Tuesday, 31 March 2015

LGBT - the real stats

Just how many people are gay?

The whole issue over people being gay or straight is a nightmare! Especially from the religious viewpoint, but also in society as a whole.

It's traditionally been firmly categorised as "gay" or "not gay", and that's it. The other strange anomalies such as bisexual or transgender are either completely ignored or regarded as some even worse perversion.

There's the standard LGBT descriptor (lesbian, gay bi, trans, and some other variations). And then there's all the other labels of Queer, Pansexual, Gender fluid, Asexual, etc, to say nothing of some cultural variations such as Fa'afafine of the Pacific Islands, and so many other indigenous and tribal variations, that all try to categorise, label and box any deviation from heterosexual.

Click on the image to see it full size
The reality of sexuality and gender is far bigger than we imagine, or care to admit. Here is a diagram that tries to explain it in as simple terms as possible, although even this misses some finer points (there are more complex versions of this image but we'll stick with this for now).

We are ALL at different places on this spectrum, yep, every single one of us. The reality is, no two people are the same. There is no simple straight or gay! Although many people may be at far ends of one spectrum, they may be further up the scale on another. It's just not black and white!

Now here is where the statistics about how many people are gay come unstuck. There are many surveys and a lot of research conducted to get a handle on this, and nearly all of it is intrinsically flawed. They work on the assumption that people are gay or straight.

But it gets worse! Only 2% of the general population (allowing for cultural demographics) actually identify as "gay" or homosexual. That may not be publicly, but in terms of the anonymity of research, that's the figure.

But other research has been done on a much broader scale that says up to 25% of the population has experienced some sort of interest and experimentation outside of the heterosexual norm. The problem is, most people, are somewhere on the spectra in the above diagram, so they have the ability to adjust and adapt to heteronormative society and expectations without much difficulty.

It's estimated that around 10% are actually close enough to the gay end of things to be unable to fully adapt to heterosexual stereotypes and cultural expectations.

Just think about that for a second - one in ten people have a level of sexual and/or gender identity and expression that could be called "gay" (in generic terms).

And in churches, there is anecdotal evidence that says the number may be higher. This is for the simple reason that many LGBT people look to religion and spirituality in some form to help them understand who they are, and to look for love, acceptance and community.

More often than not, the very place that should offer the most, brings condemnation, guilt, shame and a deep sense of failure, trapped and silently suffering in an insidious, subtle, abusive environment.

We must stop seeing people as gay or straight. We are simply people, who are free to express who we are and love who we love, whoever that may be, in whatever way.

The attitudes of society and the church about LGBT people are consistently based on dramatically incorrect assumptions - assumptions that bring hate, isolation, rejection, abuse, mental illness and even death to millions of beautiful people.