Life for LGBT+ young people in Scotland is “worse now than it has been for a long time”, according to a report that highlights growing concerns about homophobia in public spaces, bullying in schools and transphobic media coverage.
The five-yearly report from the campaigning and advocacy group LGBT Youth Scotland found a sharp decrease in respondents who believe that Scotland is a good place for LGBTI young people to live, falling from 81% in 2017 to 65% in 2022 and the first drop in the figure for 15 years.
There was also a significant increase in those who believe that homophobia and transphobia is a “big problem” in Scotland since the last survey was undertaken in 2017 – rising from 11% to 25% and 49% to 69% respectively.
The Life in Scotland report, first developed in 2007 and funded by the Scottish government, offers a snapshot of how young LGBT+ Scots experience a range of issues and services, and this year showed an especially strong representation of participants who identify as transgender.
Advertised via social media, with information packs distributed to schools, colleges and universities, the survey generated 1,279 full responses. The ages of respondents ranged from 13 to 25 and of the total, 35% identified as gay or lesbian, 31% as bisexual and 19% as queer. In addition, 49% of total respondents identified as transgender, with 30% who identified as non-binary included in this figure.
The majority (82%) were in secondary or further education, with a quarter living in rural areas, a quarter in cities and half in suburban areas.
According to the report, LGBT-related bullying is also on the rise, especially in schools, while the number of participants who said they had left education as a result had increased from 9% in 2017 to 13%.
Although nearly half of transgender participants reported that they had experienced a hate crime or incident, along with a quarter of cisgender participants, only 11% alerted police, and there was a steep decline in those who said they would feel confident reporting hate crime: from 54% of all participants in 2012 to 17% in 2022.
For the first time this year, the survey included a question on trans healthcare, with 63% who have accessed a gender identity clinic reporting that they felt supported and respected by the service.
Respondents were also highly critical of mainstream media and suspicious of “pink-washing”, the tokenistic use of the rainbow flag to boost a company’s sales or reputation. But political engagement remained extremely high: 94% of those eligible to vote said they did so.
Presenting the results, Dr Kathleen Cronie, research officer for LGBT Youth Scotland, said: “Responses indicate that homophobia and transphobia are on the rise and that biphobia remains a problem, for example with couples holding hands in public attracting stars and comments, feeling unsafe in public areas like public transport, and the difficulty faced in navigating a complex online environment.
“Participants said this was made worse by media outlets that failed to accurately reflect the lives of queer people and in some cases spread misinformation, in particular around transgender identity.”
The report comes as the Holyrood parliament considers draft legislation to streamline the Gender Recognition Act and diverges from Westminster in plans to introduce a full ban on conversion practices that includes transgender people.