The European Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) will present its survey on discrimination against LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual) people to the public tomorrow (May 17). The shocking claim of the 370,000 Euro report: a quarter of the 93,000 LGBT people who answered the questionnaire said that they had been victims of physical violence.
There are, however, some facts, that need to be taken into account when looking at this report:
1. The way the survey was conducted is in some ways puzzling. Does it live up to the criteria of serious scientific research?
First, the only people allowed to participate in the survey are LGBT people themselves. That means there is no way of comparing their self-perception with the perception of society in general.
Second, the questionnaire is very long. Only people highly motivated to prove that they have been discriminated against would work through the 50 questions. Even more problematic: the survey is not based on verifiable facts but the perception of discrimination.
Third, one person can fill out the questionnaire as often as he or she would like.
Fourth, its questions as well as its answers are quite suggestive. Suggestions are made that exceed the competencies of the FRA, such as the hint that greater appreciation of the LGBT life style by religious leaders would be helpful.
2. The design of the survey is not the only problem with the FRA Report. The numbers seem odd as well.
Few of the 23,000 hate crimes mentioned by anonymous LGBT people were filed with the police. Granted, not everything gets reported. But there is no reason why the majority of hate crimes would not get reported. The blog Turtle Bay and Beyond makes some interesting observations. It shows that the actual number of violent incidents against LGBT people is actually rather low, considering that Germany, which makes up 16 percent of the EU population, had some 570,000 cases of criminal incidents involving violence of various degrees in 2011.
“16% of 23,000 [total assaults counted in the survey] would be 3,680 assaults […] Given that the LGBT lobby […] often claims that 10% of the population are gay or lesbian, would 3,680 assaults against LGBT persons per annum – in comparison to a total of 570,000 reported crimes involving various degrees of violence – not actually indicate that LGBT persons are less frequently attacked than other people?”
Although 23,000 cases are cited in the survey it is not clear whether they all occurred in a single year.
3. Two very dramatic realities relating to LGBT people and violence are entirely ignored by the report:
First, the fact is that homosexual men and women are really more likely to experience violence. However, this greater risk sadly happens within LGBT relationships. A 2002 study by Greenwood and others found:
“in a representative population probability sample that the level of violence in relationships between homosexual men was considerably higher than the level of violence by men against women in the heterosexual community…
“The 5-year prevalence of physical battering among urban MSM [men having sex with men] (22.0%) was significantly higher than either the annual prevalence of severe violence (3.4%) or the annual prevalence of total violence (11.6%) among a representative sample of women who were married or cohabiting with men.”
Second, what about the rising number of hate crime hoaxes, some of them involving homosexual men and women hurting themselves and claiming to have become victims of hate crimes?
- A very drastic example is the case of Charlie Rogers from Nebraska, who carved a cross into her chest to later claim three men had forcefully entered her house to torture her out of hatred against lesbians. She was later charged with misrepresentation.
- Joseph Baken, a 22-year-old from Missoula, Montana, used the injuries he brought upon himself through a somersault gone wrong to claim he had become the victim of a hate crime.
- In May 2012 a lesbian couple was charged with writing “kill the gay” on their own garage.
- When the Ugandan homosexual and sexual rights activist David Kato was brutally murdered, US President Obama, the European Union and UK officials urged the Ugandan government to speak up against homophobia, gay pride events were hosted and the “David Kato Vision and Voice Award” was set up. However, it was only a little later, when the police had successfully finished investigating Kato’s death that the reason for his murder came to light: he had been killed by a male prostitute who was furious because he had decided not to pay the man for sex.
The aggressiveness of some LGBT activists becomes evident also in the violence that LGBT people perpetrate against those who do not share their beliefs. A very visible example was the recent attack by Femen activists on the Bishop of Mechelen-Brussels or a verbal death threat to the organizer of the French pro-family demonstrations.
What is the remedy? More laws against violence against LGBT people? Our legal systems already forbid violence: not just against LGBT people, but against all people. This is the way it must be. Because all men and women are equal before the law.
The Fundamental Rights Agency suggests that there should be even more anti-discrimination legislation. But anti-discrimination legislation creates inequality by privileging the concerns of certain groups. It violates personal autonomy, freedom of conscience and religion, and the right to dispose of one’s property. Linking allegedly high levels of violence against LGBT people to the issue of anti-discrimination legislation and portraying Europe as a conglomerate of lawless, Darwinian societies, is a deliberate misrepresentation. And a very expensive one, one might add.
Anne Fleck studied English and Political Science in Berlin and Paris, has worked for a Member of the German Parliament and is currently freelancing in Vienna.