Pride no prejudice: The long march to LGBT+ equality in Europe

4 minutes read

According to the recently unveiled findings of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency’s survey on the experiences of LGBT+ people in Europe, more LGBT+ Europeans are now open about who they are but fear of violence and discrimination remain high. 

With 140,000 respondents from 30 countries (European Union Member States, the United Kingdom, Serbia and Northern Macedonia), it is the world’s largest survey of LGBT+ communities ever.

The independent centre of reference and excellence for promoting and protecting human rights in the EU carried out a similar survey in 2012.

Comparing the two surveys reveals little overall progress over the seven years. The EU averages mask important differences between countries. In some, over 70% of LGBT+ respondents say society is more tolerant, while in others, up to 68% say it is less.

Prejudice and intolerance

40% of LGBT+ respondents think prejudice and intolerance have decreased in their country, while 36% say they have increased. Less trans (31%) and intersex (29%) people mention improvements. There are important differences among countries. For instance, in Ireland, Malta and Finland, over 70% say intolerance has fallen. In Poland and France, 68% and 54% say it has risen.

All Out members are well aware of the deteriorating situation in Poland and jumped right into action: 

Openness in everyday life

More and more LGBT+ Europeans are coming out: 52% compared to 36% in 2012. Fewer young people (18-24) hide their identities at school – 41% in 2019 compared to 47% in 2012. However, 6 in 10 avoid holding hands in public with their partners.

Discrimination

Discrimination still affects many areas of life, such as going to a café, hospital or to a shop. Overall, in 2019 43% of LGBT+ respondents above 18 felt discriminated against in their everyday life in the year before the survey compared to 37% in 2012. The situation is much worse for trans people: 60% felt discriminated against in 2019 compared to 43% in 2012.

Thousands of All Out members are railing against Hungary’s attempt to outlaw legal gender recognition for trans and intersex and are joining Hungarian trans group Transvanilla in calling on the EU Commission to condemn the Hungarian government.

But German laws still fail trans, intersex, and non-binary people who want to change the gender marker in their personal documents too. That’s why we partnered up with Bundesverband Trans* to demand a law allowing anyone to change their gender marker and first name on the basis of self-determination.

Discrimination at work also remains high: 21% of LGBT+ respondents felt discriminated against at work in 2019 compared to 19% in 2012. This rises to 36% for trans people, compared to 22% in 2012.

Harassment and violence

In 2019, 58% of LGBT+ respondents said they experienced harassment during the five years before the survey. In 2012, 45% of LGBT+ people said that they had been personally harassed. 1 in 5 trans and intersex people were physically or sexually attacked, double that of other LGBT+ groups.

Schooling

For the first time ever, FRA gathered evidence from 15-17-year-olds. The survey gives reason for both concern and cautious optimism.

LGBT+ people aged 15 to 17 experience more harassment than their older peers. However, half LGBT+ students say someone among their peers or teachers supported them. This support drops to 33% for people aged 18 to 24 and to 7% for those 40 and over.

LGBT+ issues are also more positively addressed at school. 47% of 15-17-year-olds say that LGBT+ issues were addressed at school but 10% say they were addressed negatively.

Economic situation

1 in 3 LGBT+ people say they have difficulties to make ends meet. The situation is worse for intersex and trans people (about half).

Satisfaction with governments

In Malta, 83% of LGBT+ respondent believe that their government effectively tackles discrimination, while only 4% think so in Poland. Overall, only 1 LGBT+ respondent out of 3 thinks their government effectively fights prejudice and intolerance. This proportion is lower for trans people (24%). 

Reasons why change happens

The main reason pointed out for positive change is visibility in daily life. Public discussion of LGBT+ equality, policies and laws protecting LGBT+ rights, and support by public figures and civil society also help.

On the other hand, hate speech coming from politicians, political parties and public figures is the first factor in determining a deterioration in the situation. Unsupportive community leaders and civil society, lack of policies and laws protecting LGBT+ rights or their not being enforced aren’t helpful either.

All Out members took action multiple times to fight hate in Europe:

  • When we found out that U.S. pastor Steven Anderson, who is known for promoting anti-gay hate and violence, was planning to preach to a congregation in Dublin, we launched a campaign to stop him.
  • In 2017, to counter powerful anti-gay movements’ hateful messages, we reached out to our members all over Europe asking loving parents of LGBT+ children to share their stories of love, equality and acceptance with the whole world.
  • When the World Congress of Families – one of the most powerful groups against the reproductive autonomy of women and the rights of LGBT+ people in the world – announced that it would meet in Italy, All Out members donated the necessary funds to illuminate Verona with a gigantic message of love and equality.

As the fight for LGBT+ rights continues in Europe and across the world, All Out will keep working to fight back against the bigots and haters and speed up positive change.

Are you queer enough? 3 stories of LGBT+ Refugees in Germany

Interview: Being LGBT+ in Tanzania

4 ways you can support LGBT+ people this month