Times are tough: it seems that even gay people are vulnerable to cutbacks. We used to be one in 10 (thanks for that delicious fantasy, Dr Kinsey) then the British government decided we were about 5%-7%. Gay Times, when I edited it, did some arcane sums on the back of a fag packet and came up with about 3%. But sadly, we are now on the verge of becoming an extinct – or at least threatened – species.
The Office of National Statistics knocked on people’s front doors and just asked outright: are you gay, or what? Damn, I wish we had thought to do that.
They found that 1% of people asked on the doorstep told them they were lesbian or gay, 0.5% said bi, and another half a percent “other”.
What does this tell us? Simply that 1% of people, when a stranger knocks on the door wielding a clipboard and impertinent personal questions will say: “Yes, you’ve found me, I am Gay! Gay! Gay! Thanks for asking. Now, I have to get back to my Donna Summer album.”
Among those questioned, 3.3% were sensible enough to tell the nosey buggers to bugger off. What the hell do they think people are going to say when, in spite of what the papers tell us about how gay cabals are running the country and the media, that homophobia doesn’t exist any more and stigma is dead and what a whiney lot we are, they are wrong.
What does this survey tell us? It tells us that a minority of people identify as gay. Some will tell the doorstep stranger, some won’t. Some will, but not yet, and not to you. But then we all knew that.
And anyway, what is it, this obsession with gay people and size? In this context it has largely been posited as a reason for spending less on giving those people equality, because, you know, there are so few of them that it might not be worth it.
The Sun, which illustrated its story with a picture of two lovelies clad in fishnet stockings and fondling each other on a clashing duvet, quotes the Family Education Trust (why do I always quake with fear when a group uses the word “family” in its name?). This survey, the trust says, raises “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”.
The Daily Mail came up with a long-winded and curious non sequitur of a headline: “Only one in 100 Britons is gay despite long-held myth … but 71% of public say they are Christian” and in the story beneath it wheeled out the typically shrill Christian Institute: “A large amount of public money has been spent on the basis of higher figures, which have turned out to be a lie.”
So all the other attempts at trying to work out the number of gay and lesbian people were a lie, were they? And the ONS has produced a truthful figure, has it?
But who cares? It doesn’t matter how many gay people there are, that bullying still exists on a massive scale, that stigma and its accompanying mental health problems are rife in this group, that many people are still isolated and terrified in their homes, bullied at school and at work and still made the butt of the jokes … Is it really surprising that we might not tell you when you knock on our doors?
And anyway, we don’t spend money protecting people because there are so many of them, but rather because there are so few. How a society responds to this is a measure of its true civilisation.
(Source: The Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/sep/24/gay-people-statistics )