#LGBTsurvey: things that didn’t surprise me

In July 2017, the Government Equalities Office launched the national LGBT survey. I was part of the team that helped create the survey and the LGBT Action Plan that followed it. Now, I’m taking stock of what has been a significant piece of work that I was proud to be a part of.

Other blog posts in this series

  1. #LGBTsurvey: why it's important
  2. #LGBTsurvey: things that surprised me

The national LGBT survey contained more than 100 questions, and the final analysis report runs to more than 400 pages. Hundreds of data tables were produced as part of the analysis.

I’ve already written about some of the things I found surprising in the results. In this blog post, I’ve chosen some of the things that didn’t surprise me from the final report; either because of my own experience, or because it supported the wider evidence base.

1. Demographics

Respondents to the survey were, on average, younger than the general population. Whilst you might be able to attribute that to the fact this was an online survey, it might be because the LGBT population has a different age profile to the wider population.

Research from the Office for National Statistics indicates that younger people are more willing to identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual than those who are older. When I found out that respondents to the survey were skewed towards younger ages, I didn’t find that surprising on that basis.

2. Holding hands

More than two-thirds of respondents said they wouldn’t hold their same-sex partner’s hand in public for fear of a negative reaction. This figure grabbed headlines when the announcement was made: I think it jarred with those who thought that with legislation like same-sex marriage, LGBT people had achieved full equality.

It didn’t surprise me at all, nor did it surprise anyone I spoke to who was LGBT. I avoid holding hands in public – just like I lie to my hairdresser – because I fear a negative reaction; and it doesn’t surprise me that I’m in the majority (at least in this sample).

3. Educational content

The survey asked respondents if they had discussed either sexual orientation, gender identity or both during their education. Only 3% of respondents said they had discussed both at school.

I was one of the last groups of children to grow up under Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, which prohibited the teaching of “the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”. Research by Stonewall suggests that a significant proportion of teachers still don’t know that the legislation has been repealed, even though that happened more than 10 years ago. In that context, it’s not surprising that very few respondents said they’d discussed either sexual orientation or gender identity at school, let alone both.

4. Hate incidents

I said I was shocked by the high number of people that didn’t report a hate incident in my last post – 9 in 10 respondents said they didn’t report the most serious incident that had happened to them in the 12 months prior to the survey – but I wasn’t surprised as to why.

Some of most common reasons cited by respondents for not reporting these incidents was that they thought it was “too minor”, that it “wasn’t serious enough”, or that it “happens all the time”. Having personally experienced hate incidents similar to those asked about in the survey, I have to be honest that I would be in the same camp as these respondents; I’m not sure I’d report them either for the same reasons, so this result didn’t surprise me.

5. The importance of the internet

The importance of the internet was a theme in many free text responses that people could put at the end of the survey. This chimes with my own experience.

I got my sex education from websites, because the sex education I got at school was focused on not getting pregnant – which seemed a bit redundant to me. The internet gave me access to a community, through social networks. In fact, it’s one of the reasons I dislike the idea of internet filtering so much: because they too easily filter out any mention of the word “gay” for fear of porn popping up.

When I was growing up the internet was invaluable for me, and it still is today; so I’m not surprised others felt the same way.