Queering the Census

What does it mean for bis?

2011 National Census –Sex and Religion, issues for Bisexuals to consider

The 2011 National Census is on March 27.  So why does it matter to bisexuals?
The following is from the Census website home page –

What’s in it for me?
The census is about counting numbers and types of people so that statisticians can identify and analyse trends. These trends give a powerful insight into the lifestyles and needs of all of us: as individuals, families, students and workers. So when you open your 2011 Census questionnaire and settle down to complete it, think what it could mean to you….

All local councils in England and Wales rely on census population statistics to define the needs of their community and help make sure they get enough government funding to serve it. How much they get is directly related to how many and what kind of people the census shows live in their area. A few households short and someone, somewhere could lose out. The census needs to include everyone, everywhere – and that’s why everyone has to take part.

Understanding the make-up of national, regional and local populations helps to make sure communities are offered and are able to access services appropriate for their needs.

Bisexuality
So, will statistics help the government or local councils offer appropriate services for LGBT people?

Not a chance!

There’s no question about sexuality or orientation on the census. No UK census has ever asked people to define their sexuality.  Now, there would be problems over people’s willingness to give an honest answer, who fills out the census in a household and so on (the Census is supposed to be filled out by the head of the household and we know that for example not every bi living with their parents is out to them).  But these could have been overcome.  Incidentally, since everyone over 18 gets their own voting paper whether they live with their parents or not, why the archaic ‘head of household’ rule for the census?

Religion
None of these problems have stopped the census asking about people’s religion, though.  Indeed, the question is a loaded question!  ‘What is your religion?’ is a question that assumes that you are religious and encourages an answer based on culture instead of actual belief or participation

The 2001 Census data on religion is wrong and misleading- many other surveys and statistics consistently recognise a lower figure for Christian and a much higher figure for no religion.

Why this matters
“Statistics form the backbone of democratic debate…  Every day in the UK, decisions are made and money invested based on official statistics.” Jill Matheson, National Statistician, October 2010.I’m sure no BCN reader needs to be reminded of the attitudes of some vocal churches and religious groups to LGBT people.
If you say you’re religious on the census and don’t really mean it, then you are treated by some sections of the media, churches, and even government policymakers as if you are a fully-fledged believer, signed up to the pronouncements of faith leaders.
After the 2001 Census, the figures collected were used to justify the following policies:

  •   Increase in the number of faith schools
  •   The continuation of collective worship in schools
  •   The public funding and support of ‘interfaith’ and faith-based organisations above the support offered to secular organisations
  •   Suggestions of an increase in the role of faith in Britain under the coalition government
  •   The appointments of government advisors on faith
  •   Contracting out public services to religious organisations
  •   Keeping the 26 Bishops in the House of Lords as of right
  •   Continued high number of hours dedicated to religious broadcasting
  •   Specific consultation at government and local level with ‘faith communities’ over and above other groups within society
  •   Continued privileges for religious groups in equality law and other legislation.

Sex education, sexuality and religion
My view is that Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) should protect children’s rights to unbiased information including unbiased information on contraception, STDs, abortion, sexual orientation, and the many forms of family relationship conducive to individual fulfilment and the stability of society and give that a higher priority than parents’ rights to impose their views on their children.

There are still many occasions when the perspectives and rights of non-religious pupils, and the right of all pupils to balanced SRE need to be supported.
I also believe that parents should not be able to withdraw their children from SRE, and that the governing bodies of state funded religious schools should have no special role in developing the SRE curriculum for their school but that all schools should follow a curriculum which includes all children.

What can you do?
The British Humanist Association is urging all people who aren’t religious to tick the ‘No religion’ box on the census – even if writing in “Jedi” feels like more fun.  More information can be found online at http://census-campaign.org.uk/

And regardless of your faith — press your MP for the next census in far-off 2021 to at long last include sexual orientation!

Steve