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Report highlights Scotland’s “invisible” gay youth

Jane Lim June 20, 2008

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans youth in Scotland are neglected due to a lack of knowledge among professionals, a report claims.

The study was produced by LGBT Youth Scotland and commissioned by the Scottish Government Education Directorate Sponsored Research Programme.

It conducted interviews and focus groups with child protection professionals and LGBT young people and explored their needs.

It concluded that LGBT youths find it difficult to come out to professionals and professionalsin turn feel that there is not enough training and information on LGBT issues and experiences.

The report said that LGBT young people are not visible in a range of settings due to issues like homophobia and transphobia, which discourage young people from coming out.

This lack of visibility means that specific issues facing LGBT young people are absent in guidelines, information, support and training for professionals.

Many LBGT young people will therefore not come out to professional and so go without support on their specific needs as LGBT young people.

Service providers also need to understand specific risks and vulnerabilities which LGBT young people can experience but should not automatically assume that they are at risk.

Professionals said that for their part there can be concern, uncertainty and confusion amongst practitioners regarding a young person’s sexual orientation or gender identity and the ways in which they support young people and deal with confidentially and information sharing.

“It’s only in the last few years that we have become aware of LGBT young people, but as yet there’s no connection to child protection issues,” one professional said.

“You can’t support a young person if you don’t know the issues they face.”

Currently, there is no focus on LGBT young people in child protection policy and practice, either strategically or at the level of individual practice.

This is a barrier to equality and diversity being mainstreamed in all organisations.

“This research provides a voice for LGBT young people and explores the issues facing professionals who work with young people,” said Sara O’Loan, Research Manager of LGBT Youth Scotland.

“Professionals say that there needs to be a greater focus on LGBT young people’s issues in child protection policy and practice as well as training on LGBT issues to support them in delivering services, and the report therefore recommends that these things are taken forward.

“Young people are saying to us quite clearly that their LGBT identities do matter when they engage with professionals and that it is professionals’ responses to these identities which can determine how successful the experience is.

“Hopefully, this report highlights that we all have a role to play in working together and sharing expertise so that every young person can grow up supported, healthy and happy.”

LGBT Youth Scotland website.

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