Does hope or fear prevail among Europe’s LGBTI people?

More lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people are now open about who they are but fear, violence and discrimination remain high, show the results of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency’s survey on experiences of LGBTI people in Europe. With 140,000 respondents, it is the largest ever survey on hate crime and discrimination against LGBTI people. The findings should drive policy measures to further protect and promote the rights of LGBTI people.

“Too many LGBTI people continue to live in the shadows, afraid of being ridiculed, discriminated or even attacked. Even though some countries have advanced LGBTI equality, our survey findings show that overall there has been too little real progress, leaving many LGBTI people vulnerable. Their job and healthcare difficulties may worsen due to COVID-19. Policymakers should take note and do more to actively promote full respect for rights of LGBTI people,” says FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty.

The ‘A long way to go for LGBTI equality’ report looks at how around 140,000 LGBTI people in the European Union, the United Kingdom, Serbia and North Macedonia experience their human rights. It also underlines changes since FRA’s first LGBT survey carried out in 2012.

Comparing the two surveys reveals little overall progress over the seven years. The EU averages mask important differences between countries. In some, over 70% LGBTI respondent say society is more tolerant, while in others, up to 68% say it is less.

Key findings about Estonia

“I just wish I didn’t have to think about which route is safe when I’m walking hand in hand with my girlfriend and wouldn’t feel the disapproving looks all the time.” (Estonia, Lesbian woman, 21)

  • 22% said they are living together with a partner/spouse, out of which, 7% are married/in a registered partnership with same-sex partner, 4% with different sex partner.
  • A large proportion of respondents hide belonging to the LGBTI community both at school and at work. 47% of respondents are selectively open about who they are at school and 60% at work. 47% of respondents are hiding their LGBTI identity at school and 31% at work.
  • 37% of all respondents said that they would never hold their partner’s hand in a public place for fear of assault, threat or harassment. It is more common among men (56% of gay men and 58% of bisexual men).
  • During the year preceding the survey, 39% of all respondents, including 59% of transgender people, felt discriminated while looking for a job; at work; looking for housing; by healthcare or social services personnel; by school/university personnel; at a café, bar or nightclub; at a shop; when showing their ID or any official document that identifies their sex.
  • Lesbians (25%) and transgender people (29%) felt most discriminated against at work, as well as at an educational institutions: 27% of lesbians and 49% of transgender people. Transgender respondents also experienced the most discrimination when looking for a job – 20% of them.
  • 95% of all participants did not report their last incident of discrimination.
  • Half (50%) of those surveyed said their last incident of hate-motivated physical or sexual attack took place in a street, square, park, parking lot or other public place. Only 17% of respondents (including only 4% of bisexual women) reported the attack to the police or another organisation.
  • There are several reasons why the police were not informed. Most, that is 38% of all respondents (including 61% of transgender participants) “did not think they would or could do anything”.
  • During the year preceding the survey, 42% of participants said they had experienced harassment due to being LGBTI. For the same reason, 13% of respondents fell victim to cyberharassment this year (including 17% of gay men and 16% of transgender people).
  • In the five years leading up to the survey, prejudice and intolerance towards LGBTI people have slightly decreased, said 36% of participants. According to 25%, it has slightly increased, 22% think that the situation has remained the same. Regarding violence against LGBTI people, the majority (46%) think that the situation has remained the same.
  • According to the majority (84%), the main reason for the increase in prejudice, intolerance and/or violence is the negative stance and discourse by politicians and/or political parties.
  • When asked whether the Estonian government combats effectively prejudice and intolerance against LGBTI people, 43% answered “no, probably not” and 41% “no, definitely not”.

All survey results about Estonia and other countries can be found in online data explorer.

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