Dec 28, 2010

Only gay in the village?

The BBC comedy Little Britain may not have been your cup of tea but most of us have some idea of who Daffyd Thomas is. He lives in the Welsh mining village of Llanddewi Brefi and the comedy kicks in when poor deluded Daffyd thinks he’s ‘the only gay in the village’. In fact half the village is homosexual but Daffyd can’t or won’t see it.  Unable to cope with the fact that everyone (including his parents) are quite OK with his sexuality and that even his best friend, Myfanwy, the local bar-maid is a lesbian, Daffyd stays the centre of attention as he persists in playing the ‘victim’, a misunderstand and isolated gay man in a straight world.

What makes it funny is the lengths that Daffyd has to go to in refusing to recognize the gay community around him. The fact that it is a gay man revelling in his status as ‘victim’ makes it particularly powerful. But the sketches also challenge the assumptions and thought-processes behind all those, gay or straight, who wish to ignore the sizable gay community in their own town or city in a desire to keep homosexuality on the margin of society.

But clever as the big idea is that makes the sketch work new research suggests that perhaps the voice of the gay community, in our media in particular, is out of proportion to it’s size.

How many people are gay in the UK?

The most common statistic is still the 1 in 10 figure associated with the Kinsey Report. The study reported that 10% of American males surveyed were “more or less exclusively homosexual for at least three years between the ages of 16 and 55“.

More recently, during the debate over civil partnerships, the then government accepted a figure of somewhere between 6 and 7 percent.

However it now appears that such figures are hugely inflated. The most recent and comprehensive survey conducted by the Office of National Statistics demonstrates that in this country we have consistently overestimated the size of the homosexual population.

In a vast survey of 450,000 people the figure for men is just 1.3% exclusively homosexual with a further 0.3% bi-sexual.  For women the survey is even more revealing with just 1 in 200 women, or 0.6%, identifying themselves as gay.

How accurate is the survey?

Speaking on the BBC’s More or Less programme Stephen Hicks, of the Office for National Statistics, commented;

“The estimate we’ve produced and published last week is in line with other surveys that ask similar questions in the UK and also in line with the pilot surveys that we carried out between 2006 and 2008.”

“So we’re quite confident that the estimate we have is an accurate estimate of self perceived sexual identity.”

Media coverage of the report

The Independent reported ‘Just 1.5 per cent of Britons are gay, says pioneering survey’

The Express headline ran ‘UK’s gay population is ‘smaller than thought”

The BBC went with ‘UK Gay, lesbian and bi-sexual population revealed.’

Why does any of this matter?

Personal relationships

In one sense it shouldn’t matter to us whether the number of homosexual people in the UK is 1 in 10, 100 or 1,000.  As Christians we are not to judge people on the basis of their sexual orientation rather we relate to people on their God-orientation. We love and serve and point people (gay, straight or bi-sexual) to the one who can give them their true identity – Jesus Christ. We then urge all (gay, straight or bi-sexual) to live out their new identity in Christ. A great book to help you think this though is Walking with gay friends by Alex Tylee.

Public policy

But clearly it raises questions about which statistics are the most reliable when it comes to understanding how people live and whether all organisations are willing to accept them including those who had previously argued for a figure of between 6-7%.

If the figure really is so low it also invites the question as to whether a disproportionate amount of public money spent promoting homosexuality? One MP commented “An awful lot of focus in diversity issues is given to people’s sexual preference and this difference is not quite as widespread as believed.”

Finally Christians need to engage and respond to, for example, the BBC report on the need to promote homosexuality more widely.

Andrea Minichiello-Williams from Christian Concern comments:

Serious questions now need to be asked about why the media and government have given such extensive attention to such a small group and spending huge sums of public money in the process.

1 Comment

  • It would not be necessarily wrong to spend a lot of money on a small minority, if that were to address real issues of unjust discrimination and injustice. Insofar as the money has been used to reduce bullying, wrongful discrimination, etc., in the workplace, we should applaud this dynamic – the Church should be the best at spending disproportionately (money, time, energy) on reaching those who are truly victims and marginalised. This could be lost from hearing as we rightly deplore the amount spent on brainwashing us into accepting the practice of that minority.

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