It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking LGBTI people only exist in certain cultures and countries. For obvious reasons, gay, bisexual and trans communities are more visible in some places. But just because they’re not visible elsewhere, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
Here in the UK, the government estimates around 6% of the population are LGBTI. Maybe that’s an overestimate. Perhaps it’s an underestimate. For example, a recent survey of over 130,000 high school children in the US found that 2% identified as transgender: far more than previously thought.
But either way, for the sake of argument, let’s stick with that 6%. I have yet to read any evidence to indicate that figure differs anywhere else in the world.
That means around 6% of people are LGBTI in the US. Or Russia. Or China. Or Armenia, Or Jamaica. Or Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Kenya or anywhere other country you care to mention.
We exist everywhere
If they live somewhere virulently anti-gay, some will try to move away. Others will not and will learn to live a life in secret or forever denying their true nature. But you pick anywhere in the world – from the planes of Mongolia to the frozen tundra of Greenland – and around 6% of the population discover themselves to be LGBTI.
I was reminded of this when I read about the recent attempts of parents in the British city of Birmingham to halt LGBTI-inclusive anti-bullying lessons.
You can be sure that 6% of the children in those classrooms are LGBTI, even if they don’t realize it yet. Others will have LGBTI parents, school friends with gay parents, or gay relatives.
Omitting this fact from their education is no different to lying to them. It’s the lie of omission.
It feeds stigma and breeds shame and self-loathing. It ill prepares them – whatever their sexuality or gender identity – for the world in which they will enter as adults. Why would some people want to do that?
‘Just a few of them’
I was also reminded of it when I read about the World Congress of Families, taking place in Verona, Italy, this weekend. The annual event attracts a range of extreme right-wingers and religious fundamentalists. They are united in their opposition to LGBTI rights and gay-parent families.
Interviewed by LaRepubblica, a nun from Tbilisi, Georgia, said LGBTI people threaten the concept of traditional family.
‘They’re loud, but there’s just a few of them. People might think it’s all around [gay people], but it’s not,’ she said.
I’d be surprised if at least 6% of her convent aren’t LGBTI. Even if they stay silent about it.
To those of us in the gay community, it might be obvious that we exist everywhere. For many others, it is not.
In countries where gay sex remains illegal, many would simply claim to have never met a gay person. Or at least not knowingly. I’m pretty sure they have, even if they live in a remote village in the middle of nowhere.
We exist everywhere. We can’t keep saying it loud enough. It’s a simple but powerful message. And it’s wrong to withhold that information from children.
Follow David Hudson on Twitter (@davidhudson_uk)