Drew Payneís Website

I Wish...

I wish we didnít rely on numbers when weíre talking about sexuality.

 

We seem obsessed with counting people and only valuing minorities by how large they are, especially where sexuality is concerned. As a gay man Iíve seen this happen every couple of years, somebody will try and estimate how many lesbians and gay man there are in Britain, but itís never helpful.

 

At the end of September, the Office of National Statistics published a survey that found only one per cent of British people are gay or lesbian and half per a cent are bisexual. Suddenly sexuality is a very small minority. But how accurate is this?

 

Gay networking websites Gaydar and GaydarGirls have 2.2 million members in the UK (about 3.6% of the population) and over 1,000,000 people attended this yearís London Pride march (about 1.6% of the population). This isnít scientific proof but it certainly puts a big question mark on the Office of National Statistics findings.

 

Itís easy to disprove surveys like this so why even bother about them? Because, unfortunately, so many people do read them and use them. The day after this survey came out the Christian Institute was already its using this figure to claim public money had been wasted on lesbian and gay services because we only make up 1.5% of the population.

 

At this time of public cutbacks and austerity budgets, when resources will be short, downplaying a minority is dangerous. Small groups are often the first to suffer cuts and lesbian and gay groups can suffer the worst. Before this survey sexuality was often seen as a low interest concern, this will only be reinforced if the policy makers think we only make-up 1.5% of the population.

 

Perception of the size of a minority can be very important on how weíre treated. Weíve seen great leaps forward recently with lesbian and gay rights; Civil Partnerships, employment protection, Equality legalization and adoption rights. Would we have won any of these if everyone thought that only 1.5% of the population was lesbian, gay or bisexual?

 

I wish weíd value people and not just numbers where sexuality is concerned, but Iím not holding my breath. In a society that seems obsessed with counting and measuring everything it can, and then publishing league tables for their findings, I fear people will get forgotten about.

 

 

Drew Payne

October 2010