Paul O’Kane, the first openly gay man elected to Holyrood from Scottish Labour, says the Scottish Parliament has the ability to “change lives” this Pride Month.
Taking place in June, Pride Month is a celebration of LGBT+ communities all across the world – and Mr O’Kane says he wants to use this month to tackle homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools, and make sure trans voices are heard.
He says the Scottish Parliament’s actions while he was a teenager became part of his coming out story, and says he doesn’t know where he would have ended up if Holyrood had not spoken out against LGBT+ discrimination.
“Parliament can change people’s lives
Mr O’Kane said: “Pride is both a protest, speaking up for the rights of LGBT+ people across Scotland, and a celebration of diversity and how far we have come in Scotland.
“Section 28 was abolished just as I became a teenager and it was part of my coming out story.
“If it had not been for the Scottish Parliament saying it had to change and be more open and tolerant, I don’t know where I would have ended up.
If it had not been for the Scottish Parliament saying it had to change and be more open and tolerant, I don’t know where I would have ended up.
“Parliament can change people’s lives.
“This parliament is more diverse and we have seen a lot of firsts for people of colour, women, and we have our first permanent wheelchair user.
“It is starting to look like Scotland, but we still have a way to go.”
O’Kane says tackling homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools is a priority
The Scottish Labour MSP says it is important to make sure all LGBT+ in Scotland feel represented and supported by the Scottish Parliament.
He added: “In this Pride Month we need to put LGBT+ people front and centre.
I spoke about my values, the communities that shaped me and the power of Parliament to choose to change lives for the better pic.twitter.com/aIfWslBGiH
— Paul O’Kane MSP (@PFOKane) June 1, 2021
“There is work to do about the human rights of trans people and we need to continue our work in inclusive education to ensure our schools are places where young people feel safe.
“We have a job to do to tackle homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools – that is a real priority for me.
“The Scottish Parliament has done well with legislative changes to LGBT+ rights and legalising civil partnerships and marriages, but trans people in particular can feel they are being discriminated against or feel their rights are threatened.
“Parliament needs to do more to support them and we need to make sure their voices are heard.”
LGBT+ events being held across Scotland to mark Pride Month
A number of events are taking place this month throughout Scotland to mark Pride Month.
LGBT+ Youth Scotland is encouraging people to hold Pride picnics as a way of celebrating while still sticking to the current coronavirus restrictions – Paul O’Kane MSP says he is hoping to join one himself.
Dundee Pride says it is currently discussing what can be organised to celebrate Pride Month that is still safe during the coronavirus restrictions.
Fife Pride will be holding its second virtual Pride event on Saturday July 3 as well.