keen to do more to improve access to mental health for the LGBT+ community.
He says the impact of the coronavirus lockdown may have aggravated some people’s mental health issues even further.
He said: “Social isolation is a big issue.
“A lot of people have been stuck at home during lockdown and don’t feel happy and welcome to be themselves.
“There has been a huge rise in mental health problems.
“Sadly self-harm and suicide rates are much higher in the LGBT+ community and specifically in the trans community.
“It remains a fact young LGBT+ people are more likely to commit suicide and that is a huge red flag.
It remains a fact young LGBT+ people are more likely to commit suicide and that is a huge red flag.
“This new government can’t just wear badges and wave flags, we need to get on with serious stuff like access to services, health, providing teachers with the materials to do proper inclusive education, and address societal issues around hate crime.
“We already knew before the pandemic mental health in LGBT+ is poor and there is a lot of work that needs to be done, and that’s before we even start talking about legislative stuff.”
Tackling online abuse towards LGBT+ people this Pride Month
Another area Mr Greene wants to tackle is online hate towards LGBT+ people.
He says the issue has become much worse in the past couple of years, and has experience of it himself as someone in the public eye.
He said: “Even just this week I posted a picture on Twitter of me wearing a Pride badge at first minister’s questions.
Delighted to be wearing my @PinkSaltire badge to celebrate #Pride2021 and take a positive stand against discrimination, hate and violence against LGBTI+ individuals in our community.#ShowYourTrueColours @LGBTCons pic.twitter.com/zzhpnOuW4c
— Jamie Greene MSP (@jamiegreeneUK) June 3, 2021
“I was on the front bench and very proud to wear the badge.
“But within minutes people were commenting on it and it opens up a whole side of society.
“I don’t care if you disagree with my politics, but you can’t shut down a gay man for wearing a Pride badge during Pride month.
“I have every right to wear that badge in parliament.
“That is just one of the many instances.
“I got a lot of letters during lockdown from people who wanted me to respect their right to disagree with me on religious grounds.
“I will fight for the right for them to disagree with my lifestyle, even if I disagree with them or even find it offensive, as long as it doesn’t incite hate or terror.
“They are perfectly within their rights to disagree with me on the grounds of their religion, but I also have the right to disagree with them.
“I also get people asking ‘how can you be Conservative and gay?’, and that is ridiculous.
“I didn’t choose to be gay, but I chose to be Conservative.
“Parliament is looking more like the society it represents and if there are LGBT+ people in parliament that is great, because that is what the outside world looks like.”