The EU LGBT survey: data and advice

When Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission, called for more research on the effects of homophobia, the Agency for Fundamental Rights stepped forward.

The result is the EU LGBT survey.  As always, I have read the relevant pdf so that you do not have to do so.

In the past decade, a growing number of international and national developments have addressed the fundamental rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons.  Standards on non-discrimination and equality for LGBT persons have been further developed or reinforced by the European Union (EU), the Council of Europe and the United Nations (UN).  Sexual orientation and gender identity have increasingly been recognised as grounds of discrimination in European and national legislation.  Today, the situation of LGBT persons in the EU is no longer a marginalised issue but a recognised human rights concern.

–Morton Kjærum, Director of the Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA)

The survey reached 93,079 self-identified LGBT people, who were at least 18 years of age, across the EU and Croatia.  Of that number, 15,236 were non-transgender lesbians, 57,448 were non-transgender gay men, 6424 were non-transgender bisexual women, 7200 were non-transgender bisexual men, and 6771 were transgender people.  30% of the total were 18-24, 43% 25-39, 22% 40-54, and 5% at least 55 years of age.

Throughout the report, the sexuality of transgender people was deemed irrelevant.

The report was released at a conference in The Hague attended by some 300 politicians and human rights experts.

Respondents were asked,  

In the last 12 months, in the country where you live, have you personally felt discriminated against or harassed on the basis of sexual orientation?

55% of lesbians said that they had been subjected to that, as well as 45% of gay men, 47% of bisexual women, 36% of bisexual men, and 46% of transpeople.  That’s an overall 47%.

The worse countries were Lithuania (61%) and Croatia (60%), although it wasn’t that much better in Poland (57%), Cyprus (56%), Italy (54%), Romania (54%), Bulgaria (53%), Slovenia (53%), Slovakia (52%), Portugal (51%), and Montenegro (51%).  At the low end were The Netherlands, at 30%, Denmark at 31% and Luxembourg at 33%.  All other nations were between 35% and 48%.

During the last 12 months, have you personally felt discriminated against because of being [LGBT] in any of the following situations? Answer: A. When looking for a job; B. At work

Lesbians =  21%; Gay men = 20%; Bisexual women = 16%; Bisexual men = 16%; Transpeople = 29%; for an overall average of 20%.

The worse national rate was Cyprus at 30%, followed by Lithuania and Latvia at 27%, Bulgaria and Croatia at 26%, and Estonia at 25%.  The best rates were in Denmark (11%) and the Czech Republic and The Netherlands (both at 13%).  All other percentages were between 15% and 23%.

I had an experience at work in terms of discrimination: a colleague told me he respected me but thought I was abnormal … in a few words, my sexual orientation was against nature in his opinion.

–Italian lesbian, 28

During the last 12 months, have you personally felt discriminated against because of being [LGBT] in any of the following situations? Answer: C. When looking for a house or apartment to rent or buy; D. By healthcare personnel; E. By social service personnel; F. By school/university personnel; G. At a café, restaurant, bar or nightclub; H. At a shop; I. In a bank or insurance company; J. At a sport or fitness club.

Lesbians = 39%; Gay men = 29%; Bisexual women = 34%; Bisexual men = 24%; Transpeople = 38%;  for an overall rate of 32%

Worst are Lithuania (42%), Croatia (41%), Bulgaria (40%), and Romania (39%).  Best are The Netherlands (20%) and Denmark (22%).  All other percentages were between 26% and 36%.

The most frequent trouble I have as a gender ambiguous person is that people, especially in shops, are ready to ‘punish’ me for causing them confusion.  The most popular way is to loudly ask for my ID whenever possible, and take a long time comparing me, my picture, and my gender marker.  On several occasions a manager was called to help decide whether the ID document was indeed mine, while other customers had to wait and watch.

–British transperson, 33

During your schooling before the age of 18, did you … Hear or see negative comments or conduct because a schoolmate was perceived to be LBGT?

As can be expected, all classifications were at least 90%.  The average was 91%.  Highest country was Cyprus at 97%, but all countries were at least 83% (Latvia, the Czech Republic).  When asked how often they heard such comments, 19% chose Always, 49% chose Often, 24% chose Rarely, and only 9% chose Never.

Ten years later, I still consider being bullied at school the worst form of homophobic abuse I’ve ever been subjected to.  The constant insults for being effeminate (‘and therefore gay’) were unbearable at school, and not much action was taken by the teachers against the bullies!  Bullying forced me to remain in the closet until I reached the age of 18.

–Maltese gay male, 25

During your schooling before the age of 18, did you … B. Hide or disguise that you were [LGBT] at school? Answer: ‘often’, ‘always’.

Lesbians = 54%; Gay men = 72%; Bisexual women = 46%; Bisexual men = 73%; Transpeople = 70%.  The overall average was 67%.

Highest by country were Lithuania (81%), Latvia (77%), and Greece and Cyprus (76%).  Lowest were The Czech Republic (57%), Slovakia (58%), and Finland and Sweden (59%).  All other countries were between 60% and 73%.

One in 10 of respondents (10%) who had accessed healthcare services during the previous 12 months felt personally discriminated against by personnel.  One in 12 respondents (8%) who had accessed social services in the previous 12 months felt discriminated against by social service “professionals.”

The level was twice that level for transpeople, at 19% in healthcare and 17% in social services.

For me, the most alarming discrimination experienced is in health.  I feel strong enough to deal with street harassment now, but I feel upset about having to justify my lifestyle to every doctor.  It is alarming that medical staff have absolutely no awareness about LGBT needs, not even gynaecologists.

–Czech lesbian, 30

More than half (56%) of all respondents said there is a law that forbids discrimination against persons because of their sexual orientation when applying for a job in the country where they live.  Four in 10 (42 %) of all respondents knew of an equivalent law prohibiting discrimination against persons because of their gender identity.

But just one in ten had reported the most recent incident of discrimination they had experienced.  When asked why they had not (multiple answers allowed), 59% said “Nothing would happen or change”; 44% said it was “not worth reporting — ‘It happens all the time'”; 37% said they did not want to out themselves; 37% were concerned that the incident would not be taken seriously; 30% did not know how or where to report the incident; 24% said it was too much trouble and that they had no time; 20% said they “dealt with the problem myself” or with the help of family or friends; 15% feared intimidation by the perpetrators; 10% said they were too upset to report it; and 9% added other reasons.

[I am] reluctant to report anything that might indicate that I am gay, as I know [the police] just dismiss everything.

–French gay man, 42

Six percent of respondents said they had been attacked or threatened with violence in the last 12 months because of the perception that they were LGBT.  The highest subclass was transpeople at 8%.  The lowest was bisexual women at 4%.

Of the respondents who had experienced violence in the past 12 months, 59% said it was because of the perception that they were LGBT.  The percentage was highest for gay men (68%) and lowest for bisexual women (31%).

It’s constant name-calling or smart comments about me being gay when I’m walking down the street.

–Irish gay man, 39

I got physically attacked by a bouncer in a nightclub who when I was leaving started talking to me.  He asked me to go home with him and I told him I’m not interested, he started pulling my coat and eventually I told him ‘I am not interested, I’m gay’.  After this he and his colleague beat me in the head, I fainted and when I woke up my leg was broken.

–Romanian lesbian, 27

Of transgender respondents who were attacked or threatened with violence one or more times in the last 5 years, 28% had been the victim more than three times, 14% three times, 24% twice, and 34% once.

22% of respondents who were the targets of violence in the past 12 months reported the most serious incident to police.  6% of respondents who were the targets or harassment reported the most serious incident to police.  Transpeople were most likely to report, at 24% and 8%, respectively.

I experience so much discrimination, harassment and violence that it has become my daily life.

–Lithuanian transgender bisexual, 25

Of those who did not report, most felt that the police would not do anything..  One-third did not report because they feared a homop[hobic or transphobic response from the police.

The FRA didn’t just gather the information.  The report also makes some suggestions.  The advice is rather lengthy, so I decided to give you the first paragraph of each:

1.  To strengthen systematic and coordinated responses to discrimination, the EU and its Member States are encouraged to develop action plans promoting respect for LGBT persons and protection of their fundamental rights and/or integrate LGBT issues in their national human rights action plans and strategies.  To this end, Member States could draw on the evidence of this survey and from the experience of other Member States that already have such action plans in place.  Special consideration should be given to the challenges facing transgender persons and young LGBT persons given the particular circumstances they face.

2.  EU law should expressly ban discrimination on grounds of gender identity, for instance in the context of the review of the Gender Equality Directive (recast).  Regarding discrimination in employment on the grounds of gender identity specifically, the current legal protection accorded by EU law to those who intend, are undergoing or have undergone gender reassignment should be extended to all transgender persons.

3.  Equal protection against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation across all EU Member States would significantly improve if the EU-wide prohibition of such discrimination extended beyond the field of employment and occupation, as proposed by the European Commission in its Proposal for a Council Directive of 2 July 2008 on implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.

In addition, EU law should consider explicitly mentioning discrimination on the grounds of gender identity as a form of discrimination in all existing and upcoming EU legislation, such as in Directive 2004/113/EC implementing the principle of equal treatment between men and women in the access to and supply of goods and services.

3.1  To the extent that education falls within the scope of EU law, EU equality and non-discrimination principles and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights have to be upheld.  The EU should contribute to combating the bullying of LGBT persons in educational settings.  The EU should encourage peer learning among EU Member States and promote existing best practices tackling homophobic and transphobic bullying.  The EU should also seek synergies with UNESCO’s work on improving educational responses to homophobic bullying, and with the Council of Europe, which adopted a Strategy for the Rights of the Child (2012-2015) focused on bullying.

3.2  When encouraging cooperation between Member States in the area of public health, the EU should put emphasis on the removal of possibly discriminatory practices.

4.  In the Framework Decision on Racism, EU law specifically addresses offences and crimes based on “racist and xenophobic motivation”.  EU Member States are obliged to “take the necessary measures to ensure that racist and xenophobic motivation is considered an aggravating circumstance, or, alternatively that such motivation may be taken into consideration by the courts in the determination of the penalties”.  EU Member States should consider adopting similar legislation covering homophobic and transphobic hate speech and hate crime so that LGBT persons are equally protected, as a number of Member States have already done.

5.  Both the EU and its Member States, including local authorities, should set up or increase concrete awareness-raising activities to support LGBT persons to access, efficiently and easily, structures and procedures to report discrimination and hate-motivated violence.


    • Robyn on May 25, 2013 at 00:01

    …that everything is much better in the United States, that’s probably just not true.  The US has been playing catch-up…when it even deigns to try to catch up…for quite a few years.  

    In the case of transgender rights, the US is years behind and not in a hurry to start worrying about them.

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