Today, May 17, is International Day Against Homophobia: an annual day to draw attention to issues LGBT people face and try to draw one step closer to erasing homophobia. It is fitting, then, that new, groundbreaking LGBT research is set to be released today, and probably not surprising that this research is already angering conservatives.
The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) conducted one of the largest surveys of LGBT people asking about hate crimes and discrimination. According to the FRA website:
Around 93,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from all across the EU and Croatia completed the survey, making it the largest and most comprehensive survey of its kind to date. LGBT people were asked whether they had experienced discrimination, violence, verbal abuse or hate speech on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Participants were also asked to identify where such incidents took place, such as at school, work, when seeking healthcare or in public places.
The findings of this research are set to be released today at a conference held by the Dutch government in The Hague. This research is not only groundbreaking in its size — gathering 93,000 participants is nothing short of amazing — but will give the world access to information about how LGBT people feel about their surroundings on a daily basis. We often like to think that we no longer live in a homophobic society and that we are much more tolerant individuals now than we were in, say, 1998 when Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten and left to die in a field in Wyoming. However, I think this research will probably show us otherwise.
A big indicator in the nature of the results of this survey is the fact that conservative groups are already angry about it. The Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute, for example, criticized the survey, saying that the results were made up and that it wasn’t a comprehensive survey because people who identified as straight could not answer the questions.
They are also saying that there was no firewall preventing people from sending in multiple responses, so participants could answer the questionnaire as many times as they wanted, thus skewing the data. They also criticized the way in which the questions were stated, saying that the questions lent themselves to certain answers.
Some groups are further claiming that the results are invalid because the survey was anonymous. (Wouldn’t that make the results more valid if people aren’t afraid to have their names attached to their answers?) Other groups, such as the European Dignity Watch — a conservative, anti-abortion, anti-stem cell research, and anti-LGBT rights group — started criticizing this survey more than a year ago.
Vice-President of the LGBT Intergroup and Vice-Chair of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Sophie in ‘t Veld MEP responded by saying, “I find it sad that these groups find any reason to criticise the work of the Fundamental Rights Agency whenever it promotes the rights of women or LGBT people. Their knee-jerk reflex shows that this survey is highly needed, and that unfortunately, equality still has a lot of opponents.”
As with any survey or study, this one should, and I assume will, account for errors in the methodology. However, this research is the first of its kind and, I expect, will serve to provide an important benchmark for the world as a whole showing us how we are dealing with LGBT issues. As a world, we have a long way to go before we can truly call ourselves tolerant and respectful of people’s sexuality.
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