How Many People Are Gay? New UK Survey Says 1%. They’re TOTALLY Wrong.

A new survey from The Office for National Statistics released this week found that “only one percent of Brits say they are gay or lesbian.” Or, as simply put in generalized headlines: “JUST ONE IN 100 BRITS ARE GAY.” New Study Reveals Only 1.5% of UK Population is Gay! Just 1.5 per cent of Britons are gay, says pioneering survey!

This “groundbreaking” survey has been garnering many similar headlines this week, exciting conservative anti-gay wingnuts, and, consequently, inspiring a handful of angry articles like this one which suggest that this groundbreaking survey is totally full of shit.

The ONS asked 238,206 people about their sexuality. How many people live in the UK anyhow?, you are probably asking yourself while questioning everything you ever believed about the UK, which you’ve mostly pieced together based on repeat viewings of Tipping the Velvet and Naomily fanfic. Well get your head out of your thighs, the answer is 62,041,708 people. More or less. So, this survey has drawn some very serious conclusions about the UK’s gay population after surveying… .003% of them!

If I remember anything from Statistics 350 — and I’m pretty sure that I don’t — this sample size isn’t necessarily problematic. (Actually the fact that .003% is not a problematic sample size was one of the most confusing elements of Statistics 350 which inspired me to sleep through it every morning.) But homogays are an elusive group. The last time UK homos were notably counted, for 1999-2001’s National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, just over 11,000 people got counted. In that group, 8% reported same-sex sexual experiences with 9.7% of women reporting same-sex responses. As it was so aptly put in yesterday’s Guardian article “Not Everyone Wants to Talk About Their Sex Lifeo n the Doorstep”: “Are we to believe the pool of potential partners for gay and bisexuals has recently evaporated by millions? If not, then why the vast discrepancy?”

The Guardian also reports that the Office for National Statistics’ Integrated Household Survey “comes out once a year to a normally muted response, largely because it’s buried on the terrible ONS website.” But this year the information has really caught on! Apparently someone attended Design Director Alex’s informative panel at BlogHer 2010, and consequently,  made an infographic:

… and also this was the first year they asked people about sexual orientation.

The Sun writes:

A Government report in 2005 estimated that up to 3.6million people or six per cent of the population were gay.

But a massive survey of more than 450,000* people by the Office for National Statistics* has now shattered these estimates.

[*238,206 is the actual number of how many people were surveyed about their sexual orientation, the source of this 450,000 number is unclear]

Really? “SHATTERED”? Firstly, 1.4 million people in the survey — an INCREDIBLE number, really — claimed they “don’t know” if they are gay, bisexual or straight. Hell, a bunch of us don’t know. But we do all know what the right answer is, don’t we? STRAIGHT AS A MOTHERF*CKING ARROW, Y’ALL! And therefore, although we’re going to make a giant generalization here that wouldn’t pass on the SAT IIs, most people who say they “don’t know” are likely NOT 100% heterosexual, yannow? ‘Cause then they’d just say “straight” and everyone would be happy.

But there are some people in Britain, including the staff of The Sun, who are coming in their pants for the first time ever over this news:

Family groups today said the figures raised serious questions about the millions of pounds of taxpayers’ cash spent on gay causes.

Family Education Trust Norman Wells told The Sun: “This survey suggests that previous estimates of 6-9 per cent are wide of the mark and that the number of people who say they are gay, lesbian or bisexual is far smaller than the government and gay rights activists would have us believe.

“Now we have a clearer view of the real figures, we need to start asking some serious questions about the vast sums of taxpayers’ money being spent on such a small minority and the disproportionate amount of attention they receive both in Whitehall and in the media.”

If you’re a lonely lez in Britain waiting for your very own Naomi or Emily to come along, this may be depressing news. But don’t worry, like most news about gay people, it’s more or less bullshit. Why? Well, firstly, as Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill told reporters:

“Data collection happened on doorsteps or over the phone, which may deter people from giving accurate responses – particularly if someone isn’t openly gay at home.”

There’s other failures too. For example, Sarah Toce at SheWired.com pointed out, “the option to mark “transgender” was not offered on this particular study.”

Gay dating websites like Gaydar and GaydarGirls find this data especially confusing, considering they have 2.2 million members in the UK and probably only like 46 of those are straight guys in New Jersey pretending to be 18-year-old Welsh bisexual swimwear models.

And I mean, then there’s YOU! That’s right, YOU! There’s probably at least a million lesbians reading this right now, more or less — okay, much less. We’re not nearly that popular. But regardless, about 6.7% of our readership is UK-based. 18% of our readers hark from “unknown” lands, however, so who knows what’s going on with those people, they’ll probably figure it out when they’re older.

In conclusion, we probably still have no idea how many gay people there are in Britain or really anywhere else. So we should all work very hard to eliminate homophobia so we can get better statistics. I’m sure you can figure out how do to that because according to aforementioned bad statistics, you’re on the whole way better educated than other people.

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Riese is the 39-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

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59 Comments

  1. Small quibble.. That infographic looks like a Grauniad one, not an ONS one.

    Aside from that you’ve pretty much expressed my feelings on this survey. Who knew minorities couldn’t be too much of a minority if they wanted the majority to give a damn? Thanks Family Education Trust. Very civilised.

  2. I was surprised when I read about this the other day, not because of the suspiciously low figure, but that they’d asked the question at all.

    A while back, when Autostraddle was complaining about the lack of sexuality questions on the US census I did some poking around the ONS website. Only now do I realise that I was poking websites instead of girls because there are virtually no other lesbians in the country.

    Anyway, the ONS had refrained from asking gay questions before, because they knew it was too tricky to get accurate information. They even wrote several papers on just how tricky it is.

    So while I’m half-pleased that the question was on there, it’s obviously face-palmingly disappointing that such dodgy info has been picked up by the media.

    Also, I want to know about these vast sums of taxpayers’ money being spent on gay things. Is there a Mildly Depressed Single Lesbian Tax Credit that I didn’t know about? Because I could sure use some extra shekels for alcohol/strippers/skins DVDs to help me cope with the reality of the situation.

  3. Pingback: BiFemLounge.Com » Gay statistics: Not everyone wants to talk about their sex life on the doorstep – The Guardian

          • Well except for the blatant Christian undertones of all the Narnia stuff…I’m pretty sure that lion was supposed to be jesus

          • Me too!! I devoured all 7 (?) books in the series and then after I learned that it was all Christian metaphors I was like “Oh no have I been subconciously brainwashed by c.s. lewis?” So that’s about when I started reading Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys and got a whole other type of brainwashing going on. Come to think of it, Judy Blume was the first author I read who didn’t seem to have a bizarre agenda/follow a strict 180pg formula with strategically-placed plot shifts.

          • I keep remembering that bit in Dawn Treader (my second favourite) about how Aslan was all disappointed that Lucy didn’t leave her friends and family and follow him into the woods (on an unknown island! in a strange country!), and thinking “Oh, fuck off, Aslan”.

  4. Pink news explain why they’re wrong here http://bit.ly/diEsCO

    Anyway, I suggest getting rid of sample data based on what people say and look at what people do: if someone marries someone else of the same-sex they’re gay, right? And the stats on civil unions (released by the same Institute, just browse through their database or ask me for sources and calculations) tell a whole different story: in 2008 6,558 people got their union legalized to someone of the same-sex in England and Wales (3,022 women and 3,526 men) as opposed to 232,990 people who got married (to opposite sex).

    This means that of all the people who settled down, 1 woman out of 40 and 1 man out of 35 did so with someone of the same sex. This is basically higher than any other European country I found data for (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Spain and Switzerland).

    These are still maybe disappointing stats but things get better in London, especially in Islington (1 out of 11 women and 1 out of 6 men).

    The gold medal goes to Brighton & Hove! This is a place where 1 woman out of 6 and 1 man out of 4 legally settle down with someone of the same sex :)

  5. ” we’re going to make a giant generalization here that wouldn’t pass on the SAT IIs”

    this.

    Also, this entire thing is ridiculous and just continues to demonstrate that a lot of people have failed or forgotten their high school statistics classes.

  6. As I heard the 1% I thought I bet they haven’t factored confidentiality into this. I know I’ve lied about my sexuality on a survey in the past (guilty feelings) because friends were around and I wasn’t ready to be ticking the dyke box yet. How much more so would that apply if someone’s knocking on your door at home?

    If the purpose of this study was just to find out more about gays then I really want to know 1.Why they did it that way in the first place 2.Why no one stated the obvious and thought about the flaws in their methods and 3.How that statistic ended up in the press. I only attended half of my research method classes because the other half were at 9 in the morning and I’m not cool with that but even I could see holes in this from a mile away. WTF? I think Ilene Chaiken must be involved somehow.

    I did find this funny in The Sun though:
    “Astonishingly, 1.4million people — or three per cent of adults — say they “don’t know” if they are gay, straight or bisexual”

    Like OMG the horror of not knowing if you’re a gay or not! Groundbreaking doesn’t cover it this is shocking stuff.

  7. The survey is utter nonsense. If you believe the stats 1.79% of us Brits are Jedis (Google it). I don’t know what percentage of Jedis are gay, perhaps they could do some follow up analysis.

  8. Well if we’re taking unrepresentative samples with huge methodological flaws and using it to question government budget allocation: like 90% of the people I know are queer so we need to STOP GIVING SO MUCH MONEY TO THE STRAIGHTS, RIGHT NOW. Someone organise a protest, the statistics are on our side!

        • I just conducted a survey of my roommates…out of the 7 people in my house, 2 are gay and 1 is bisexual. Also 3 are white, 2 are black, 1 is half white and half black, and 1 is Asian, 4 are women and 3 are men. I have thus concluded that the world is 57% women, 43% men, 29% gay, 14% bisexual, 57% straight, 43% white, 29% black, 14% mixed, and 14% asian. But WAIT, I have no Native American roommates so we should probably take away all their land since “they” don’t exist. Oh wait…

          I bet the Manifest Destiny settlers used the ONS survey

  9. I was actually one of the 238,206 people who was questioned. They do just turn up on your door-step, but if you’re not in they leave a calling card and return at a pre-arranged time. Your address is selected randomly by a computer. I fell into the 0.5% Bisexual category, and answered the question honestly. Although you are criticising this survey, you maybe unaware that there was a subset of questions that were given if you identified as gay/bi/etc. They related to homophobia in the workplace, and those results haven’t been published. I think those formed the ‘experimental’ part of the survey, so the results may have been inconclusive, but for those closeted types who didn’t stick their hand up and tell the truth you are not helping the government form a true picture as to whether there is a serious problem of homophobia in the workplace or not. The fact that the newspapers are manipulating the data for their own ends is not the fault of the survey, but the fault of the homophobic tossers in charge of said newspapers.

    • I can’t believe that the people who organised this survey ever actually believed that they would get useful results by showing up on people’s doorsteps. This is someone you have never met before, who knows what you look like and where you live, and wants you to tell them a whole bunch of other personal information about yourself as part of the survey, and they seriously think all or most gay people are going to be like “Yup! Totally gay!” in that scenario?

      I don’t even think I would answer that survey and I am all about telling the government what they need to do for the gays. (I am quoted in the national lesbian and bisexual women’s health survey results, because I am cool like that.)

    • Oh and hey look! In Northern Ireland, one of the most conservative/fucking ass-backwards regions of the UK, there is also the lowest proportion of people willing to report their gayness to a stranger showing up at their door. WHAT A SURPRISE.

      • Whoa, I know N.Ireland ain’t th most well known for it’s, well inclusive society, It don’t mean the majority aren’t loverly people they just, don’t like things out of the ordinary. And any way I wouldn’t tlk to much smack about norn iron, rioting is a national past time and every other person knows how to make a petrol bomb! Lol

        jk jk, totally know what you mean, th churches have controlled this wee country for yonks so obviously it affects national attitudes, religion, race, sexuality..

        It’s a loada ballax, cnt wait to get out!

        • Jacka, I’m born and raised in Northern Ireland and so are all my family so I’m talking about what I know. Realistically the Troubles + religion left us like 30 years behind normal people and we’re only catching up now. Are you surprised that Norn Irn had the lowest reported rate, like? I don’t know too many people who’d be willing to stand on their doorstep in Belfast and announce their sexuality to a stranger. (Though obv not many people were willing to do that nationwide either, which is the problem.)

          • Question: between the Catholics and the Protestants…who would you say is less tolerant of gays in Ireland? Or are they about the same?

          • To be honest I don’t know… I’d only really be able to go by my own experiences, I don’t get th usual abuse expected as I’m femme, like super femme (at th moment iv grew my nails and their blood red and I think they look super sexy) and not yet out to my whole family. The first time I experienced religiously motivated homophobia was at this years pride in Belfast, they had their placcards, mega phones and cra cray all sitting ready for th parade even while I was walkin to custom house square 2 hours before th parade was due to begin.. All I remember that morning was that it was raining so those dudes are committed, I so wanted to batter them with my umbrella and I could hear that friken mega phone and th shit spewing from it all th way up royal avenue ! Iv a notion they may have been free prespretarian but I can’t be sure, maybe someone else could help me out?

          • I know! :D nice to “meet” you!

            No, I’m not surprised at all.. And I would assume th door to door questionnaires wer done in Belfast, I doubt they’d rock up to crossmaglen or enniskillen and ask th same questions.. So when I think about it most openly gay people I know live in th city so it may actually be a high percentage for us?? If you catch my drift?? Lol

          • I heard about those protesters at pride, how many of them were there? Im kind of glad I didnt go to pride now as im no good at controlling myself around religious bigots, nothing like an arrest to make my trip up North memorable! I also heard somewhere that there’s more gay bashings and what not up North than there is here but I could be wrong.

            Also, here in Dublin, according to the last research conducted, there’s more gays per capita than there is in San Francisco…so we make up about 15-16% of the population here which just shows the research above to be even more flawed because lets be honest Ireland and the UK are so similar. It’s not like Dublin is some gay mecca to make the figure so high here compared to say London so the discrepancy between the percentages of gays in the UK and here, especially in large cities, is ridiculous!

          • Hi this is very interesting, can you please tell me what is your source for the number of gay people in Dublin? I’d love to add it to my database. Thanks in advance!

          • Sorry for the ridiculously slow reply! Well I asked around and people seem a bit vague on where the infor came from but I think it came from the latest census or else a study conducted by the gay magazine here called Gay Community News (GCN) and to be honest from what I can see from walking around the city every day it’s definitely true, crazy amounts of gays here and so many full gay nights despite the small size of the city! I think a lot of it may have to do with the fact that gays born in other parts of Ireland have nowhere to actually be openly gay so a lot of people migrate here.

          • Thanks! I searched the Office of Statistics website but I haven’t found much really. I guess I’m gonna have to wait until some stats on civil unions are released :P

  10. Just want to point out that according to thon info graphic the people that answered that wer gay wer 25-40 , one would assume by th time your that age you’ll b confident in your own skin/sexuality, they are also educated to a higher level and therfore probably in the higher paid jobs and are independent financially. How many potential baby dykes who fucked up ther education because they wer have the hearts broken by ther best friend, are still livin with their parents and working for th minimum wage in th back end of no where would feel comfortable talkin to a stranger and Admitting yea sure I love th pootang!!

  11. that was an exceptional breakdown of those bullshit paper-thin statistics. bravo!!

    statistics are such a pain in the ass. so unreliable these days to throw around statistics on these kinds of things. you may as well go poll 10 people in boston about what kind of ice cream they like and then apply the results to all people in massachusetts. LAME.

    and i got to hum the theme to ‘the more you know’ at the end. and that made me smile. :) my morning = complete!

    • that’s why I think non-sample statistics are the ones one should look at. And those on civil unions and marriages are non-sample, all are counted. For me, for the reasons I explained in the comment above, it is 1 out of 40 women and 1 out of 35 men (at the national level for England and Wales). And for most other European countries is lower, sometimes much lower.

  12. It’s a question of deception and hype. Here are three questions:

    1. What percent of those who didn’t or wouldn’t respond are actually gay? (Don’t they have the most to hide?)
    2. What percent of bisexuals think of bisexuality as “gay-lite”? (And thus more acceptable?)
    3. And the Biggy: what percent of heterosexuals are actually lying? (i.e. still and in some cases forever in the closet.)

    It is ironic the an industry that feeds off of deception and deceit such the Media are so tone-deaf about people who lie and evade when it comes to their own sexuality. I mean if you’re going to lie about anything, wouldn’t sex be the most likely thing. The Media are just to dumb to handle even the most elementary psychology and statistics.

    The lower heterosexuals can push the “gay” number, the better they sleep at night.

    My fellow Homosexualites: Don’t despair. Even ten percent is an under-estimate.

  13. My Stats prof. tells me to watch out for trickster statistics like this. But he also told me not to put salt in my eye and that a pirate stole his marriage from him. So, I guess I’m conflicted or he’s just a gremlin.

  14. I also have a vague idea that like half of the straight population are latent homosexuals or bi who have never come out to themselves and probs will never do in their lifetime. And the stats are going to increase dramatically with time, especially for women (for women they are already increasing at sustained speeds). And, once again, the only reliable stats are gay marriages and civil unions!!! Compared to straight marriages or the general population.

  15. My girlfriend makes fun of me because i’m convinced that like 15-20% of people are gay/bisexual…the typical average estimates worldwide seem to hover around 8% but is that really true? Am i wayyyy off? (this wasn’t a survey i did, this is just me thinking that tons of people are in some sort of closet, even if theyre only slightly bisexual and it’s just easier to be straight in virtually every society on earth). what do you guys think?

    • I totally agree with you, I think it’s even more than 20%. We’ll only know for sure when the days of homophobia are over and lgtb people stop being discriminated against (in about 500 years or so).

      There’s a big difference among cities (San Francisco USA 15%, Brighton & Hove UK 20%) – the more gay-friendly they are, the more lgbt live there. So I guess it’s just about waiting for society to calm down about lgbt issues, and we’ll see these figures jump.

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