This Spring the EU Fundamental Rights Agency published the first comparative study on the experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the 27 Member States and Croatia. Ordered by the European Commission in 2011, it found that almost one in two (47%) LGBT people felt discriminated against or harassed in the last year.
The survey targeted adults aged 18 and above living in the EU or Croatia who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual and/or transgender. The majority (62%) of respondents identified themselves as gay men. Lesbian women formed 16% of the sample, bisexual men and women 8% and 7% respectively, and transgender people 7%. Readers sharp at maths will have spotted a problem there – participants were allocated to L, G, B or T even though some are likely (indeed, I’d say certain) to have identified as both trans and one of the other categories. However, the report draws on over 93,000 responses, so that is a sample of 6,500 bi women and 7,400 bi men, far bigger than most research into our experiences. We can still explore some evidence despite flaws, and amongst a wealth of data here there are statistics on bi life we can draw out.
Of those respondents who had been employed in the past 12 months, one in five lesbian (20%) and gay (19%) respondents had felt discriminated against at work in the past year, compared with one in seven bisexual women (16%) and men (15%).
However, whether people were open about or hid being LGBT at work varied markedly. Of those respondents who had a paid job in the past five years, lesbian women (50%) and gay men (48%) respondents were most likely to be often or always open about being LGBT at work. Just 30% of transgender respondents who had been employed in the past five years said they had often or always been open about being LGBT at work during this period. An even smaller percentage of bisexual women (27%) and bisexual men (14%) said they were often or always open.
The frequency with which respondents hid their LGBT identity varied by gender: gay and bisexual men were much less likely to be open about being LGBT than lesbian and bisexual women respondents.
Reporting rates were consistently low across LGBT groups and EU Member States. Bisexual men (56%) were twice as likely as lesbian women (28%), for example, to say that a reason for their non-reporting was that they did not want to reveal their sexual orientation.
Nearly two thirds (63%) of all respondents do not reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity to most people in their private and professional lives. Bi respondents, and particularly bisexual men, were the least likely to be open about being LGBT. Overall, about four in every 10 respondents did not reveal their LGBT identity to anyone in their social environment but a few friends. However, this rose to half of respondents among bisexual women and transgender people, and three quarters of respondents among bisexual men. In contrast, about four one in 10 respondents were often or always open about being LGBT, with gay and lesbian respondents most likely to reveal their sexual orientation to those they interact with socially. Only one in 10 bisexual men were often or always open about their sexual orientation.
The degree of openness varied significantly among different LGBT groups, with bisexual respondents much less likely to be open about their sexual orientation. For example, bisexual women were half as likely to be open to family members as lesbians. Bisexual men were the least likely of all LGBT groups to be open about their sexual orientation: they were more likely to be open to none or few than most or all people in all the social circles included in the survey. Two thirds of bi men were open to none or a few of their friends, and six in 10 were open to none of their family members.
Overall, lesbian and gay respondents provided broadly similar answers to the questions asked in the European LGBT survey. The responses of bisexual participants also indicate a general commonality of experience with lesbian and gay participants, although bisexual men respondents, especially, were much less likely to be open about being LGBT than gay or lesbian respondents.
Bisexual respondents, bi men in particular, were much less likely to be open about themselves than the other LGBT groups. For example, significantly higher proportions of bisexual men than the other LGBT groups were open to none of their friends or family. Bisexual respondents were also more likely than other LGBT groups to avoid being open about being bisexual at home for fear of being assaulted, threatened or harassed. Moreover, this fear did not decrease significantly with age among bisexual men respondents as among the other LGBT groups.