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First national survey finds 1.5 per cent of adults say they are gay, lesbian or bisexual

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  1. john adams 23 Sep 2010, 1:14pm

    The question should have asked for sexual orientation and not identity because many people may live celibate lives and, therefore, don’t base their identity on their orientation.

    Nevertheless, it’s shocking that so few in 2010 have the courage to state gay or lesbian, what is wrong with people? I agree that these figures will no doubt be used by our opponents to say we are a tiny minority, and people who refuse to come out aren’t helping. Come out, come out wherever you are!

  2. “Ruth Hunt, deputy director of public affairs at Stonewall, said the charity was pleased the research had been carried out but said it was a “shame it took so long”.”

    Nowhere near as shameful as the fact that almost 7 years after CP’s were legalised in Britain, Stonewall still hasn’t bothered to formulate an opinion on marriage equality.

    Why are Pink News seeking Stonewall’s opinion on matters relating to the LGBT population. Stonewall speaks for no-one in the wideR LGBT community.

    Considering they are a homophobic organisation whose leader goes around interfering in equality issues, their opinion on matters relating to the LGBT population outside their 20,000 members is unwanted and unncessary.

    “Nevertheless, it’s shocking that so few in 2010 have the courage to state gay or lesbian, what is wrong with people?”

    Well I suppose we can assume that approximately 5% of the population are LGBT. That’s always been my estimate.

    The 10% figure is clearly not true and has been discredited time and time again.

  3. Well, this does explain why you see the same old faces at clubs, bars and cruising joints.

  4. “Men were twice as likely as women to describe themselves as gay/lesbian.”

    How many men described themselves as lesbians?

  5. Tim Hopkins 23 Sep 2010, 3:17pm

    We (the Equality Network – national LGBT organisation in Scotland) tried to persuade the Office for National Stats not to use the term “sexual identity” which we think is confusing. The Scottish Govt call the same thing “self-identified sexual orientation” which, although clumsy, is clearer.

    The point is that the question did not ask if you’d had sex with someone of the same sex, and it did not ask whether you are attracted to someone of the same sex. It asked (as the article says) “Which of the following best describes how you think of yourself? Heterosexual/Straight, Gay/Lesbian, Bisexual, Other”

    By the way the percentage declaring LG or B, for 25 to 44 year olds was higher, around 2.2% (the report doesn’t give the actual figure – you have to work it out from other figures they give). Not surprising, but one of the responses we can give to those who say “You’re only 1.5%”.

    Not that the numbers should matter – discrimination and hate crime are equally wrong whether they’re done against 3 million people in the UK, or 0.9 million people.

  6. Tim Hopkins 23 Sep 2010, 3:32pm

    Sorry that was rather badly worded – I don’t mean to imply that only LGB people face discrimination and hate crime!

  7. “We (the Equality Network – national LGBT organisation in Scotland) tried to persuade the Office for National Stats not to use the term “sexual identity” which we think is confusing. The Scottish Govt call the same thing “self-identified sexual orientation” which, although clumsy, is clearer.”

    How about plain English? “Are you gay, straight or bisexual?” seems a reasonable question.

  8. I for one never really believe these studies. Lying and concealment are still automatic responses for too many people in such a homophobic society.

  9. Karl Ulrichs 23 Sep 2010, 4:47pm

    This is a homophobic ‘state’ survey to undermine the idea that homosexuals are a sizeable group of people. The ‘state’ obviously wants the masses to think that homosexuality is just a tiny portion of society. Funny how it comes out a few days after the homophobic ‘state’ visit of the pope. It’s also obvious the ‘state’ wants people to think that a majority of the country are christians, all 71 percent of them. Yeah right, 71 percent of the country go to church everyweek and pray to Jesus everyday. Please, how can anyone believe these figures? These figures are anti homosexual, and pro christian.

    If they had asked in 1950 what people’s sexual orientation is, I can assure you it would have been 0.00000001%, even though there were as many homosexuals then as there are now. The survey proves nothing other than homophobia is rife, that people will still not be honest about there sexuality, and that this government have now begun to turn the screw on homosexual liberation.

  10. Agreed, Riondo. I grew up in a very rural area and I soon learnt not to broadcast my sexuality. If these people were phoned maybe they were afraid someone would overhear their answer, and if a stranger stopped them in the street to ask them to point to a card, I’d think that many people would be inclined to say nothing. Sometimes defensiveness is an automatic reaction.

  11. Tim Hopkins 23 Sep 2010, 5:10pm

    Karl, you’re right of course that the figures are misleading. 71% say they are Christian – that doesn’t mean 71% go to church – far fewer do.

    You’re wrong though to suggest this is a Govt plot. National LGBT groups in the UK campaigned for a sexual orientation question in the next census, in 2011 – saying all along that we knew there’d be significant under-reporting first time round (the census is every 10 years).

    The UK and Scottish Govts refused to include the question in the census, but said they’d put it in the big national surveys they do instead. These results are the first year’s results from those surveys. As we predicted, there is under-reporting. I would predict that the numbers will rise over the years to reach 4 to 5% describing themselves as LGB. But your prediction is as good as mine!

  12. People aren’t even honest with themselves about their own sexuality, you can’t expect a survey like this to have any accuracy at all.
    Joe @7 has it right, you’d get better results if you used plain everyday English and asked people if they were gay, straight or bisexual…
    With so much anti-gay prejudice still about it’s understandable that people don’t feel free to respond to questions about their sexual orientation.

  13. Hi,
    As far as I can see, gee, this means that 98.5% of the population is either asexual, pretends to be hetersexual, or they have another sexual orientation/s.
    So, good luck to the honest people in the United Kingdom

  14. Misleading. Apparently the survey was part conducted over the phone andtbh these days people are so paranoid about giving out personal info about themselves and for why/what its going to be used I could see a good few people simply saying they were straight because they’d been put on the spot, were not out anyway or just didn’t trust why they were being asked and whether that info would get out. If you’re not out, you have more to hide.

  15. Marcus:
    > Nowhere near as shameful as the fact that almost 7 years
    > after CP’s were legalised in Britain, Stonewall still hasn’t
    > bothered to formulate an opinion on marriage equality.

    That was last week’s lie. No one can believe that a group who claims equal marriage would cost £5 Billion isn’t lobbying against equality, surely? And they must have been doing that for years.

    > Why are Pink News seeking Stonewall’s opinion on matters
    > relating to the LGBT population. Stonewall speaks for no-one in
    > the wideR LGBT community.

    Bit of a shame then that, thanks to Labour appointments of ?Stonewall people as commissioners, Stonewall virtually runs the Equality and Human Rights Commission for the next few years.

    > “Nevertheless, it’s shocking that so few in 2010 have the
    > courage to state gay or lesbian, what is wrong with people?”

    the problem is that people like Stonewall have pushed for such questions to be asked but has not, apparently, done the groundwork to either get the questions right, or prepare the consumers of the resulting data (including the media) for reluctance to answer. Maybe because activists live in a bubble where everyone is “out” and clear about their sexual orientation. Whereas many don’t think occasionally having sex with someone of the same sex means they are other than straight – its called denial. And most would not feel it safe to answer honestly, if they did identify as L, G, or B.

    The statisticians might think that their survey showing more LGB in London, and fewest in Northern Ireland means the Ulster LGBs have moved to London, but its most likely it just reflects how safe people feel to answer the question, with many in London not feeling safe either.

    The general population are less homophobic, and more support equality, but in many ways there has not been much change in personal response to someone being L, G, or B over the decades. My family is in middle-England and I’ve been out lesbian for 35 years, during which time I’ve had three partners, each for many years (and I would still be with the first if we had been able to marry), but there’s not one of my relatives wants to hear about it.

    This is why equal marriage is so vital – to break the “other” status. To bring everyone face to face with our equality asa human beings. To make them think whether they would go so far as to refuse a wedding invitation, and what that would mean – the same as it would if they snubbed a heterosexual couple. And whether they would take their children. Until then they can say “its not the same”.

    The government should not be asking quantitative surveys until after equality has been established.

  16. Jack:
    > “Men were twice as likely as women to describe themselves as
    > gay/lesbian.”
    > How many men described themselves as lesbians?

    How many lesbians described themselves as gay?

    > How about plain English? “Are you gay, straight or bisexual?”
    > seems a reasonable question.

    For the guys, maybe.

  17. These figures match all the other major surveys done recently:

    Gays are 1% and 2% of the population. Get over it.

  18. I don’t believe these figures.

    Yes, the 10% figure is an exaggeration. I will admit that.

    But 1.5% is just too low. I think the real figure is more like 5%.

    Either way, human rights are human rights are human rights. The numbers don’t matter.

  19. Apparently the figures are even lower in Northern Ireland – and zero in Iran. I wonder why? I’ve just carried out a door to door survey of all my neighbours and discovered that none of them have a sexually transmitted disease – so why are we spending so much money on preventing STDs? Why can’t statisticians see that some survey questions are not worth asking?

  20. HelenWilson 23 Sep 2010, 8:36pm

    So out of 3.6 million gay people only 20,000 of them support Stonewall, why the hell are government listening to them! they represent almost nobody except a few elites.

    It would be interesting to find out how many of those that chose other are trans.

  21. “Hello, I’m from the government and we want to ask some questions about your sexuality. Don’t worry everything is confidential and all data is securely stored” Nuff said.

  22. The anti gay papers are having a field day. BUT 450,000 people asked? 57 million+ people in the UK? I wasn’t asked, my boyfriend wasn’t asked, none of my friends, family were asked? This story is useless and unhelpful.

  23. CharlesP wrote

    “Gays are 1% and 2% of the population. Get over it.”

    Charles . . . so in the survey maybe only 1-2% of LGBT people were open about there sexuality, and the 8-9% who did not respond . . . perhaps are still concerned about homophobia do you not think; or do you not see that sampling could be a complex issue with regards sexuality.

  24. the reason the numbers are so low in Northern Ireland is that it is a homophobic and backward place (I know, we live here) getting a phone call to ask you about your sexual identity? please – as another commenter said – once equality has been established (through marraige rights etc) then we will answer questions asked by the government honestly

  25. I would say 1 per cent is about right. What exactly is “gay” after all? It denotes a type of lifestyle that many who have sex with members of the same sex choose not to dip into or, quite simply, abhor due either to the ugliest excesses of gay life or their own guilt and shame. “Gay” is a way of rigidly categorising people to fit into boxes, period, with no allowance or tolerance for straying in the other direction. In other words it is an extremist’s way of labeling same sex attraction, which is in reality extremely fluid and, perhaps where only 1 per cent of human beings are concerned, is set in stone. Yes, I like fellas, but I am refuse to label myself as a word chosen for conformist and convenience’s sake. No, I am a sexual being, nothing more, nothing less. Amen!

  26. Mihangel apYrs 23 Sep 2010, 11:02pm

    John @
    while the self-identification is lower than we wanted, equality isn’t a numeric issue: either things are universal or they’re a privilege offered by a majority.

    My concern is that the “identity” focuses on sex not emotions and attachment. I will pass this on to my colleagues in ONS

  27. Mihangel apYrs 23 Sep 2010, 11:09pm

    I must add that the survey was designed to make it possible to answer honestly but discretely.

    Hopefully, once these sorts of questions become more prevalent people will start answering more accurately.

    But three quarters of a million (extrapolated from dodgy data) is not insignificant

  28. I asked all of my neighbors if they masturbate. 75% said “NO”.

    @William, yeah, that’s cute. You’re so much cooler than the rest of us. We wanna be just like you! NOT! Newsflash: ONLY self-hating homos say that! Your “lifestyle” and “same sex attractions” lingo is straight from the “ex-gay” crazy camps. Save it!

  29. Joe:
    >> How about plain English? “Are you gay, straight or bisexual?”
    >> seems a reasonable question.

    >”For the guys, maybe.”

    I know a lot of lesbians who describe themselves as gay, actually. In any case, anything is better than the language of student politics – “sexual identity” indeed *scoffs*.

  30. Statement from the government…

    A spokeswoman for the Government Equalities Office said: “We welcome the first ever official statistics on this issue and will be considering the findings of the ONS carefully.

    “Regardless of how many people identify as being lesbian, gay or bisexual this Government is committed to protecting their rights and ensuring they are treated fairly by society.

    “That’s why, in June, we became the first ever British Government to publish an action plan to improve LGB and T (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) equality.”


  31. I think this is a fairly accurate figure for the number who are openly gay and lead a ‘pink’ lifestyle (eg. people who will answer this type of question on the doorstep or phone).

    Many things point to this: the number of gay venues, circulation of magazines, attendance at gay events and the tiny number of civil partnerships (6,281 in 2009) compared to straight marriages. I wrote about this last week:

    In my opinion there is a much larger group – maybe 6-10% – who are predominantly gay but don’t lead a particularly gay lifestyle. And, depending on your definition of bi, a sizeable percentage of the population may have had at least one same-sex experience.

    But it shows that the scene and Pride goers and readers of Gay Times and Diva and so on aren’t typical of all LGBT people, despite the desperate efforts of the marketeers to pretend they are.

  32. Good to see the press reverting to type. A massive increase in homophobic violence and nobody pays attention. An opportunity to diminish us – to say we’re “less than” – and the media has a field day.

    This has the potential to be not only damaging, but devastating to the gay population. “Just ONE in 100 Brits are gay”, trumpets an obviously ecstatic Sun – a surprising claim considering their stock-in-trade that every woman is secretly gagging for a bit of girl-on-girl action. The Mail explodes the “myth” that 1 in 10 are gay. Less cutting, but equally dispiriting, the broadsheets herald the “big reveal” with the same half-arsed statistics (the Guardian pulling its original “Fewer gay Britons” headline for something less hysterical). 

    The overall implication is that the gay population has been “exposed” as a sham. Its numbers reduced so dramatically by this survey as to make our very existence negligible to the blinkered eye. A white elephant made real by the smoke and mirrors of Leftist do-gooders intent on wasting our money on social programs to benefit a phantom population – cash that could otherwise pay for the upkeep of an exponentially breeding hetero population. One that – if we’re going to rely on apparently indisputable statistics – are responsible for ALL mankind’s ills. Everything from crime to pollution. Never mind that that 1 in 10 people are unaware they have a serious STD, or the majority of teenagers don’t use contraception, the press (and bigots alike) are cock-a-hoop that men apparently aren’t shagging each other. If we are to believe the ONS survey – that only 480,000 (1%) consider themselves gay or lesbian – who were the (approx) 1 million who attended London Pride this year? I certainly wasn’t there! Even taking straight supporters into account, that’s a hell of a lot of people for a population that, comparatively, barely exists. 

    EVERYONE knows someone who’s gay nowadays. Whether they’re our friends, family, neighbours, co-workers, the barista at Starbucks… Even that Muslim taxi driver who propositioned you after a messy night – they ALL count, not just the select few thousand harangued by the embarrassment of a survey (shame playing a large part, even now) into saying they’re “straight”.

    Before the election, those of us berating Cameron and his ilk on their abysmal gay rights record were routinely dismissed as naysayers who should leave the past in the past and embrace our glorious gay future under the Tories. Now there is a very real danger that the gov’t will adopt these “popular” statistics as official and start dismantling current gay rights legislation. Not only that, but future initiatives may be cut or scrapped outright. Anti-bullying directives, sexual and mental health programs, the campaign for full marriage, employment benefits, public and private sector diversity training (not to mention public attitudes to homosexuality) all stand in the firing line.

    Reality be damned. If the gov’t need to make spending cuts or balance the budget, a spurious case will be made that a “minority” of 480,000 should not be given consideration alongside “entitled” heterosexual families. Not hard to imagine, given the voting record of the Tory front bench.

    If anything, this is a warning from history. To quote Christopher Isherwood: “A minority is only thought of as a minority when it constitutes some kind of threat to the majority, real or imaginary. And no threat is ever quite imaginary.” If our numbers are so few, therein lies the opportunity to dismiss us as insignificant. Unfortunately, the results of this “experimental” survey will only serve in reinforcing bigotry and narrow attitudes to sexuality in general. 

    Most gay men and women grow up feeling ostracised from larger society without being told they’re just one of 480,000. Ultimately, the bigoted tabloid spin this survey has garnered can only have a detrimental effect for those struggling to come to terms with their sexuality. 

  33. does this survey take in to account the number of men who just have sex with men who don’t identify temselves as either gay or bisexual i won’t say lesbian cos that would just be plain silly. the vast majority of guys who frequent cruising areas and cottages are usually married or “straight” and would never dream of identifying themselves as LGBT once again this proves that so called statistics and surveys can give you the answer you want as long as you word it to give the responses you want

  34. @Paolo – the gay community has shot itself the foot really. For years the marketing people have made out that every one of the 6% who were reckoned to be gay was an open, scene-going, high-earning stereotype. Now a survey finds that actually only 1.5% of the population are open enough to admit their orientation in a survey. We can’t have it both ways.

    You ask ‘who were the (approx) 1 million who attended London Pride this year?’ I wasn’t there either but possibly they didn’t exist, like the 600,000 that the organisers of Manchester Mardi Gras 1999 claimed were on the streets for the Saturday parade that year, or the 250,000 that the organisers claimed year after year since then. Numbers that were physically impossible to pack into the narrow Manchester streets on a parade route of that length.

    Everyone knows someone who is British Chinese these days too and there are only 400,000 of them in the UK also.

    I think this should be a wake up call for everyone and those who have ignored the vast number of LGBT people who exist outside of the pink lifestyle bubble had better start thinking about how to include them.

  35. @GS and Paul: You speak total common sense of course, which is why the “gay extremists” on this board will rip your words apart. Denial is fear after all. They ought to consider reinforcing the image of gaydom not by ridiculously and blatantly exaggerating our numbers but by contributing something that mainstream society could look up to and respect instead of the scorn and derision they foment with their “I’M HERE, I’M QUEER” in-your-face antics that often border on the hysterical. Get over it guys and start becoming beacons of respect and humility instead, like (dare I say) normal human beings? Those virtues will earn our equal place in society far quicker than your screaming and seething.

  36. Face it guys, most people just don’t choose to be shoe-horned into narrow, rigidly confined boxes, and no amount of huffing and puffing will change that. Gay is a recently applied word to a way of life that means far more than the sexual act. Gay is a mindset that you see openly flaunted on Old Comptom Street, the Castro and specific bars, clubs, etc but which represents only a fraction of all men out there who sleep – sometime, occasionally or always – with other men, yet who would not consider for one moment describing themselves as gay in the sense of the word it has become. So stop getting your knickers in a twist guys. Now, if the question had asked people in the survey “Do you or have you slept with someone of the same sex”, then I would not have believed a figure less than 30 per cent, but most of whom would not be caught in a million years with a rainbow flag because it simply isn’t their culture (to mis-quote George Michael).

  37. William – I don’t get your point. I don’t consider myself to be part of the gay/lesbian scene, YET I still identify myself as gay or lesbian (I’m happy to use either word).

    If some unknown person or organisation phoned me asking me about my sexuality, I’d probably play safe and refuse to answer. That’s why I think the figure of 1.5% is wrong. Personally, I don’t answer any questions that I believe seek to separate people – eg I never answer those ubiquitous Ethnic Identity questions.

    If I come across any gay person that I disagree with or that I feel is trying to imply they’re better than me because they’re a ‘real’ lesbian, I just ignore them. My use of the words ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ doesn’t mean I’m kowtowing to ‘extremists’nor that I feel obliged to alter my behaviour or thoughts to fit it. And surely the people complaining here are doing it because of the reaction of the press to this survey, as detailed above?

  38. GS and William: thank you for you kind comments.

    Regarding London Pride: if the figure is incorrect, and only a quarter of the estimated total were in attendance , that would still account for slightly more than 1% of the population (480,000), meaning (in theory) the entire gay nation was twirling its pom poms down Old Compton St on 3rd July.

    These figures are skewed. That they come barely a week after the Pope is slightly dubious. Perhaps the ConDem gov’t anticipate a newly invigorated religious fervour on the back of his holiness’s visit and released the stats accordingly. The Daily Mail couldn’t be more pleased, twinning the article with the feeble (and irrelevant) argument that 71% of Brits identify as “Christian”. (71%? For the most secular country on earth? Please. Where’s Richard Dawkins when you need him?) The inference couldn’t be more clear: regarding gays as “inferior” makes you a patriot. 

    The results of this survey have been designed to weaken not only gov’t support for “sexual equality causes”, but gay lobbying groups as a whole. According to today’s Daily Mail, the Christian Institute think tank dutifully report that “a large amount of public money has been spent on the basis of higher figures, which have turned out to be a lie”. This would only constitute a waste of resources if a sufficient number did not benefit from these so-called “sexual equality measures”, which evidently (and statistically) they do – and I think we know which side of the argument the CI comes down on. These are not “special” rights. They’re the same rights and protections afforded everyone else under the law. 

    Before the election, those on the Left knew it would come to this – only HOW was the question. A deliberate, calculated plan to disrupt progress instigated by the Labour gov’t and EU directive in the last decade is set to pile drive an apathetic, complacent young gay population – spoiled and indifferent to exactly how hard their rights were won – into the ground.

    Another factor is how and where this survey was taken. An honest cross section of society, or directly canvassed from a particular socio-economic group? A large concentration of religious or ethnic minorities is most certainly going to deny homosexuality EXISTS, never mind attribute it to themselves. Same for those impoverished and/or conservative areas. Essentially, for this to work in bigotry’s favour, ONS – no doubt spurred on by the sainted coalition – could easily ring Mrs Masood and her neighbours with a view to massaging the stats. Granted, this conspiracy theory works well with the above – although, to be fair, this gov’t’s reputation precedes itself with past attempts to block gay rights. 

    Another (and more serious) factor is disclosure. How many closeted and/or married men and women does it take to p__s away our rights? Quite a few apparently – and the joke’s on us. Self-esteem has never really been a high point on the gay agenda. Ultimately, the margin of error is so large the figures aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on – yet according to the media this is now a bonafide FACT. Gays barely exist – and the ones that do, they can justifiably ignore. Thought Jan Moir got off lightly? Welcome to the new front page… And you’re not on it.

    This ridiculous survey also flies in the face of every respected study of human sexuality ever produced. And how did they manage to debunk generations of academic and historic research? With a clipboard survey. Cold calling participants to ask if they identify as homosexual. In front of their wives and children. (This, in a country where homophobic bullying is endemic in schools and “gay” is a byword for everything rubbish.) No wonder it totalled at 480,000. Given the above, I’m surpassed it didn’t come out fewer.

  39. Amusing piece in the Telegraph regarding this survey.

    “The gay ‘dating’ website Gaydar has 1.5million profiles in the UK. Given that almost all its users are men, that means – if the ONS figures are to be believed – that at least 1.25million heterosexual men in the UK are registered on a site whose principal purpose is to hook men up with each other for casual sex.”

  40. Dave North 24 Sep 2010, 4:09pm

    Well said Paolo……………

    My thoughts precisely

    Welcome to the new “DOES GOD” Britain.

  41. As I’ve mentioned in the article that I’ve written. Just do a few rough calculations on the number of gay venues and the average number of people who are likely to be in them on a Saturday night. The low total will surprise you.

    For example in Manchester there are about 33 gay venues. Say a (generous) average of 250 people in each one. That is just 8,250 people. How many of those people are straight these days?

    So that’s the second or third largest city in the UK. How many out in gay venues on a Saturday nationwide? 100,000 at most? Many on the scene every weekend.

    Yet if 6% of the UK population is LGBT there are 3,720,000 of us.

    So, despite them being the ones who are always surveyed, the scene goers don’t represent the majority.

  42. ‘Gay, straight, or bisexual’ has been referred to here as ‘plain English’. For many people, especially older ones, these words are anything but. They often have transparent and shared meaning only to out lgbt people or people who associate with them. You still hear ‘bisexual’ confused with ‘hermaphrodite’, ‘gay’ simply used to mean ‘effeminate’, and the only colloquial use of ‘straight’ some people know is ‘honest’ or ‘direct’. When my Dad referred to his friend as a ‘straight bloke’ he was not talking about his sexuality.
    I think these surveys have to use spelled-out questions about whom people are sexually attracted to and have sex with. But there’ll still be lots of lying, of course. Darrell Huff in ‘How to Lie with Statistics’ (1953, but not at all out-dated), warned that lots of people carrying out these surveys make the dangerous assumption that their respondents actually understand the questions or even give a stuff about what answer they give. An intriguing case study given by Huff involved the publishers of a lurid tabloid in the USA in the ’50s who wanted to ascertain the social profile of its readers. They were puzzled to find that the number of people who admitted to reading it was far lower than the huge number of copies sold. Why? A lot of people were too embarrassed to admit that they took such a rag.

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