How many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people might there be in the Anglican Communion? Changing Attitude suggests that the total number of LGBT Anglicans world-wide could be at least 3.75 million. The figure is based on the probability that in every country, at least 5% of the population will come to identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered. This estimate is based on research undertaken by the Department of Trade and Industry in the UK published in 2004 in preparation for the Civil Partnership Act which concluded that 6% of the total UK population are gay and the Wellings’ Report on Sexual Behaviour in Britain published in 1993.
Changing Attitude suggests the figure of 3.75 million to alert the Communion to the total number of LGBT people that the conflict over human sexuality may refer to and affect. We suspect there is an assumption that the number of LGBT people is so small that the Communion can ignore our voice for the sake of a greater good – whether that is the unity of the Communion, a false biblical orthodoxy or the maintenance of a tradition hostile to homosexuality. In truth, we are a potentially large number of people, considerably more than the 22,000 members of the 6 dioceses of the Province of the Southern Cone, for example.
Do numbers matter?
It doesn’t matter whether the Anglican Communion has one gay, one lesbian, one bisexual and one transgendered member or 3.75 million LGBT members. God has brought us into the church through baptism and our presence brings the church into an inescapable relationship with us. The size of any group of people should never determine how they are treated. Whether there are many gay and lesbian people, or only a few, we should be treated with the same respect as anyone else.
Numbers matter to conservatives. They believe that if a majority of members of the Anglican Communion (as represented by their Primates) hold a certain view, this view must be right and must prevail over the differing views of those supporting the full inclusion of LGBT people. Numbers don’t matter to God, who values individual hairs and sparrows and human beings with infinite love and tenderness.
Who are we counting?
Which categories of people are we including in our estimate of 3.75 million LGBT Anglicans? We include:
People who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered
People who engage in sexual activity and intimacy with people of the same gender
People who identify themselves as attracted to others of the same gender
People who are instinctively attracted to love someone of the same gender
Accuracy of research evidence
Because of internalised social and faith community taboos, many people will not admit to having feelings for a person of the same gender nor of having had any sexual contact, even in the most carefully constructed survey.
No research has yet been undertaken into the prevalence of same-sex desire in many of the countries in which the Anglican Communion has a presence. The question of sexual identity has never been asked and there is no empirical data to indicate the nature and level of same-sex attraction or sexual intimacy. In many countries, intimacy taboos and norms are constructed very differently from those normative in western cultures.
Changing Attitude does not claim to know how many same-gender loving people there are in total in the Communion. The Communion does not at the moment have 3.75 million people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered or who are open, visible and able to be counted.
We are presenting an argument based on the best available statistical and research evidence. Three years ago, the Church of Nigeria was able to claim that homosexuality didn’t exist in Africa and the Church of Nigeria had no members who were homosexual. The church now accepts that neither of these claims is true. Further dramatic changes will occur in other countries in a similarly short time-scale.
In the UK, for example, many LGBT Anglicans still hide their identity for a variety of reasons. Lay people may fear the attitude of their congregation will reflect the stance of conservative Christians so often reported in the media. The majority of those who are ordained remain hidden for fear of the prejudice (real or imagined) of their bishops and congregations and the risk they face to their present and future ministry.
In a country such as Nigeria, where Changing Attitude has over 3,000 members, this will be a small percentage of the probable total of 950,000 LGBT members, based on the Church of Nigeria’s claim to a membership of 19 million. The lesson from Nigeria is that when lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people are given the opportunity to self-identify as a result of the internet and easier access to information, they choose to do so. A number of sexually active gay Nigerian priests have been identified to Changing Attitude. We have extensive anecdotal evidence of the large numbers of married men who also have sex with other men, although they would not identify as gay or bisexual.
Evidence from other parts of the Communion
Changing Attitude now has contacts in countries other than those where CA and Integrity groups are present. These include Benin, Brazil, Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guyana, Jamaica, Kenya, the Philippines, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Togo, South Africa, Trinidad & Tobago and Uganda. In these countries there are Anglicans who identify as LGB or T. Our contacts are few, but experience shows that they represent the tip of another iceberg.
In other countries where as yet we have no contact, other sources show that LGBT people meet and are beginning to organise socially and politically. The continuing development of global communications and especially of cell phone networks and the internet enable people to network with increasing ease and to read information about LGBT activity in the ’west’. From this, they are becoming aware of their own identity and the possibilities which until now they have not been able to imagine for themselves.
There is a solid basis of evidence from which to argue that in every Province of the Anglican Communion there are significant numbers of church members who are LGBT – and more of them will come to identify themselves as such over time. At a conservative estimate, the actual number is at least 3.75 million or 5% of the total number of Anglicans in the Communion.
Dividing the Communion will not resolve the conservative dilemma
There are various coalitions now seeking to divide the Anglican Communion – the global south network; Common Cause Partnership; the GAFCON project. They have been joined by English bishops from catholic and conservative evangelical wings of the church. They will not resolve their own dilemma. They cannot create a new church in which LGBT people will not be present. We will still be worshipping and active in every conservative church and Province, however perverse that might seem. LGBT people are even now present in the conservative networks and coalitions. Those offering support from England include priests and bishops who are not only gay but partnered or once lived active gay sexual lives. They are offering support to bishops, some of whom are themselves men with a gay past. The conservatives will never free themselves from engagement with homosexuality.
Conservatives question the estimate of 3.75 million
The estimate of 3.75 million has been questioned by conservative Anglicans. They ask how we arrived at this statistic and whether we can provide documentary evidence to substantiate it. The total membership of the existing Changing Attitude and Integrity networks is less than 10,000. A proportion of this total are heterosexual supporters. The figure of 10,000 does not represent the total number of LGBT members in the Provinces where LGBT Anglicans are at present organised. Changing Attitude and Integrity have never claimed that every LGBT member of our churches is also a member of one of our organisations. Our claim is based on the evidence of published research.
The 1.2% statistical claim
The statistic of 1.2% is used repeatedly by Christian conservatives who wish to prove that the figure of 10% of exclusively homosexual people in society (which Kinsey’s late 1940s research reported) was a gross over-estimate. They argue that if we are 1.2% and not 10% we deserve less attention and fewer (or no) rights.
The figure of 1.2% is based on various reports and articles repeatedly used by the conservatives. They include:
An article in USA Today in its April 15, 1993 issue based on the Planned Parenthood/Alan Guttmacher Institute study which reported that 2.3% of males ages 20 to 39 said they had experienced a same-sex relationship in the past decade and 1.1% reported exclusive homosexual contact during that time. The conservatives falsely report this as “Only 1.1% said they were exclusively gay“.
A 1989 U.S. survey which indicated that no more than 6% of adults had any kind of same-sex experience and less than 1% said they were exclusively gay.
A 1991 National Opinion Research Center (NORC) report which provided data indicating that of the 6% who have ever experienced same-sex relations, the number of currently active homosexuals (at that time) was .0.6-0.7%.
A 1992 French study which found that ‘only’ 1.4% of men and 0.4% of women said they had any same-sex contact in the past five years. The study also found that 4.1% of the men and 2.6% of the women had at least one occurrence of intercourse with a person of the same sex during their lifetime, but the conservatives don‘t report that.
An article in the March 31, 1993 issue of The Wall Street Journal reporting a survey conducted by the Minnesota Adolescent Health Survey (1986-86) of public school students. This indicated that 0.6% of boys and 0.2% of girls identified themselves “mostly or 100% homosexual”.
Most recently, the conservatives have referred to a report released by the Centre for Disease Control’s National Centre for Health Statistics. The statistics come from a 2002 National Survey of Family Growth reported in September 2005. According to the survey 2.3% of the males surveyed considered themselves to be homosexual and 1.8% considered themselves to be bisexual. The total number of men who identify as homosexual or bisexual is therefore 4.1%. This figure does not include lesbians, bisexual women or transgendered people.
Despite these more recent statistics, the figure of 1.2% is quoted repeatedly by Anglican conservatives and can be found on many conservative web sites. David Virtue quoted the 1.2% figure in an attack on Changing Attitude posted on 3 January 2008. Traditionalvalues.org on a web page entitled Homosexual Urban Legends has the subheading: “While homosexuals claim they make up 10% of the population, the reality is closer to 1.2%”. The Traditionalvalues report then says that 2.3% of the population considers themselves homosexual.
A Survey of Research Material
Changing Attitude has surveyed research material reported on the internet, covering seven countries. The most recent surveys conform our conservative estimate that in any population where people identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered, the total numbers will be in excess of 5%.
In 2005 HM Treasury and the Department for Trade and Industry completed a survey to help the Government analyse the financial implications of the Civil Partnerships Act. They concluded that there were 3.6m gay people in the United Kingdom – around 6% of the total population.
Final Regulatory Impact Assessment: Civil Partnership Act 2004
Department of Trade and Industry
6.1 Users of the registration scheme, p13
Whilst no specific data is available, a wide range of research suggests that lesbian, gay and bisexual people constitute 5-7% of the total adult population.
Footnote 16, p13 to the Assessment:
This figure is based on the findings in a number of different studies. The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (NATSAL 2000) of 16-44 year olds, found that 5.4% of men and 4.9% of women had ever had a same-sex partner compared to just 2.6% of both genders who had had recent experience in Johnson et al, Sexual behaviour in Britain: Partnerships, Practices and HIV Risk Behaviours, The Lancet, Volume 358, Number 9296, Dec1, 2001, pp1835-42. About 5% of those questioned in exit polls identified themselves as ‘gay’ in US Voter News Service exit polls 1996 and 2000. Plug, E and Berkhout, P (2001) found that about 5% of their Dutch sample had gay, lesbian or bisexual sexual preferences in Effects of Sexual Preferences on Earnings in the Netherlands. About 6% of a national sample of Americans identified as gay or lesbian in Yankelovich Monitor Research (1994).Laumann et al found the incidence of homosexual desire was just over 7% of both men and women in the USA. Janus and Janus (1993) found that 9% of en and 5% of women identified as gay or lesbian. Some studies have found higher estimates, such as Kinsey (1948) and Sell et al (1995), whilst others using estimnates of cohabiting same-sex couples have found much lower estimates, for example the Labour Force Survey finds just 0.2% of UK households consist of same-sex couples.
The Wellings’ Report:` Sexual Behaviour in Britain’ – The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, by Wellings, Field, Robinson and Johnson was published in 1994 by Penguin. Face to face interviews were conducted with nearly 19,000 people selected according to appropriate survey methods. 5.5% of men and 4.5% of women said they had experienced same sex attraction (5.2% and 2.7% for same sex experience); In the self completion questionnaires, 6.1% of men and 3.4% of women stated that they had had same sex experience. (table 5.4 page 187). The report states that that there is probably under reporting of same sex attraction and behaviour because these carry adverse social stigma.
A study of 8,337 British men found that 6.1% had had “any homosexual experience” and 3.6% had “1+ homosexual partner ever.” Study by Johnson, A.M. et al. (1992). Sexual lifestyles and HIV risk. Nature, 360(3), Dec. 3, 1992, 410-412.
A survey conducted in 2001/2002 found that 97.4% of men identified as heterosexual, 1.6% as gay and 0.9% as bisexual. For women 97.7% identified as heterosexual, 0.8% as gay and 1.4% as bisexual. Nevertheless, 8.6% of men and 15.1% of women reported either feelings of attraction to the same sex or some sexual experience with the same sex. Half the men and two thirds of the women who had same-sex sexual experience regarded themselves as heterosexual rather than homosexual. This produces an LGBT total for both genders of 4.7%
A survey of 135,000 Canadians in 2003 found that 1.0% of the respondents identified themselves as homosexual and 0.7% identified themselves as bisexual. 2.0% of those in the 18-35 age bracket considered themselves to be either homosexual or bisexual, but the number decreased to 1.9% among 35-44 year olds, and further still to 1.2% in the population aged 45-59.
A study of 5,514 Canadian college and university students under the age of 25 found 1% who were homosexual and 1% who were bisexual. Study by King et al. (1988). Canada, Youth and AIDS Study. Kingston, ON: Queen’s University.
A random survey in 1992 found that 2.7% of the 1,373 men who responded to their questionnaire had homosexual experience (intercourse). Study by Melbye, M. & Biggar, R.J. (1992). Interactions between persons at risk for AIDS and the general population in Denmark. American Journal of Epidemiology, 135(6), 593-602.
A study of 20,055 people in 1992 found that 4.1% of the men and 2.6% of the women had at least one occurrence of intercourse with a person of the same sex during their lifetime. Study by ANRS: Agence Nationale de Recherches sur le Sida investigators (1992). AIDS and sexual behavior in France. Nature, 360(3), Dec. 3, 1992, 407-409.
A random survey of 6,300 in 1988 found that 3.5% of the men and 3% of the women reported that they had a homosexual experience sometime in their life. Study by Sundet, J.M., et al. Prevalence of risk-prone sexual behaviour in the general population of Norway. In Global Impact of AIDS, edited by Alan F. Fleming et al. (New York: Alan R. Liss, 1988), 53-60.
A study of American men found that 1.6 to 2% had participated in some same-gender sex during the past year and 3.3% had participated occasionally or fairly often since adulthood. Study by Robert Fay, et al. Prevalence and Patterns of Same-gender Sexual Contact Among Men, Science 243 (1989).
In the United States “Homosexuality/Heterosexuality: Concepts of Sexual Orientation” published findings in 1990 of 13.95% of males and 4.25% of females having had either “extensive” or “more than incidental” homosexual experience. McWhirter, David P., Sanders, Stephanie A., & Reinisch, June Machover(Eds.). (1990). Homosexuality/Heterosexuality: Concepts of Sexual Orientation. The Kinsey Institute Series. New York: Oxford University Press.
Four studies of American men over a 20 year period found the frequency of at least some same-gender sex by men in the last 12 months to be 1.9%, 1.2%, 2.4% and 2.0% respectively. Studies by Susan Rogers and Charles Turner. Male-Male Sexual Contact in the USA: Findings From Five Sample Surveys, 1970-1990. Journal of Sex Research 28 (1991).
The USA National Health Interview Survey does household interviews of the civilian non-institutionalized population. The results of three of these surveys, done in 1990-1991 and based on over 9,000 responses each time, found between 2-3% of the people responding said yes to a set of statements which included “You are a man who has had sex with another man at some time since 1977, even one time.” Study by Dawson, D. & Hardy, A.M. (1990-1992). National Centre for Health Statistics, Centres for Disease Control, Advance Data, 204, 1990-1992.
The National Health and Social Life Survey conducted in 1992 asked 3,432 respondents whether they had any homosexual experience. The findings were 1.3% for women within the past year, and 4.1% since 18 years; for men, 2.7% within the past year, and 4.9% since 18 years.
The Alan Guttmacher Institute survey in 1993 of sexually active men aged 20–39 found that 2.3% had experienced same-sex sexual activity in the last ten years, and 1.1% reported exclusive homosexual contact during that time. John O.G. Billy, Koray Tanfer, William R. Grady, and Daniel H. Klepinger, The Sexual Behavior of Men in the United States, Family Planning Perspectives, The Alan Guttmacher Institute, vol. 25, no. 2 (March/April 1993).
A national survey of American men found that 1.1% were involved in exclusive same-gender sexual activity over the 10 year period of the study. Study by John Billy, et al. The Sexual Behavior of Men in the United States, Family Planning Perspectives 25 (1993)
Researchers Samuel and Cynthia Janus surveyed American adults aged 18 and over in 1993 by distributing 4,550 questionnaires. The results of the cross-sectional nationwide survey stated men and women who reported frequent or ongoing homosexual experiences were 9% of men and 5% of women. Janus, Samuel S. & Janus, Cynthia L. (1993). The Janus Report on Sexual Behavior. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Laumann et al. found that 8.6% of women and 10.1% of men reported any adult same-gender sexuality. Of the women reporting some same-gender sexuality, 88% reported same-gender sexual desire, 41% reported some same-gender sexual behavior, and 16% reported a lesbian or gay identity. Of the men, reporting some same-gender sexuality, 75% reported same-gender sexual desire, 52% reported some same-gender sexual behavior, 27% reported a gay identity and 2.7% had participated in same-gender sex in the last year, 4.1% in the last 5 years and 4.9% since age 18. Edward O. Laumann, John H. Gagnon, Robert T. Michael, and Stuart Michaels. The Social organization of sexuality in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.
Researchers determining the prevalence of homosexuality in nationally representative samples have focused upon determining the prevalence of homosexual behavior, ignoring those individuals whose sexual attraction to the same sex had not resulted in sexual behavior. We examine the use of sexual attraction as well as sexual behavior to estimate the prevalence of homosexuality in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France using the Project HOPE International Survey of AIDS-Risk Behaviors. We find that 8.7, 7.9, and 8.5% of males and 11.1, 8.6, and 11.7% of females in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, respectively, report some homosexual attraction but no homosexual behavior since age 15. Further, considering homosexual behavior and homosexual attraction as different but overlapping dimensions of homosexuality, we find 20.8, 16.3, and 18.5% of males, and 17.8, 18.6, and 18.5% of females in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France report either homosexual behavior or homosexual attraction since age 15. Examination of homosexual behavior separately finds that 6.2, 4.5, and 10.7% of males and 3.6, 2.1, and 3.3% of females in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, respectively, report having had sexual contact with someone of the same sex in the previous 5 years. Sell RL, Wells JA, Wypij D. The Prevalence of Homosexual Behavior and Attraction in the United States, the United Kingdom and France: Results of National Population-Based Samples. Archives of Sexual Behavior. 1995;24(3):235-248.
Comment on survey results
It is important to note that survey results may be biased by under-reporting. In general, most research agrees that the number of people who have had multiple same-gender sexual experiences is fewer than the number of people who have had a single such experience, and that the number of people who identify themselves as exclusively homosexual is fewer than the number of people who have had multiple homosexual experiences.
In addition, major historical shifts can occur in reports of the prevalence of homosexuality. For example, the Hamburg Institute for Sexual Research conducted a survey over the sexual behaviour of young people in 1970, and repeated it in 1990. Whereas in 1970 18% of the boys aged 16 and 17 reported to have had same-sex sexual experiences, the number had dropped to 2% by 1990. “Ever since homosexuality became publicly argued to be an innate sexual orientation, boys’ fear of being seen as gay has, if anything, increased,” the director of the institute, Volkmar Sigusch, suggested in a 1998 article for a German medical journal.
The international dispute which has been growing in intensity since Lambeth 1998 will have had the same effect on many LGBT people in the Communion. In the same period, however, the development of the internet and global communications has enable many people to identify who they are, even if their fear has increased and they have remained hidden from their family and congregation.
Even the best designed studies will not provide a 100% accurate figure. The results of the studies referred to above were all influenced by a number of factors, including the social acceptance of saying “yes” and the wording of questions.
What cannot be factored in are:
The number of people who hid the fact that they were homosexual.
Those who answered “yes” to a broadly worded question about homosexual contact when such contact happened in the context of being sexually abused as a child or In adolescence.
The men who answered “yes” to having had homosexual intercourse, when this occurred in prison because of the absence of the opposite sex.
The men and women attracted to the same sex who answered “no” to homosexual behaviour because they have not been sexually active or because they do not use a label like “homosexual”.
Those who are too ashamed or embarrassed to answer honestly and truthfully.
The research findings and the comments on them highlight the importance of using more than just homosexual behaviour to examine the prevalence of homosexuality.
Report compiled by the Reverend Colin Coward, Director of Changing Attitude England
14 January 2008