LGB&T people and public services

A good practice guide from Stonewall Scotland

Activity introduction

The following multiple choice activity is intended to help you understand the needs to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people you encounter, and covers some of the current equalities legislation as it pertains to LGB&T people.

Many of the questions draw on research by Stonewall and Stonewall Scotland. A full list of Stonewall publications citing that research can be found in the Reading and downloads section later in this resource.

Question 1 of 11

According to the government treasury estimate, what percentage of people in the UK identify themselves as Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual?


Living Together: Scottish Attitudes to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in 2012

In 2005 HM Treasury and the Department of Trade and Industry completed a survey to help the Government analyse the financial implications of the Civil Partnerships Act (such as pensions, inheritance and tax benefits). They concluded that there were 3.6 million gay people in the United Kingdom – around 6% of the total population or 1 in 16.66 people.

Most of the time, the figure of between 5-7% of the population is used. We feel this is a reasonable estimate; however, as this question has never been asked in the UK census there is no way of knowing for sure how many LGB people there are in the UK.

For information about public attitudes towards LGB&T people in Scotland, please see our publication: Living Together: Scottish Attitudes to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in 2012.

Question 2 of 11

What percentage of LGB&T people have had a public service make the assumption that they were 'straight'?


Service with a Smile

71% of people had a public service assume that they were straight. This might not feel like a particularly big deal, however, when this happens on a regular basis, it can be very damaging for the relationship between services and LGB&T customers. Respondents reported that it happens so frequently that it is difficult to continually challenge it. We asked people how it made them feel, they said it made them feel:

“Like a second class citizen – like requesting anything specific to my needs would be a problem; too much trouble.”
“As though I should correct them – but I was too nervous to.”
“That I wouldn't be listened to.”

If you would like to find out more about LGB&T people's experiences of public services, please see our Service with a Smile research publication.

Question 3 of 11

What percentage of people, according to Stonewall’s 2009 research, believed that they would need to move away from the place where they grew up in order to live openly as LGB or T?


City Lights?

75% of people in Stonewall’s City Lights? research felt that they would have to leave the town and community that they grew up in, in order to truly be themselves. This figure reflects both real attitudes in society and people’s perceptions of attitudes that surround them in everyday life – many young LGB&T people grow up expecting to be discriminated against in many different areas of their life and by many different people.

Question 4 of 11

Two women who are in a civil partnership have a baby, using sperm from a known donor. The donor is not named on the birth certificate, but both women are. Who are the legal parents of the child?


Pregnant Pause

The birth mother and the non birth mother are the legal parents of the child, if the baby was conceived after April 6th 2009. When the birth is registered, if both mothers attend the registration and indicate they are in a civil partnership, both names are added to the birth certificate.

For babies who were conceived before 6th April 2009, only the birth mother can be the legal parent. The non-birth mother will have to apply to adopt the child in this situation.

More information on this area is available in our publication titled Pregnant Pause

Question 5 of 11

What is the maximum amount of compensation that can be awarded to a person who has been discriminated against in provision of goods, facilities or services, if the case has gone to the Sheriff court?


There is no limit to the amount of compensation that can be awarded in discrimination cases – the amount reflects the loss caused by the discrimination, as well as injury to feelings. The court process, however, becomes more complicated when the amount of compensation sought is over £5000.

For more information about previous discrimination cases, please see the Court Battles page on the Stonewall Scotland website.

Question 6 of 11

In a sample size of 6000 women, what percentage of lesbian and bisexual women under the age of 20 have attempted to take their own life?


Prescription for Change

15% of young lesbian and bisexual women under the age of 20 have attempted to take their own life. Stonewall research, Prescription for Change surveyed more than 6000 women, which is the biggest survey of lesbian and bisexual women’s health in the UK. The closest comparator figure that we could find was from Childline; they estimate that 0.12% of people under 18 have attempted to take their life. Half of lesbian and bisexual women under 20 have self-harmed compared to 1 in 15 generally.

If you would like to find out more information about LGB&T people’s experiences of health in Scotland please see our Prescription for Change research publication (please note that an equivalent version covering England is available from stonewall.org.uk).

Question 7 of 11

During 126 hours of television, how many minutes were spent positively and realistically portraying gay, lesbian and bisexual people?


Unseen on Screen

Stonewall research in 2010 found that only 46 minutes out of 126 hours of programming monitored in a range of genres, lesbian, gay and bisexual people were positively and realistically portrayed.

Stonewall's research into LGB representations in the media is published in Unseen on Screen.

Question 8 of 11

Can a council-funded library be able to restrict access to books and other materials dealing with lesbian and gay issues and same-sex relationships to people over the age of sixteen?


As a rule, no; it depends whether similar books and materials dealing with heterosexual relationships are also restricted to users over sixteen. It is unlawful for a service to discriminate against a service user based on their sexual orientation, so a public service cannot treat a heterosexual service user worse or better (or differently) than a lesbian, gay or bisexual service user.

Question 9 of 11

A heterosexual woman who works at a community centre that often holds support meetings for lesbian, gay and bisexual people is verbally abused when leaving her place of work one evening. Her abuser shouts derogatory words referring to the woman being a lesbian. Can the woman report her abuser to the police as committing a hate crime?


How Safe Are You?

Yes. Anyone can experience harassment and abuse based on their sexual orientation, or their perceived sexual orientation – it is the motivation behind the harassment or abuse that matters. You don’t need to be lesbian gay or bisexual to be the victim of a homophobic hate crime. A woman who is perceived to be a lesbian and is experiencing harassment because of this is able to report it as a hate incident.

Stonewall Scotland research in 2009 found that two in three people had experienced a verbal attack and of those people, 88% did not report it to anybody. When attacks were physical we found that 61% of people did not report it. People reported that they thought it was just part of being LGB&T in Scotland.

To find out more about LGB&T people’s experience of community safety, please see our How Safe Are You? research.

Stonewall Scotland has also produced a guide to recognising and reporting homophobic and transphobic hate crime together with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and The Equality Network.

Additionally, Stonewall has also produced a guide for individuals on reporting gay hate, which is available on their website.

Question 10 of 11

What percentage of LGB&T people would feel more comfortable accessing a public service if they knew the organisation had a public commitment to equality?



According to our 2009 research, Service With A Smile, 71% of individuals would feel more comfortable accessing a service if they knew the organisation was publicly committed to equality. Organisations often think that being LGB&T inclusive is out of their grasp. But there are simple easy things that can be done to help organisations to be more inclusive and to send the message that everyone is valued and welcome. There is a useful recommendations section at the back, which can help point you in the right direction.

We have developed some resources that you can use to show your organisation's commitment to LGB&T equality. If you would like a supply of free posters or flyers, please email Stonewall Scotland: info@stonewallscotland.org.uk

Question 11 of 11

Please write, in as much detail as you can, what you understand by the term “transgender


Transgender describes a wide range of people whose gender (or expression of their gender) is different in some way from what society might expect based on their sex at birth. This includes:

  • People who may be living permanently in the opposite gender to their sex at birth
  • People who see themselves as being partly male and partly female, or somewhere in between the two
  • Some people who may have been born intersex – i.e. with reproductive organs or chromosomes that are in between what is clearly considered male and female

This is a vast simplification and there are many other transgender people wouldn’t fit within these descriptions: please read our glossary of transgender related terminology to find out more.


Understanding all your customers and users makes good business sense but it's not just a nice thing to do – there have been vast changes in equalities legislation over the last few years bringing about more protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The Good Practice Programme has been funded by the Scottish Government to help raise awareness of the types of issues LGB&T people may face in their daily lives and to help organisations understand how they can make a difference.

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