Oh yes, inserting ‘Gay’ into a Shakespeare quote. Get me!
But seriously, how do we count ourselves?
Leave it to us surely, and we’ll say that everyone is a little bit ‘Stoke on Trent’, but leave it to religious conservatives and they’ll claim we (non-heterosexuals) are less than one percent.
Okay, that wasn’t meant to rhyme.
It is a serious point though. You see, census information is one of the primary ways of the government monitoring the makeup of society, and by extension, where to divert resources and determine the scale of influence any group should have.
Received wisdom among the LGBT community has largely been that one in ten people identify as not having a hetero-normative sexuality. That would mean around six times the population of Birmingham in the UK was on the LGBT spectrum. Of course, ‘T’ doesn’t really count in this as it is related to identity and not sexual orientation.
From personal experience, a sizable (although certainly not a majority) of people I know are either absolutely L and G, or at least varying degrees of B. This is also largely limited to people of my generation… that 18 – 35 demographic who have mostly grown up in a world where social attitudes towards same sex attraction have greatly softened. However, a fair chunk of these people are not ‘out’ to family and/or friends, and would certainly be reticent to fill in their details on a census form that can be read by any other member of their family.
I’ll Just point out that this is not a bid for political power, but more for the government to know how much funding it needs to put into LGBT support programs, or education systems where people struggling with their sexuality can receive counselling and support.
What of the generations who were sexually mature at the time that it was still a crime, or during the Thatcher Government’s campaign of misinformation and no information about homosexuality from the 1980s up until the turn of the millennium? What about men or women who felt ashamed, or unable to follow their feelings for fear of being rejected by their families?
I have experience of being signed up to chat sites where a lot of the gay or bisexual men who have hit on me, have admitted to being married, many even having children, and yet sneaking around behind their partners’ backs to get a bit of same sex action.
Or there are the guys who hound unfortunate transsexuals or other non-gender conformist types, because dick isn’t gay if it belongs to someone in a frock… right? (Sorry, it’s one thing to be attracted to transwomen who happen to have male equipment, it’s totally another to use us to satisfy your base urges without questioning your true desires).
I know many bisexual people who see the fact that they are attracted to the opposite sex as a good enough reason to pretend to family that they are ‘straight’, and so will not publicly state their sexuality as anything contrary to avoid unnecessary disgrace and ostracizing (I ashamedly admit that I was guilty of this one for some time).
When the results of the last census came out and the numbers of people declaring themselves to be non-hetero were down on the often bandied ‘six Birminghams’, the right-wing press and conservative groups leapt onto it like a hyperactive Kitty.
Here was irrefutable evidence that we were liars, distorting facts to make us seem more significant than we were. The real tragedy of course is that the majority of people who did not express their true sexuality did so as a result of the campaigns of misinformation and character assassination that these groups themselves are responsible for. Keeping a level of toxicity and distrust towards the LGBT community ensures that many of our number hide away, growing more and more ashamed of their true nature.
All it takes is ten minutes trawling profiles on Gaydarguys or TVChix, or even on a regular dating site that lets gay people look for love too, to see how many guys are keen to nosh on some man-meat while the missus is away (My ‘trawling ‘is largely for personal curiosity and research, I’d like to add).
Conversely of course, the Census is very good for the Church of England. I remember my mother putting me down as CofE on the 2001 census despite my protestations because that was just traditional. Apparently not believing in God and openly decrying all organised religion as corrupt and detrimental to society is not enough to disqualify one from classification as a Christian. The mindset was that if you didn’t know what you were, you were CofE. It’s like that was the old classification for ‘Agnostic’.
So the church gets to count lapsed believers or traditionalist box-tickers amongst it’s congregation to show that it is still a relevant institution, whereas we LGBTers lose vast swathes of credibility and influence to the closet.
So how do we accurately count our number in a society where many will not usually ‘admit’ to being one of us unless they have no other choice?
Seriously, how? I haven’t an effin’ clue.