Statistical Semantics: Sexual Minority

by | December 20, 2010
filed under Feminism, LGBT

by Roxanna Bennett

According to the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services in Alberta, the term ‘sexual minority’ means: “persons who constitute a minority population due to differences in their sexual orientations and/or gender identities. Groups characterized as sexual minorities across sex, sexual, and gender differences include lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transsexuals, intersexuals, transgendered, and Two-Spirit Aboriginals.”

A 2006 Stats Can family demographic study showed that 45,3000 same-sex couples lived in Canada. Separating couples into single people means 90,60000 people at the time of the study self-identified as non-heterosexual. In a Sexual Orientation and Victimization study conducted in 2004, 1.5% of Canadians aged 18 years and over identified themselves as being homosexual (gay or lesbian) while 94% of Canadians aged 18 years and over identified themselves as being heterosexual.

A 2009 Canadian Health study showed 1.1% of Canadians aged 18 to 59 consider themselves to be homosexual, while 0.9% of Canadians aged 18 to 59 consider themselves to be bisexual. Following the math, the percentage of people considering themselves to be homosexual declined by .4% in a five year period.

It seems unlikely that the population of the LGBTQ community declined during that time. Perhaps people began using different names to identify themselves, names not on a study questionnaire like Two-Spirit or intersexual. It is difficult to obtain demographic statistics of the LGBTQ population. Studies assessing sexual identity and orientation are rare, orientation and identity is in itself, not a quantifiable idea, and the stigma associated with being LGBTQ makes many people reluctant to self-identify. According to the data, it seems that people who identify as lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transsexuals, intersexuals, transgendered, and Two-Spirit Aboriginal are very much numerically in the minority.

Naming a group of people a minority implies that they are “less than,” and not just in numbers. This label marginalizes the population it seeks to identify. It implies that those who are not in the majority are in some way abnormal. ‘Minority’ means a group that differs in race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation from the majority of the population.

In the case of “visible minorities,” information is collected for the Employment Equity Act, which defines visible minorities as “persons, other than Aboriginal persons, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour.” Although the Employment Equity Act is an effective means to create a more balanced and representative workforce, the term “visible minority” has been criticized by the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination as racist because it singles out a group. Singling out a group of people because they are not heterosexual is also discriminatory.

Using terms like ‘bisexual,’ ‘gay,’ ‘transgendered,’ are positive population identifiers because they name what they are. Using the word ‘minority’ defines a population by what they are not. Not-heterosexual. Not-white. It is an issue of difference. We live in a hetero-normative Caucasian culture, according to census results. As of July 1, 2010, Canada’s total population was estimated at 34,108,800. If study results from 2006 found nearly a million people identifying themselves as homosexual, what results would a more inclusive demographic study conducted now yield? What if the questionnaires included positive identifiers like transgendered and Two-Spirited?

Forgetting for a moment that people who identify as LGBTQ are perhaps reluctant to take part in studies or surveys that will target or label them, it is disgraceful that a country that is purported to be inclusive and multicultural would use perceived difference from being white and heterosexual as a benchmark to conduct federal statistical analyses.

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