By Georgia McShane

THIS week Britain has been celebrating 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality - but the celebrations should really have been confined to England and Wales. For it was 13 years after homosexuality was legalised in England in 1967 in the midst of the swinging sixties, that a distinctly less swinging Scotland finally caught up, bestowing a hard-won freedom on the country’s gay community in 1980.

The gay and lesbian community in Scotland suffered more than a decade longer under the stain of criminalisation than their counterparts down south. However, a new documentary film has just been released detailing the experiences of gay, lesbian and transgender people in Scotland who lived in the era of criminalisation.

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Following the first screening of A Long Line of Glitter at Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts, one of the film’s subjects, Derek Anderson, referencing the backlash around the world against LBGT rights, warned the audience: “Your gay freedom has been won, but it is not secured.”

The documentary project was the brainchild of Glasgow’s Village Storytelling Centre, focusing on the life stories of Anderson and four others: Sadie Godiva, Lynda Peachey, Shimon de Valencia and a fifth man, who still wishes to remain anonymous because he suffers to this day from the pain of being a pariah in Scotland prior to legalisation.

The Storytelling Centre’s Lauren Bianchi and filmmaker Asten Holmes-Elliot found their subjects through LGBTQ Age, a project run for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people aged 50 plus in Scotland - people who experienced life as a criminal simply because of their sexuality.

Emma Collins, executive director of the Village Storytelling Centre told the Sunday Herald: “Our centre supports people whose voices go unheard or ignored in our society, to help them shape and share their stories.”

Here we tell the stories of the people in the film - men and women who's lives were blighted by the law in Scotland because of who they loved.

Derek

“I hate to think how much time I spent worrying about what I was going to do and how I was going to meet other people … and maybe while I was doing that, other people were actually getting on with life,” says Derek Anderson, a gay man from Aberdeen. He speaks of his relief in leaving the city where life as a young gay man in the 1970s was difficult, for a relatively more open and accepting environment in Glasgow.

But eventually, Derek returned to Aberdeen “to face his demons” and to support and encourage the LGBT community in the days before homosexuality was legalised.

He joined the Scottish Minorities Group (SMG), who were setting up a gay and lesbian switchboard, where he worked with people from more isolated rural areas, helping them meet other people.

His work involved him setting up meetings with gay people in the city. This was not without its dangers - in those days gay men had to deal with police entrapment as well of the risks in meeting complete strangers, who could have been homophobic gangs planning to attack them. SMG and other activists persuaded the council to allow them to provide a free, monthly gay news sheet in the local library.

By the time he became an occupational therapist, the HIV/AIDS crisis was hitting the gay community hard. He recalls the sense of chaos and the shocking lack of proper care for gay men living with AIDS at the time. Was this wilful political neglect or ineptitude? “It was both,” he says.

This political drive has not left Derek - he stresses the importance for people to be never forget that their gay rights may have been won by his generation, but cannot be taken for granted in the turbulent times around the globe.

He also highlights the important issue of social care for older gay people. He fears that older gay men and women may have to retreat back into the closet if they find themselves in care homes. Derek says he will fight to ensure that never happens.

Shimon

Shimon’s story is by turns fascinating, horrifying and deeply touching. Born in Liverpool, he emigrated with his family to Queensland, Australia. After falling in love with a friend, Shimon embraced his sexuality but wasn’t prepared for the full weight of intolerance which would come down on him in conservative Queensland in the late 1970s - homosexuality was not legal in the state till 1990.

His parents signed a legal document to have him institutionalised, physically castrated and lobotomised, claiming he was a “recidivist homosexual”. If not for the kindness a psychiatric nurse who helped him escape, Shimon’s life would have been entirely different. The nurse ferried Shimon to a nearby train station which carried him beyond the Queensland state boundaries.

Later he came to Scotland as he wished to return to the UK but saw life north of the border as more equal and fair than the rest of the UK. On journeys to England, he says he was shocked to see crowds marching in laid-back Camden, north London, the day after the Brexit referendum chanting, ‘We got the Poles, we’re coming for the queers!’

“For me, Scotland is an island of tolerance not just for my community but for all minorities,” he says. Shimon has worked as a teacher and recently completed a PhD. He champions education as a way to combat intolerance and commends student unions for the part they played in bringing together the gay community in the 1970s and 1980s.

He hopes that A Long Line of Glitter will highlight the well-lived lives of older gay people, and emphasises that in a society obsessed with youth and beauty, a meaningful gay life does not end at 26. “The path might be difficult but it will be worth it, and remember you are not alone.”

Lynda

A lesbian woman who grew up in Glasgow, Lynda always considered herself to be a feminist and was “very happy to refer to myself as a dyke”. But unable to find any lesbian/feminist groups in Glasgow in the 1970s, Linda moved to Edinburgh and joined the Scottish Lesbian Feminists (SLF) after seeing their ads in Spare Rib, a ground-breaking feminist magazine.

The group was made up of women from all backgrounds, and from all over the world. Lynda says she wanted to deal with the idea in society that just because lesbianism was never a crime that gay women had it easier than men. Women, she says, were already well controlled by the laws and traditions laid down by a male-dominated society in terms of their rights and status - so criminalising lesbianism was never deemed necessary.

As well as campaigning for gay rights, Lynda, like Derek, became involved with SMG. “I like the term queer,” she says. “Using it for ourselves invalidates the more hateful and abusive usage of the term.”

Sadie

Sadie is now a trans woman, originally from Coventry, but today living in Glasgow. When she was younger, Sadie didn’t believe she would ever be able to live her life as she really wanted because of the hatred that people like her experienced in the 1970s. In fact, her true sexual identity lay a secret for years after legalisation because of the stigma she felt.

“It was never going to happen for me,” she says simply. However, finally Sadie started to come out as a trans woman just over a decade ago. However, she would only appear at friends' homes never in public.

When she moved to Scotland, the persona of Sadie developed further, and her new-found friends believed her to be transgender. After some reflection, she had an epiphany, she says, and realised “that I’d been transgendered all my life”. Initially, she'd thought she was transvestite.

When her own son came out at the age of 16, Sadie says she was full of admiration for him, and it helped her to confront her own fears. In 2015, she acknowledged that her transgender self was here to stay, and started attending parties that welcomed transgender women.

Sadie hails Scotland for the legal equality that exists for the LGBT community. Twice the victim of transphobic attacks in Glasgow, she had no hesitation in calling the police who dealt with both incidents speedily, sensitively and firmly.

These days Sadie feels more at ease and liberated than ever. She is optimistic about the future, has been accepted by all the significant people in her life, and has now received her new passport, which displays her female gender. Her message to other trans people who feel unsure is simple: “Go for it!”