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Canada: New poll reveals gay landscape
by, 07-11-2012 at 02:08 AM (780 Views)
Canada: New poll reveals gay landscape
Kathryn Blaze Carlson
6th July 2012
A new Forum Research poll, commissioned by the National Post found that 5% of Canadians identify as lesbian, gay, bis.exual or transgender.
Kyle Rae remembers a time when many Canadians took the question “Do you know someone who is gay?” to mean “Do you know a child molester?” Even after the pedophilia misconception wore off, he said most Canadians would have answered “no,” either because the community was so closeted or because straight Canadians preferred to turn a blind eye and pretend there was not a gay in their midst.
Mr. Rae, who became Toronto’s first openly gay city councillor in 1991, is gob-smacked at how Canadians respond to the same question today: 74% say they know someone who is what is now inclusively summed up as LGBT — lesbian, gay, bis.exual or transgender.
That is one of the findings of a new poll zeroing in on this country’s gay landscape, and the survey is believed to be the most comprehensive snapshot ever — the “best estimate to date,” the lead pollster says — of a community that has so far mostly eluded Canadian statisticians.
The Forum Research poll, commissioned by the National Post and taken twice in June to confirm its accuracy, found that 5% of Canadians identify as lesbian, gay, bis.exual or transgender. And contrary to the popular wisdom that the same-s.ex marriage rate is surprisingly low, the poll found that a third of LGBT people say they are in a same-s.ex marriage.
“Social scientists have never been able to pin down how many Canadians are LGBT, but we believe this is the best estimate to date,” said Lorne Bozinoff, president of the polling firm. “This is something people want to know; they’re curious. And now is the time to measure it: people are less reluctant to answer the question, so we can actually ask it.”
Three pioneering openly gay politicians: Kyle Rae, Scott Brison and Svend Robinson
“I can’t, for the life of me, understand why a gay politician today wouldn’t come out,” Brison says.
Statistics Canada says on its website it “has neither the definitive number of people whose s.exual orientation is lesbian, gay, bis.exual, nor the number of people who are transgender.” The statistical agency asked the question in 2009, but sociologists cautioned the rate is likely under-reported because some gays are suspicious of how the government will use the data or are offended Ottawa would even ask.
That 2009 survey found 2% of Canadians aged 18-59 said they are gay, lesbian, or bis.exual — a full 8% lower than the “one in 10” truism that has circulated since 1948, when American biologist Alfred Kinsey pronounced that 10% of all men are gay. Gary Kinsman, a Laurentian University sociologist and leading Canadian expert on s.exuality issues, said the new Forum poll will undoubtedly provoke contestation from both the gay community, which will say the rate is under-reported and far too low, and social conservatives, ‘‘who will argue the results are somehow bogus and too high.”
But Forum’s 5% figure jibes with the latest number out of the United States, where a University of California Los Angeles think-tank last year found 4% of Americans are lesbian, gay, bis.exual or transgender. University of British Columbia professor Amin Ghaziani said it is “terrific” that Canada has joined the U.S. in producing a more comprehensive snapshot of its gay community.
My generation didn’t come out until at least university. Today, people are coming out in high school, if not grade school
The results emerge in the same week that CNN personality Anderson Cooper revealed he is gay, prompting media pundits and journalists to ask an unprecedented question: Does it even matter anymore? With 74% of Canadians saying they know someone who is lesbian, gay, bis.exual or transgender, 28% saying someone in their family is LGBT, and two-thirds saying they support gay marriage, Mr. Ghaziani said we seem to be entering a “post-gay” era where gays are less likely to identify themselves by their s.exuality and where so-called gaybourhoods are unraveling because the community is increasingly intermingling with the straight population.
Still, he cautioned that while gays are “disentangling gayness from militancy and struggle,” it would be a mistake to say Canada is void of discrimination. Scott Brison, the Liberal Party’s only gay MP, said in an interview he recently encountered a “young guy who was demonstrating bravado by making anti-gay comments to me in front of his friends.”
POLL GRAPHIC: Pages 1 and 2 rotating: The Gay Questions & Answers
Younger Canadians are far more likely to say they are lesbian, gay, bis.exual or transgender than older Canadians, with 10% of those aged 18 to 34 answering the question with a “yes,” compared to 2% or 3% in the four older age categories.
Canadians living in Manitoba or Saskatchewan and in Alberta are least likely to know someone who is lesbian, gay, bis.exual or transgender — the rate is about 70% in those three provinces — and are by far less likely to have someone in their family who is LGBT. Mr. Bozinoff said that might be a symptom of migration, a case of non-heteros.exuals having left for cities with larger gay populations such as Toronto, Vancouver, or Montreal.
People living in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta were also the least supportive of same-s.ex marriage, with Alberta standing out as the only province in Canada where the majority of those polled say they do not support gay marriage. That is proof, University of Toronto professor Adam Isaiah Green said, of the so-called contact hypothesis, that says with less interaction comes less acceptance of the gay community.
People living in the prairie provinces are the least supportive of same-s.ex marriage, the poll found.
The Forum poll also revealed differences along political lines, particularly that Liberal voters are closer to Conservatives than the other three parties on several fronts, Mr. Bozinoff said. Conservative and Liberal voters were tied on whether they know someone who is lesbian, gay, bis.exual or trans.exual, at 69%, compared to NDP, Green and Bloc Québécois voters, at 81%, 83% and 84%, respectively. Asked whether they are lesbian, gay, bis.exual or transgender, Liberal voters were least likely to say “yes,” at just 1%, whereas 3% of Conservative voters answered “yes.” Compare that to Canada’s three newer parties — the NDP, Green and Bloc — with rates ranging from 7% to 10%.
Conservative voters were by far the least supportive of same-s.ex marriage, with a 45.8% approval rate, while Liberals were behind them at 68.1%. Approval jumped to 77.6% among Bloc voters, 79.8% among NDP voters, and 85.1% among Greens.
Mr. Brison said much has changed since Svend Robinson became Canada’s first openly gay MP in 1988 and even since he himself came out in 2003 in Cheverie, N.S. — a village so small, he joked, that the gay pride parade is him and his partner, Maxim, walking to the convenience store.
“I can’t, for the life of me, understand why a gay politician today wouldn’t come out,” he said, adding that his ***ual orientation rarely comes up in the media or elsewhere, unless he is specifically speaking on the issue. “It’s about as likely to be mentioned as my eye colour.”
Mr. Bozinoff said while it is true that Canadians are increasingly open about their ***uality, the polling firm used what is called Interactive Voice Response or IVR, a technology that allows a computer to interact with humans over the phone. Canadian phone numbers were jumbled in the computer, which randomly dialed 2,694 people on June 14 and June 27.
“They’re being called by a machine, the machine doesn’t know who they are, and they answer on the keypad — press 1 for ‘yes’ and 2 for ‘no,’” Mr. Bozinoff said. “We thought people would be more frank with us that way.”
Results based on the total sample are considered accurate +/-1.89%, 19 times out of 20.