John Nicolson: We must heed the lessons of our proud LGBT history


Categories: News

February was LGBT History month and the other day I made a wee video to celebrate.

It’s gone viral, with 300,000 views. It seems to have struck a chord with those who watched. And some of the comments viewers posted have certainly struck a chord with me.

I was born in the 1960s when homosexuality was illegal. I always knew I was gay.

But everything I heard as a child about being gay was relentlessly negative. We were taught that we would lead a lonely life of relentless promiscuity.

And, of course, at school ‘gay’ was the worst of insults.

I came from a religious family and I used to pray not to be gay. But of course the prayers didn’t – couldn’t – work.

We are born gay or straight. No one chooses their sexual orientation.

We have been gay and straight since the dawn of time and in every civilisation, whether tolerant or intolerant.

People have found same sex love despite the cruellest persecution and the most horrific punishments. Who’d have chosen to be gay in Nazi Germany or today’s Afghanistan?

By the 1990s being gay had become a little easier. But still not easy.

You could be sacked for being gay with no legal redress. If you were twenty one and your boyfriend was twenty – and under the then age of consent – you could end up with a criminal record for “underage sex”.

Just imagine how that would have affected your life opportunities. If you were gay you could be refused admission to the civil service, and investigated by the police if in the military and expelled without just cause.

You were “bad for morale” no matter how discreet your relationship had been.

Sacked for hiding your identity and sacked for being open about your identity, LGBT people just couldn’t win.

When clause 28 hysteria descended on Scotland the tabloids screamed about “gay lessons in schools” and some religious leaders sought, shamefully, to conflate homosexuality with paedophilia.

I was lucky. I had a loving family, good friends, and a stable relationship too. But many kids grew up in very different circumstances.

Gay boys have long accounted for the highest percentage of suicides in the country. Many have always ended up homeless when thrown out by their families.

So I’m pleased our Holyrood parliament has done so much to make things better. Scotland now has gay marriage, an equal age of consent, LGBT inclusive education in schools, and the recently passed Gender Recognition Act which aims to make life a little easier for trans people.

Scotland regularly now ranks amongst the most socially liberal countries in the world.

And while most of recognise that religious minorities are free to hold controversial views, most of us recognise, too, that they should not be able to impose those views on the rest of us.

We live in a secular society. And that the tens of thousands of people who watched my wee video seemed, overwhelmingly, to think was a very good thing.