Luton census information reveals “historic” new figures for LGBTQ+ community

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But there’s still ‘work to be done’ to support people in coming out

Households in Luton joined millions of others across the country to fill out the 2021 census – and new figures have been released about sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Office for National Statistics results show thousands of Luton residents identify as LGB+, following the introduction of voluntary questions for people aged 16 and over. The data showed that 3,926 people in Luton identified as a sexual orientation other than heterosexual, and 17,000 people in Luton did not answer the question.

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It was also revealed that 1,828 Luton residents did not identify with the gender assigned to them at birth. Of them, 331 people were trans men and 292 were trans women. A further 33 said they were non-binary. About 15,800 people did not answer the voluntary question.

Luton's first Pride event this year was a huge successLuton's first Pride event this year was a huge success
Luton's first Pride event this year was a huge success

An Office for National Statistics director has said the first census estimates were “crucial”, adding: “They will ensure decision-makers have the best information so they can better understand the extent and nature of disadvantage which people may be experiencing in terms of educational outcomes, health, employment and housing.”

Activist Stewart Carr, who has worked with Pride In Luton, said: "I think there are lots of reasons people chose not to answer the question about sexual orientation. There may be some older people, of any sexual orientation, who found it intrusive and objected to answering. Equally, there might be people who felt unable to answer because of their cultural or religious backgrounds. My abiding concern for Luton is there a lack of regular amenities for LGBT people and we have lost most of our gay bars in recent years."

A spokesperson for Pride in Luton said: Whilst Luton is making positive steps and we are proud to play a role in making Luton more inclusive, there is a way to go. We call on Luton Council and other organisations to fly the LGBTQ Pride flag during key LGBTQ+ dates.”

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Across England and Wales, about 1.5 million people identified with an LGB+ sexual orientation in the 2021 census. Overall, 1.5% described themselves as gay or lesbian, 1.3% described themselves as bisexual and 0.3% selected “other sexual orientation”. Nationally, 262,000 people said their gender identity was different from their sex registered at birth.

The LGBT Foundation said the data is a “huge first step in making LGBTQ+ people feel included” but added it will be years before the figures provide an accurate picture.

It said: “The historic and ongoing attitudes towards LGBTQ+ communities, particularly trans and non-binary people, will stop many from feeling safe to provide this information. Meanwhile, many LGBTQ+ people are living within households and environments where they are unable to be open about their gender identity, sexual orientation and trans identity."

Nancy Kelley, Stonewall chief executive, said: “For the past two centuries of data gathering through our national census, LGBTQ+ people have been invisible, with the stories of our communities, our diversity and our lives missing from the national record.

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“Today is a historic step forward after decades of Stonewall campaigning to record sexual orientation and gender identity in the census, finally painting an accurate picture of the diverse ‘Rainbow Britain’ that we now live in, where more and more of us are proud to be who we are."