My Story

We’re all different, and we all have different experiences of life in Scotland – some individuals and communities face challenges every day. Read the personal stories of those affected by issues of equality, and learn about the work that’s being done to create a Scotland that’s fair and inclusive for all.

Jo Clifford, Edinburgh

Jo Clifford is one of Scotland’s most accomplished playwrights. She has written over seventy plays which have been performed in theatres throughout Scotland and around the world to international acclaim. Over the last 30 years Jo has made a profound impact on Scottish arts and culture.

As a father, grandmother and transgender woman, Jo is never short of interesting stories. When her play The Gospel According To Jesus, Queen of Heaven – which explores spirituality, religion, gender and sexuality – was first performed in 2009 she was hounded by tabloid newspapers and protesters decried her work. However, her performance highlighted many issues surrounding gender identity and solidified Jo’s status as a trans role model in Scotland.

“Throughout my whole life, I have been acutely aware that there were no good role models. There was no one ‘like me’. Transgender people were seen as pantomime dames or considered ‘men in frocks’.”

Today, she feels safe to publicly speak about her experiences and has become a role model for transgender people in Scotland. She’s proud of her own history and who she is today – being an advocate for equality felt like the natural next step.

Speaking about the One Scotland campaign to promote equality, she says:

“Five years ago this campaign wouldn’t have been on the political agenda. It’s truly remarkable and a step towards a more equal Scotland in the future.”

Pearl Lane, Edinburgh

Pearl, aged 57, moved to Scotland from Ireland in 1975. She planned to complete her training as a psychiatric nurse and then return home. Those plans changed when she realised that there were some places in Scotland where she felt safe and supported to come out as lesbian.

In 1975 her nursing textbooks said same-sex attraction was “sexually deviant”, and people were terrified of coming out. Working in psychiatric nursing, Pearl regularly met people participating in “aversion therapy” or receiving treatment following suicide attempts.

“Back then we faced personal challenges most young people today will never need to face. A lot has changed and I think that’s wonderful.”

Today Pearl is a social worker in East Lothian. An important part of her job is supporting LGBTI young people and she’s proud to live in a country which protects them and their rights.

“Scotland is a flagship for safeguarding rights. We have legislation in place now which protects people’s lives and equal marriage is a testament to that.”

In the future she hopes LGBTI young people with disabilities will receive more support when coming out. She believes this is the next step towards a truly equal Scotland.

Camile Nheme, Glasgow

Camille, 44, is Lebanese and first came to Scotland in 1997 to study teaching. He's passionate about culture, equality and human rights.

Camille has always loved living in Scotland, mainly because of the welcoming nature of the Scottish people.

“It did not take me long to feel that I am one of the people of Scotland – this is what makes Scotland home.”

Despite his positive experience living and working in Scotland, Camille feels there are still steps to be taken to promote integration in society and reduce inequality in the workplace, something that he believes both existing Scots and ‘new Scots’ can achieve by working together hand-in-hand.

Camille is a passionate human rights activist. He now teaches English to non-native speakers, helping them to settle into Scottish society and access their rights. He is also a passionate musician and performs his Levantine music regularly in Scotland and around the world, using it to share positive messages and work against human rights abuses. In Scotland, Camille has found a country that champions his own human rights beliefs.

“Scotland encourages equality and diversity. Everyone’s rights are protected by the law. The law is made by the people of Scotland and reflects the values and morals of a very tolerant Scottish society. Any member of the community can knock on the door of any politician and voice their views loud and clear without any fear.”

Harry Dozier, Edinburgh

Harry, aged 32, is a gay man originally from the US. He moved to Scotland nine years ago to do a Masters degree at the University of Edinburgh and fell in love with the country.


Comparing the USA to Scotland he says

“In Scotland, people usually let you know what they think. It’s really refreshing to get into a discussion and understand why people think the way they do.”

A communications specialist for NHS Scotland, Harry edits the NHS internal magazine. He’s also part of Stonewall Scotland’s LGBTI role model programme, which encourages people to increase their visibility as an equality advocate in the workplace.

Harry believes it’s important for people to understand the impact their words can have. Even in progressive workplaces like NHS Scotland, personal prejudices can affect the way people are treated and viewed. He feels employers can do more to educate staff on the stigma people face.

“As a black, gay American I’ve faced many different prejudices. Some people just aren’t aware of what they’re saying, but we can help to educate them and change their perceptions over time.”

Hala Ousta, Glasgow

Hala, 25, has two passions in life – football and equality. She began her dream job two years ago working as a Football Equity Officer for the Scottish FA, helping girls from ethnic minority backgrounds get into the sport.

Coming from an Arab background, Hala knows that there can be many cultural and religious barriers which prevent girls from some communities engaging in sport. Hala has made it her mission to help make football more accessible and equal for girls regardless of their background.

“Many people assume that girls from ethnic minority backgrounds aren’t interested in football. I know personally that this is not the case. My dad always supported my passion for football by taking me to games and playing with me in the park, but like many people in our community simply didn’t know that there were leagues I could play in.”

Hala believes that as well as the obvious health and fitness benefits, football also gives girls from these communities a sense of empowerment and the life skills required to be active citizens and good role models.

“Our schemes are fully integrated and everyone is equal on the football pitch. I always feel so proud when I see girls from all different communities having fun and making friends whilst playing football.”

Listen to Hala’s story here

John Naples-Campbell, Edinburgh

John is your average drama teacher – loud, confident and full of creativity. Earlier this year he also became the first teacher in the country to be awarded professional recognition for his work in Equality and Diversity (LGBT Education) by the General Teaching Council of Scotland.

His accolade follows years of hard work to improve the lives of LGBTI students in schools and further education across Scotland. John also leads professional development workshops to help colleagues understand LGBTI rights and how they can spot and stop homophobia in the classroom.

“Having been bullied at school for my sexuality, I know how hurtful prejudice can become. As a teacher, I see it as my goal to encourage ‘acceptance for all’ through education. It’s not easy, but it’s the responsibility of every educator in Scotland.”

By inspiring passion for equal rights in his students and colleagues, John helps improve school policy and empowers students to champion equality in their community. Like all good teachers, he feels pride when his students do too.

Listen to John’s story here

Angelika Neuuman, Edinburgh

Angelika, 39, is originally from Bydgoszcz in Poland. She is part of Scotland’s large Polish community who have formed a significant part of the population since Poland joined the EU in 2004.

As a lesbian growing up in Poland, Angie encoutered much discrimination. When studying at a Polish university, she was badly bullied by the management team, who searched her room and threatened her family when they discovered that she was gay.

Angie was lucky to have the support of her sister who helped her move home and leave her studies when it all got too much. Her sister also encouraged her to apply to university in Edinburgh, where she resumed her studies in 2005.

Angie had always heard great things about Scotland and during her ten years in Edinburgh has found the country to be a largely accepting and hopeful place.

Chosing to remain in Edinburgh after graduating, Angie has since held a number of different jobs including hairdresser, cleaner and now Casework Officer for the National Records of Scotand. Angie’s passion in life is DJing, which takes up a lot of her spare time. She said:

“Scotland is a place where I feel comfortable being myself.”

This is particualrly important for Angie as she is in a civil partnership with a woman – something that is not yet legally recognised in her home country.

“I went to her hairdressing salon and that was enough for us to fall in love at first sight! It makes me so happy that we can live here in Scotland together as a couple.”

Gerard Gough, Ayrshire

Gerard has always taken an interest in other peoples and cultures. He studied Spanish, French and Italian and lived abroad, before returning home to Glasgow to work as a journalist.

Gerard sees Scotland as an increasingly cosmopolitan country and, as a member of the country’s Irish community, is proud to be part of its many diverse ethnic groups.He said:

“I am proud to live in Scotland, particularly this year during the Commonwealth Games and the Referendum. Scotland is a culturally rich and diverse place, but we need to continue to work together to engage different communities.”

Although Gerard was born in Irvine and raised in Ayrshire, he’s never lost touch with his parents’ Irish roots. While not always as ‘visible’ as other minority groups, Gerard still feels that Scotland’s large Irish community has played a crucial role in the country’s history.

Gerard believes that there are still some ‘sticking points’ when it comes to Scotland’s relationship with its Irish community—which can be attributed to strong political viewpoints and certain cultural matters—but he also feels that there are many positive qualities that should be celebrated. He said:

“We promote our shared culture very well in terms of music, but there’s more that can be done to highlight our similar linguistic heritage and sports.

“Two of my friends currently work with children in schools in Lanarkshire promoting Gaelic football and are doing a great job of encouraging a new generation of young people to get involved and keep the sport alive.

“There’s also a tournament each year between Ireland’s hurling players and Scotland’s shinty players, which celebrates these two traditional Celtic sports. Scotland and Ireland have a shared history and culture and that’s something worth sharing far and wide.”

Robert Gale, Edinburgh

Robert is an artist and disability rights activist in Edinburgh. Over the past ten years he’s worked with some of Scotland’s most high profile arts organisations as an actor, director and advocate for equal access. Robert, a wheelchair user, also has cerebral palsy.

Robert has carried out work for Creative Scotland, the National Theatre of Scotland and many other arts venues across the country to improve accessibility. He aims to help companies showcase their work to a more diverse audience.

Robert’s work has now been performed around the world, including shows in India, Estonia and Brazil. When performing in São Paulo last year, Robert was told about a young boy with cerebral palsy who had been in the audience of his show. The boy turned to his mother and said “This man is like me”. It was a powerful reminder that many people have never seen an actor with disabilities performing.

Speaking about his experiences as an activist, he says:

“People have often called me ‘inspiring’ but to me that’s a strange concept. What’s the alternative to getting out there and trying to improve things? Sitting at home and doing nothing? That doesn’t give much hope, does it?”

Grace Cardozo, Dumfries & Galloway

Grace is an LGBT activist. She has devoted the past 16 years to promoting equality for LGBT young people and adults across Scotland. Her work was rewarded last year when she won the title of LGBT Positive Role Model at the 2013 National Diversity Awards.

Whilst she was studying for her PhD in Scottish Language, Grace took a part-time job with LGBT Youth Scotland. Two weeks later she gave up her studies so that she could dedicate additional voluntary time to the new job. She says;

“I hadn’t just found a job, I’d found my vocation and I’ve never looked back.”

Grace came out when she was at university and has personally experienced the challenges, faced by many young LGBT people.

“Since being out, I have always been totally out, and in doing so I have been the victim of homophobic prejudice and discrimination, generally by strangers or neighbours.”

Last year, Grace tied the knot with long-term partner, Debz.

“In a rural area like ours where there is a real lack of visibility for LGBT people, it’s amazing the difference that being ‘out’ can make to help combat negative stereotypes. We used to get trouble when we walked in the street holding hands but not so much anymore – I think people are used to seeing us around now. It’s no longer an issue.”

Katherine Burrows, Perth

Katherine was born in Merseyside in the 1940s. Growing up in a working class community, she never came across words like ‘gay’ or ‘transgender’.

Katherine attended an all-boys school and felt particularly alienated from her schoolmates, often thinking to herself: ‘why can’t I be a girl?’
Despite leaving school with no qualifications, Katherine put these feelings to the back of her mind and threw herself into work, eventually becoming a qualified accountant. She also married twice and had five children. She said:

“Under the surface I still had feelings of wanting to be a woman – it was my dark secret. I couldn’t tell my doctor, parents or anybody for fear they’d think I was mad. I tried to snap out of it and get on with my life but the feelings were always there.”

Once in her 50s, Katherine became more aware of the transgender community thanks to its increasing visibility in the media and on the internet and really associated with them. She realised that she was ready to start living her life as a woman so retired early and relocated to Perth.

“When I moved to Scotland I lived as much as I could as a woman. I then went through the transition surgery and it changed my life completely. I’m totally content and living life to the full – I enjoy every minute of my life.”

Katherine now does all she can to help other people in the trans community, she is an advisor to Police Scotland and the NHS and also conducts trans awareness training for organisations and local authorities.

“Scots are among the most accepting people in the world. Scotland leads the way when it comes to its views towards the trans community – it is a very hopeful place for transgender people.”

Scott Meenagh, Cumbernauld

Scott, 24, is a full-time para-athlete who rows for Scotland and dreams of winning a medal at the 2016 Paralympic Games.

Scott lost both his legs whilst serving in Afghanistan and initially took up rowing in September 2012 as part of his rehabilitation. Rowing was a way for Scott to refocus his energy and quickly became his new passion.

Scott says rowing is his life – he trains three times a day come rain or shine and is honoured to represent his country. What he loves most about the sport is how it is both physically and mentally demanding.

“Thanks to the Paralympic and Commonwealth Games, para-athletes have been getting more exposure and this has really helped change people’s minds about disability. Para-athletes are no longer seen as disabled, but super-able. I can’t remember the last time someone looked at me with a sense of sympathy – it’s more a sense of wow!

“There’s still a lot to be done to promote equality in Scotland, but we’re getting there. I think it’s important to give everybody the same chances to succeed. Each person, no matter what their background or ability, has their own mountains to climb and their own opportunities to do their best.”

Kayleigh Haggo, South Ayrshire

Kayleigh is 15 and one of Scotland’s most promising para-swimmers, dreaming of one day competing in the Paralympic Games.

Kayleigh has cerebral palsy and her condition affects her balance and fine motor skills, she’s not able to walk very far and uses a wheelchair.

Kayleigh loves sport and has competed in a variety of events including RaceRunning – where she uses a custom-built tricycle without pedals and last winter she also learnt to ski. She says it’s in the pool where she feels most at home.

After competing in a series of disability galas, Kayleigh was signed up by a mainstream swimming club to train alongside non-disabled athletes. Training at this level has been a real learning curve for Kayleigh, but one that she hopes will see her improve in strength and speed over the next training session. She has won 28 gold medals in the past three years and holds the Scottish records for three events in her classification.

She was also awarded the honour of being a BatonBearer in the Queen’s Baton Relay and Achieve 2014 programme in the run up to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. She said:

“My favourite thing about competing is beating my own personal best as it shows that all my hard work and training are paying off.

“It means a lot to me to see other para-athletes doing well in the Paralympics and Commonwealth Games and really dominating their sport. My aim is to represent my country in the Paralympics and hopefully inspire other young people that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.”