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.

2 Context

Legal definition in the Equality Act (2010)

2.1 The EHRC's guidance for the Equality Act[2] gives the following definition of the two protected groups:

  • "Sexual orientation: Whether a person's sexual attraction is towards their own sex, the opposite sex or to both sexes".
  • "Gender reassignment: The process of transitioning from one gender to another".

2.2 For the purposes of this report, the groups defined under the Equality Act will be described and/ or interpreted as:

  • 'Sexual orientation' will be referred to as 'LGB', the commonly accepted abbreviation for lesbian, gay and bisexual.
  • 'Gender reassignment' will be included in a much broader 'Transgender' definition. The Scottish Transgender Alliance[3] describes Transgender as:

an umbrella term which can encompass all those whose personal experience of their gender [or gender identity] differs from the assumptions and expectations of the society they live in…. including: transsexual women, transsexual men, intersex people, androgyne people, cross-dressing people and others.

2.3 The Scottish Transgender Alliance further defines Gender Identity as one's internal sense of being a man or a woman, and it describes Gender Variance as when a person finds that current gender stereotypes and averages do not fit with their individual gender identity and gender expression. The much broader Transgender group thus includes, but is not limited to, individuals undergoing gender reassignment, and so allows this Evidence Review to draw on the much wider evidence base for Transgender people. This Evidence Review will distinguish between research that is specific to gender reassignment, and that which concerns Transgender issues or gender identity, where this clarity is provided in the research.

2.4 This paper will address the two protected characteristics, LGB and Transgender, separately, and then address both together in a section headed LGBT. This is because, although some evidence is specific either to LGB or to Transgender, much of it addresses both groups under the descriptor LGBT, and some evidence lacks clarity as to which groups are included. This paper will identify which group(s) each piece of evidence refers to, where this is clear.

2.5 It should be noted that some of the data sources cited in this Evidence Review cover the whole of the UK and so are not specific to Scotland. This will be pointed out in the text.


2.6 As there are no reliable population data for LGBT people in Scotland[4], population estimates are made instead. For example:

2.7 The EHRC[5] and Scottish Health Survey[6] both refer to an estimate from the Department of Trade and Industry in 2003 for LGB of five to seven percent of the UK population.

2.8 In 2008, the Scottish Government estimated that LGBT people made up around five percent of the population of Scotland, or around 250,000 people[7].

2.9 The reader should note, however, that the surveys themselves may underestimate the LGB or LGBT population. The Scottish Health Survey attributes this to under-reporting by survey respondents, and the Scottish Household Survey 2011[8] discusses a range of possible reasons for under-reporting:

  • "Asking about sexual orientation/identity is a new development in national surveys and such questions can be seen as intrusive and personal.
  • There is still significant prejudice and discrimination against LGB people in society. In a context where some LGB people will not have told friends and family about their sexual identity, there is a real question about whether LGB people generally would want to be open with an interviewer.
  • The default option for being uncertain about one's sexual orientation may be to respond 'straight/heterosexual' rather than to say 'Don't know / not sure'.
  • Particular LGB people are still less likely to be open where they belong to groups or communities where an LGB identity is less acceptable."

2.10 In 2000, after informal consultations with the Passport Section of the Home Office, Press for Change[9] estimated there were around 5,000 transsexual people in the UK (less than 0.01% of the population), based upon numbers of those who had changed their passports (Home Office, 2000). A Scottish Needs Assessment Survey in 2001 indicated half that number[10] - 0.005% of the Scottish population would be approximately 250 people.


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