Scottish Government Equality Outcomes: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Evidence Review

This evidence review was prepared to support the production of the Scottish Government's Equality Outcomes, with regard to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.


Purpose of this document

1.1 This paper is one of a series written to inform the development of equality outcomes for the Scottish Government. Guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) states that a range of relevant evidence relating to equality groups and communities should be used to help set equality outcomes that are likely to make the biggest difference in tackling inequalities.

1.2 The EHRC suggests the following criteria for selecting equality outcomes:

  • Scale - how many people are affected by the issue and how does the issue impact on their life chances?
  • Severity - does the issue present a risk to equality of opportunity for particular protected groups? Is it a significant barrier to opportunity or freedom?
  • Concern - do equality groups and communities see it as a significant issue?
  • Impact - is the problem persistent or getting worse? What is the potential for improving life chances? Is the problem sensitive to public intervention?
  • Remit - are you able to address the issue given your remit?

1.3 This series of papers provides evidence for some of the questions listed above - in particular, on the scale and severity of issues facing equality groups. It is intended that this evidence will feed into a process of engagement with equality groups and communities, to help develop the most relevant equality outcomes.

1.4 These papers seek to identify, very briefly, key facts and evidence gaps for the equality groups in policy areas including: education, employment, poverty, housing, transport, hate crime, justice, public appointments, health, social care, sport, and culture.

1.5 Please see the Context chapter for definitions of LGB, Transgender and LGBT.

Key facts

1.6 Education: The evidence for LGBT school pupils focuses on bullying and the protection of rights, whilst the LGB and Transgender research reviewed to date is exclusively about homophobic and transphobic bullying. The very little research on higher education suggests that LGBT students may be treated negatively.

1.7 Employment: High levels of workplace bullying and discrimination are reported for LGB and for Transgender people. There are very limited data indicating positive LGB pay gaps, but these have been challenged by the EHRC on the grounds of reliability.

1.8 Poverty: The survey data on poverty are very limited, and some very dated. They offer divergent views as to whether or not LGB people commonly live in poverty, whilst the limited findings for Transgender people report a higher incidence of poverty. Welfare reform is not expected to have an adverse impact on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

1.9 Housing: LGBT housing guidance emphasises rights and their protection by standards. Concern is expressed at homophobic abuse, and the perceived reluctance of housing authorities to respond to it. Young LGBT people are thought to be over-represented among the homeless, and to be particularly vulnerable. Abuse of Transgender people is reported to result in homelessness, leading to calls for their prioritisation for social housing.

1.10 Transport: The limited research into LGBT transport needs highlights passenger safety, but as an issue that is not exclusive to LGBT people. Airport security searches are identified as problematic for Transgender people.

1.11 Hate crime: Scottish surveys report high levels of verbal and physical abuse of people assumed to be LGBT. UK data identify high levels of fear of violent crime amongst LGB people, and Scottish data show a recent increase in reported hate crimes - which may be due to increased awareness and reporting, rather than an actual rise in crime levels. In addition to reporting abuse, Transgender sources for Scotland describe a reluctance to report incidents to the police.

1.12 Justice: Some LGB and Transgender people expect to be discriminated against if they report or commit an offence.

1.13 Public appointments: Just over two percent of applications for public appointments in 2011/12 were from LGB applicants. This proportion has not changed significantly over the last three years.

1.14 Health: Scottish Health Survey data suggest higher incidences of smoking and drinking among LGB people than the wider population. Despite recognition of LGB people's specific needs, they are not explicitly mentioned in the mental health strategies. The primary barrier to healthcare access by LGB people is discrimination, whether feared or actual. The bulk of research into Transgender health focuses on the transitioning process.

1.15 Social care: Sexual orientation and gender identity tend not to be taken into account in the provision of or research into social care.

1.16 Sport: There is very limited research into sports participation by LGBT people. Reports of barriers to participation focus on (feared and actual) homophobia and transphobia. Additional barriers for Transgender people include communal and/ or gender-specific changing rooms, and participation in competitive sport in their acquired gender.

1.17 Culture: No data have been found for the participation in culture by LGBT people.

Gaps in the data

1.18 A common concern across policy areas is that there is no population-based information on LGBT people, making it impossible to estimate the scale of reported issues. See, for example, the EHRC Equality issues in Scotland: a review of research, 2000-08[1]. This also means that survey data cannot be considered to be representative, so all findings must be interpreted with caution. Survey sample sizes can also be so small as to severely limit the extent to which generalisations can be made from them.

1.19 Specific research gaps include same-sex domestic violence about which little is currently known, the experiences of LGBT staff and students in further and higher education, LGBT participation in culture, and the long-term effects of homophobic bullying (EHRC Review of Research). It appears that pay gaps research has yet to make use of the change to the Labour Force Survey, which has included a question on sexual orientation since 2009.


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