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Equality and Human Rights Commission repeats calls for gay census question

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  1. Simon Murphy 17 Aug 2009, 12:18pm

    If a question about sexual orientation is included then it may be very damaging to the LGBT population. For starters all the closet cases and religious will lie. Secondly even if this is already taken into account the results will show that nowhere near 10% of the population self-identify as gay, thereby destroying the convenient mantra that 1 in 10 of the population is gay.

  2. Tim Hopkins 17 Aug 2009, 3:30pm

    This is an interesting issue. The Equality Network surveyed our network before deciding to back inclusion of a sexual orientation question in the 2011 Census in Scotland (like England, the government body that organises the census in Scotland opposes including a question). We were surprised that (back in 2005) 88% of LGB respondents to the survey wanted the question included, and said they would answer it honestly. However, they were members of our network, and the % who would answer, amongst all LGB people, may well be lower.

    It would certainly be necessary to interpret the results of a Census question with care, since it will certainly not count all people who self-identify as LGB. For the same reason, it would also be necessary to do some press work around what the results mean. And no doubt the likes of the Daily Mail would claim that the Census shows that LGB people are only X.X% and so we don’t deserve equality! Of course there are answers to that, for example should Jewish people be discriminated against because they’re only 1% of the population??

    I’ve never been convinced by the 1 in 10 figure, and the Equality Network uses 5% as our best estimate for LGB people in Scotland, adding that we could be off in either direction. 10% seems too high if we’re counting people who self-identify as LGB, as opposed to everyone who’s ever had a same-sex sexual experience. So I wouldn’t be too worried if the Census result came out lower than 10%!

  3. Simon Murphy 17 Aug 2009, 3:42pm

    In my view about 3-4% of the population is LGB. I reckon if the question was asked on the census the results would show about 1.5-2.0%.

    And considering that the British population is already the most monitored population in the world and the fact that the Tories are likely to win the next election I would feel a bit dubious about signing any official documents to declare my homosexuality.

    Quite simply I do not trust that this information will be confidential.

  4. I,m sure you are right Simon. Many people already feel will are living in a “police state” and are unlikely to answer at all let alone honestly. As a previous poster said how would people who had had same sex episodes at different times of their lives answer? I do feel that the majority of LGB people remain in the closet and a government questionaire in the present surveillance climate isn’t going to help. The results of a questionare that was completly anonymous would be interesting although people would need to be satisfied that it was completly anonymous.

  5. Am I being naive then, in thinking that closet cases might admit to being gay on an anonymous form?

    If not the census, is it possible to find out the true number of LGB people any other way? Because I can see where it would be useful to know. If only to prove the Catholic Truth Society wrong when they say something like 3% or the Daily Mail or any other bunch who want to represent LGB as insignificant.

  6. Tim Hopkins 18 Aug 2009, 9:16am

    The Offfice for National Statistics, who run the Census in England and Wales, have already decided to include a sexual orientation question (which they confusingly call “sexual identity”) in all the big surveys that they do each year, which cover roughly 100,000 people a year.

    The Scottish Govt are considering doing the same here (although we and Stonewall Scotland are strongly advising them to retain the term sexual orientation rather than “sexual identity”).

    That will, over time, give useful data, but obviously the total number of people surveyed, even over years, is far less than in the Census.

  7. the main problem I see with this is usually a family member fills in the census. They may not know or agree with another family members LGB identity. I feel convinced that the actual figure, if everyone that was LGB was out would be a lot higher than suspected. Religion, culture, family, peer pressure all add to whether or not someone can be out or not. I work for a Gay service within the NHS and that puts me on an OUT-THERE for all to see kind of footing, so there’d be no point in me lying on a census.I have to agree that an official list is scary to some LGB people, even those that are out. On another note what credibility does the census info actually have when there was a massive campaign for the last one by sci-fi fans to get Jedi recognised as a religion. They very nearly managed it too.

  8. There’s a petition calling for this on the Number 10 website:

  9. How is it equal to ask people if they consider themselves to be heterosexual, gay, lesbian or bisexual? If you’re going to actually seriously try to be “equal” about it then you should ask them if they consider themselves to be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or asexual (i.e. non-sexual – some people really aren’t sexual at all ) and still include an “other” option with a please explain box for them to write something in. Some people who might generally be considered bisexual strongly resist identifying as such and prefer to call themselves pansexual or queer or just “open” or “fluid” etc. And some bi women prefer to call themselves gay rather than lesbian. It would be closer to equal, though far from perfect, to ask if they’re straight, gay/lesbian, bisexual, asexual or other.

    A lot of people in the UK don’t actually know what heterosexual means. The truth is they just think of themselves as normal and/or not gay. They know what “straight” means – it means not “gay”.

    The mantra that 1 in 10 are gay is misleading as well because the truth is you have to include a lot of bisexual people to get the figure up to 10%. The percentage who are really exclusively homosexual throughout their entire life is probably closer to just 4 or 5% – i.e. more like 1 in 20. But if you include everyone who is not exclusively heterosexual throughout their lifetime then it would be considerably more than 10%.

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