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Interview: Lucy Ball of LGBT Youth Scotland

With last month’s anti-bullying week and Stonewall’s Education for All campaign against homophobic bullying still fresh in our minds, Planet Notion takes a look at the It Gets Better Project. I spoke to Lucy Ball, creator of LGBT Youth Scotland’s (LGBTYS) recent videos, about the It Gets Better Project and how LGBTYS works to improve the health and wellbeing of LGBT youth and communities.


Planet Notion: Who are LGBTYS? What do they do?

Lucy Ball: It’s somewhere you can go for support and there’s no line drawn under what the support can be: workshops, counselling and group activities; support in helping you get better at English so you can apply for jobs and helping you with CVs; putting you in touch with organisations to get you back on your feet if you’ve been kicked out. There are centres in all the main cities in Scotland.

LGBTYS really make an effort to plan social events. I think that’s half the battle when you’re young and you’re gay and you’ve not been accepted: meeting other people and not feeling like you’re being judged. The centre in Edinburgh has a Thursday night social, which is kind of like a youth group for LGBT people, but they don’t discriminate. If you’re not LGBT, you can still come. If you’ve got a gay friend that wants a bit of support, as a straight person you can come with them as well. LGBTYS are a really important part of the support network for gay and transgender people in Scotland.

PN: Where do LGBTYS get funding from?

LB: They’re funded by the National Lottery, but they’re starting to look at media now because they want to raise awareness and get people to know about them so hopefully they can attract some private investment. If you get pens or flyers printed, think how much money you would spend on that and think how much money you’d spend on a video. How many more people are gonna see a video than look at a pen and that’s gonna change their opinion? You don’t look at a pen and go, “Do you know what? I’m not gonna be a homophobic person now!” You make a really good film, and it’s accessible to everyone because it’s online and it’s a much more effective investment.

But, it’s not just online, they’re using it when they go to schools to talk to students and teachers and they had it at a big Scottish Youth Conference the other day. You’d have to be a robot to not feel something for these people, to not be able to understand in some way what they’re going through, and grasp the severity of it.

PN: What is the It Gets Better Project?

LB: It’s a campaign to raise awareness. It’s mostly targeted at young gay people who are in a position where they are maybe self harming, depressed, think of taking their own life, and it’s a way of putting it into perspective for them and saying, “Hang in there. It gets better.” It’s a really good platform for people to tell their story and help other people who are probably in a similar situation but are a bit more cut-off, that maybe live in a smaller town, don’t know any other gay people, or that have parents that are homophobic. It’s a support network.

PN: How did you get involved with the project?

LB: I made a film for LGBTYS last year about their volunteers. They have staff, but the whole service relies on volunteers. The video was to say thank you to all the volunteers and interview some of the young people saying what a difference it’s made to them. LGBTYS contacted me saying they had seen the It Gets Better Project and wanted to make a video of their own. It all went from there.

PN: How did you get the volunteers to talk freely on film?

LB: It was a really intense day. We had the studio for one day only and there were two films we made: one with young people who use the service and one with staff and volunteers. So, there was something like 22/23 people to interview in the one day. I tried to relax the volunteers and let them know what was going on. I had my sheet of questions and, as I was talking to them and more was coming out and it was becoming more emotional, I would just improvise with what would be the best way to go with it.

It was pretty emotional, especially for the young people, because it’s all still very raw for them. They’re in a much better place than they would’ve been, but they are still young and they are still at school and it’s still really tough for them.

PN: What projects have LGBTYS got going at the moment?

LB: They do loads of different ones. There’s the Green Light Campaign to support young people coming out; LGBT History Month, which is focusing on relationships this year and looking at equal marriage, coming out, families and workplaces; the LGBT National Youth Council who work to get LGBT young people’s voices heard in Scotland at all levels; and online services where young people can access information and support, regardless of where they are in Scotland. LGBTYS run a range of support groups, workshops and fun activities. They also run training for professionals, including supporting and responding to the needs of LGBT young people, making services inclusive and working within the Equality Act.

LGBTYS are doing an event at the Scottish Parliament on 8th December where they will be showing the film.
Any young person, parent or professional who needs support can text LGBTYS at 07786 202 370.


For more information, visit http://www.lgbtyouth.org.uk and http://www.lucyball.tv.

Visit the It Gets Better Project website to take the pledge to speak out against hate and intolerance and provide hope for LGBT teens.

- Ann Bartholomew

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