By Eric March –
Scotland is a unique country.
Hruuuuuummmmmmmmmmm. Hruuuuuummmmmmmmmm. Photo by Diliff/Wikimedia Commons.
It’s the only country where roughly 1 in 8 people have red hair. It’s the only country where you can travel 1.7 miles by commercial airliner. And it’s the only country where people enjoy eating this:
Haggis is actually good, and I will fight you if you disagree. Photo by Jonathunder/Wikimedia Commons.
As if that weren’t enough, Scotland nabbed yet another “only” this week when Scottish Labour Party leader Kezia Dugdale casually revealed that she has a female partner…
…which appears to make Scotland “the only country in the world where most of its political party leaders are openly lesbian, gay or bisexual,” according to a report in The Guardian.
Dugdale (center in the above photo, in blue) and Scottish Conservative Party leader Ruth Davidson (just left of her), as well as Scottish Green Party leader Patrick Harvie (far left), and UKIP Scotland leader David Coburn have all come out as gay or bisexual.
Why is this such a big deal?
Well, it’s historic! So, you know. That’s pretty cool.
And it has real-world implications. Scotland’s is Europe’s most LGBT-friendly country, and that’s probably not a coincidence, considering some of its most powerful lawmakers are LGB (though not T).
Scotland’s first same-sex marriage ceremony in 2014. Photo by Mike Runnacles/Getty Images.
Various U.S. states continue to pass laws that target LGBT folks, like North Carolina’s anti-trans “bathroom law,” which forces trans men and women to use restrooms that correspond to their sex as assigned at birth, or Mississippi’s “religious freedom” law that allows businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers.
That might not be the case if we had more LGBT legislators running the show.
It also helps reverse a several-millennia-long trend in Europe and the U.S. for entrusting power pretty much exclusively to straight white men.
(With a few notable exceptions).
It’s not just Scotland that’s entrusting leadership to those outside the white-hetero-male-ocracy:
Angela Merkel, the German prime minister who presides over the most powerful economy in Europe, is a woman.
Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.
Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, the former prime minister of Iceland, became the first openly LGBT head of government in 2009.
Photo by Halldor Kolbeins/AFP/Getty Images.
And then there’s this guy, of course.
Barack … Obomo? Obano? Ogummy? Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.
In Scotland, the face of power is increasingly not-straight. In Germany, it’s female. In the United States, it’s non-white. Forget the last millennium or so — that’s a huge change from even just 40 years ago.
A generation of children in all these countries will grow up knowing that it’s normal for their high-powered government officials to be LGBT or for the head of government to be a black man or woman.
Slowly but surely, the notion that you have to look a certain way, love a certain way, or be a certain gender to hold power in the West is becoming obsolete.
But is it actually, though? Or is that just some hopey changey pablum?
Well, yes and no.
There are currently 20 women in the U.S. Senate. That ties a historic high! But also, it’s not remotely close to the percentage of women in the general population. Only one openly gay person has ever been elected to the Senate, and only six sit in the House of Representatives.
Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin is currently the only openly gay U.S. senator — and the only one ever. Photo by Astrid Riecken/Getty Images.
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But some countries do way better on this! The Rwandan and Bolivian parliaments contain higher percentages of women than men, and in Europe, the Nordic countries are generally killing it on gender equality in government. The U.K. Parliament has over 30 out LGBT members (of 650 total).
Will Scotland’s achievement magically transform governments around the world so historically marginalized groups like women and LGBT folks are better represented?
No. But it’s a good first step.
Here’s to continuing to climb that ladder.