The Scandinavian


 By LGBT+ Danmark and RFSL 

It’s Copenhagen 2021 and two sister cities in two sister nations are for a brief moment honoured to be the world centre of the fight for LGBTI+ rights. As peoples, we in Sweden and Denmark tend to get a little awkwardly proud when the world is looking our way. And it’s not totally unjust. We do have a lot to be proud of when it comes to LGBTI+ rights.
According to ILGA Europe’s ranking of the most LGBTI+ friendly nations in Europe, Denmark and Sweden takes 6th and 11th place. Denmark was the world’s first country to legalise registered partnerships in 1989, while Sweden in 1972 became the first country to allow transgender people to change their legal gender. Unfortunately, Sweden still does not have a gender law based on self-determination. But even though LGBTI+ people in Sweden and Denmark enjoy a large number of rights and equalities in a legal sense, it sadly doesn’t mirror how well we are actually doing.
Mental health

When we look to statistics over mental health, physical health and general wellbeing in both Denmark and Sweden, LGBTI+ people are alarmingly worse represented than the rest of society. We as a group suffer more from depression, loneliness, anxiety, stress and suicidal behaviour, as well as unhealthy lifestyle patterns and worse sexual health. Of this, we have little to be proud.

But why is this, when we live in welfare states with equal access to public services ? Because a legal framework is far from enough to actually fight inequality. While legal rights are fundamental, they are of little use if they don’t reflect on the qualityof life for LGBTI+ people. That is – after all – the overarching purpose.

In schools, LGBTI+ children and adolescents are still victims of extensive bullying and stigmatization. That was clearly proven in LGBTI+ Denmark and LGBT+ Ungdom’s report on the wellbeing of LGBTI+ pupils earlier this year. Nine out of 10 had experienced homophobic and transphobic slurs at school, while 44 % of the pupils had experienced bullying on first-hand.

In Danish workplaces we see LGBTI+ people more exposed to abuse, discrimination and harassment than non-LGBTI+ people. About half of all LGBTI+ people are not as open as they wish to be in their workplace.

In Sweden, a quarter of young gay and bisexual women state that they have attempted suicide. One in five, 19 percent, of 16–25-year-olds in the group of homosexuals and bisexuals have been subjected to physical violence by a parent, partner or other related adult. This is twice as large a proportion as among young heterosexuals. Studies also show that trans people are to a greater extent exposed to abuse, harassment, violence and threats of violence.

LGBTI+ and the wefare state
Many young LGBTI+ people have low confidence in the police, their school, the health service, the social services, and the employment service because they feel discriminated against in their meetings with the staff. We live in societies with a profound sense of belonging to the one great community that is the welfare state. We believe and trust that everyone has the same framework for participating in society regardless of socioeconomic background or other personal markers, because the public services and institutions are free. This may be why we experience big parts of society raising eyebrows when inequality is pointed out. It disrupts our own image of Scandinavia and the welfare state as a stronghold for equality where everyone has formal access to health services, education and financial aid. But who you are does matter to how much you are included. Your race, socioeconomic background, ethnicity, physical abilities do matter. And of course, the same goes for sexual orientation, sex, gender identity and gender characteristics. Because we live in welfare states, we need to face the fact that equality is not only obtained nor visible legally. We must never rest on our laurels.
Lets stand side by side

Understandably, legal and very visible inequalities such as the right to marry, the access to healthcare or even the right to exist can be urgent mobilizers and unifiers.

But the less visible inequalities that we may have yet to realize we have in common, must do the same thing. So, while we still need to fight for legal rights, that isn’t where the biggest battle lies ahead.

Going forward, let’s make sure to strengthen our movement, stand side by side in changing the culture towards more inclusion and diversity for a better quality of life for all LGBTI+ people. In Denmark, Sweden, the Nordic Region, Europe and the rest of the world. Happy, happy WorldPride and EuroGames to everyone participating in Malmö or Copenhagen.

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