Scottish census results on LGBT people ‘can be weaponized’
SCOTLAND’s census presents a historic opportunity to give greater visibility to the country’s LGBT community, but there are fears the numbers could be weaponized regardless of the results.
Dr Kevin Guyan, data researcher at the University of Glasgow, said the fact that the census shows fewer or more LGBT people in Scotland than previously thought could be harmful, as well as good.
“It can be weaponized, whether the number is too small or too large, there is no ideal percentage to land on,” he said.
Last week, Culture Secretary Angus Robertson announced that the census was ready to move on to the next stage, after a month-long extension and the target response reaching just 87.9%, below the target. National Records of Scotland 94% target.
This is the first census where Scots have been asked to answer questions relating to sexual identity and gender. Guyan, while researching his book Queer Data, observed the process of designing the 2022 census and submitted evidence to the Holyrood committee responsible for creating it.
As a researcher who specifically examines the intersection between data and identity, such as the LGBT community, Guyan (below) notes that there are “potential risks” for all minority groups, including people with disabilities and people of color, during any large-scale data collection. collection exercise.
He said: “On the one hand we have this progressive positive step forward where LGBT people are counted for the first time and we don’t underestimate how important that is – virtually no census in the world counts sexual orientation or gender identities so that was a real positive in many ways – but besides that, don’t lose sight of who’s kind of lost in this positive step forward.
“For example, people who are non-binary, and also under the umbrella of sexual orientation, only capture one type of tape or one way of conceptualizing sexual orientation by asking whether you are gay, lesbian, or bi.[sexual].
“But maybe not capturing the full nuance of these communities. So I think it’s still a double edged sword.
The census comes at a time when hate crime against LGBT communities is increasing in Scotland, with reports to police of attacks with an ‘aggravating’ trans or sexual orientation showing a gradual annual increase. It also comes amid a heated debate over gender recognition reform, with the Bill currently before Holyrood as part of the Scottish Government’s bid to allow transgender people to legally change their gender via a certificate. of gender recognition.
The size of Scotland’s transgender community, estimated at around 1% of the population, has never been confirmed by an exercise like the census, nor has sexuality been recorded on such a national scale. Guyan fears that whatever the numbers there could be a backlash or negative impact for the LGBT community in Scotland.
He explained: ‘My concerns are that if the percentage is lower than one might imagine, maybe the tally will come out and say 1% of Scotland’s population identify as LGBT, where we previously thought that could be a bit higher.
“What might be the impact of this on funding, on public opinion, on politicians who might seek to cut funding and services for LGBT groups?
“There are risks that this number will be small. At the same time, we have seen a militarization of the number too high or above what you assume it is.
Guyan points to cases in the United States where Gen Z, typically those born between 2007 and 2012, have the way they identify themselves “armed as something that’s trendy or fashionable.”
Guyan adds that not including those aspects of the community, such as non-binary people or those who identify their sexuality as something other than LGB, is not “acknowledging reality and valuing that’s how people want to be.” identify for various reasons”. .
Data collection regarding LGBT communities has a “toxic history”, adds Guyan, noting that previously damaging data like criminal records or psychological assessments have been collected as evidence to show “something was wrong or different at about these groups.
It would be “blind thinking” to believe that it won’t impact how LGBT people think about and relate to data collection practices today, he added.
Guyan isn’t completely discouraged, noting there will be positives to the visibility of the LGBT community, but cautioned against the census giving the full picture.
He said: “No matter what we’re working on, we always have to assume an undercount. We should always assume that this is a snapshot of the world around us, it’s not the only snapshot.