Gay forum holds exhibition to ‘promote diversity’ in Borders

An exhibition to celebrate the lives and achievements of the region’s gay community is taking place throughout this month at Hawick’s public library.

The event has been organised by the Scottish Borders Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Equality Forum, launched in 2006.

Forum chairperson Linda Jackson told TheSouthern: “We are committed to promoting diversity. We want to make the Borders a place where everyone, regardless of sexual orientation can live free from prejudice and discrimination.”

The exhibition is the forum’s contribution to the national LGBT History Month which takes place every year in February.

The show is open to all members of the public and includes a display of books, magazines and memorabilia. Previous History Month exhibitions have taken place in Duns and Galashiels.

Ms Jackson revealed that the forum was upgrading its website, which would offer information on a range of local events and give users access to testimonials from community groups across the UK.

One initiative represented at the Hawick exhibition will be the LGBT Youth Borders Project which is funded jointly by Scottish Borders Council and NHS Borders.

That group’s co-ordinator Karen Wilson, along with volunteer members, is currently working with all nine secondary schools in a bid to change negative attitudes towards LGBT youngsters. The project, based at the Langlee Centre in Galashiels, organises regular meetings with attendances averaging about 20.

“We encourage everyone to see diversity and cultural pluralism as the positive forces they are and endeavour to reflect this in all we do,” said Ms Jackson.

It appears, however, that the forum’s campaign to promote diversity in the Borders has some way to go if the number of civil partnerships of same-sex couples is a reliable indicator of perceived attitudes.

Figures from SBC’s registration service reveal that just 13 such ceremonies took place in 2009, compared with 682 religious and civil marriages.

Peebles was the most popular town for civil partnerships with seven recorded. There were two in Duns and one each in Jedburgh, Kelso, Melrose and Hawick.

The Hawick exhibition can be viewed during the normal hours of the library, which opens until 7pm on Tuesday and Thursday and until 12.30pm on Saturday.

The LGBT Equality Forum welcomes new members. Pending the unveiling of the new website, enquiries can be sent to PO Box 14120, Selkirk Post Office.