Connor McManus, one of Britain’s youngest councilors and named “Young Councillor of the Year” in 2022, assumed office at the age of 22 with a mission to increase LGBTQ+ representation in the local Scottish government. However, over the last two years, he has experienced constant trouble that has only intensified after he gifted an LGBTQ+ pride flag to a local high school.
A New Opportunity
The school had earned charter accreditation from LGBT Youth Scotland, signifying its commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion, and McManus saw an opportunity to show support.
McManus presented the pride flag to the school, and the students’ joy was evident. A photograph of the celebration with students and teachers was shared on social media.
Despite his intentions of being supportive, McManus found himself targeted with accusations. He was labeled a “pedophile” and accused of attempting to force discussions about sexuality on schoolchildren.
When commenting on the accusations, McManus said, “There were indoctrination claims — people claiming that I was encouraging kids to identify as whatever they want, there were snide comments about transgender rights. It was out of control.”
While McManus expected some backlash, what saddened him the most was that the hate extended to innocent schoolchildren. Detractors even took pictures in front of the school to condemn what they called an “abomination of a flag.”
For McManus, the pushback he faces isn’t contained to the internet. Even when he is out in public with his partner, he continues to experience discrimination.
McManus said, “Growing up, I thought that I’d be able to hold my boyfriend’s hand while walking down the street someday — but that doesn’t seem to be the reality anymore.”
Despite Scotland recently legalizing same-sex marriage, it didn’t instantly erase people’s views of it. McManus believes this stark reality is different from what people might envision when they think of “modern-day Scotland.”
McManus says his experiences in office have also discouraged other LGBTQ+ individuals with political aspirations from stepping forward.
He says “These are people that could make a massive difference in their communities, but they’ll never do it because they’re fearful of what that would bring to them in their personal lives.”
An Increase in Hate Crimes
Scotland has seen an increase in anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes in recent years, with official figures indicating a steady increase since 2014. In the 2022-23 period, homophobic and biphobic hate crimes spiked to 33%, more than doubling in the last decade.
According to Stonewall, one in five LGBT+ individuals in Scotland has experienced a hate crime or incident in the past year solely because of their identity. On this, McManus says, “I love my job and I love my community — I would never change it. It’s just this one part that’s severe and raises its ugly head whenever I say anything in public.”
Despite the challenges, McManus remains determined to effect change. He says, “The positives far outweigh that. The positive change that you can do in a job like this is unbelievable.”
In response to this situation, McManus is still receiving a great deal of backlash online, but some have offered a more balanced response.
One social media user commented, “I don’t believe this young man deserves all the hatred, but I also do not think schools are the place for flags of any sort except a state and National Flag.”
A second user said, “Stop sex in schools. Simple.”
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