Why you need to tick the box
When you use a public service, or you’re filling out a staff survey, and are asked about your sexual orientation, you may wonder why you’re being asked.
“What’s it got to do with them?”
Being asked to tick a box for your sexual orientation should be similar to being asked your ethnicity or your age - it’s a part of your identity that affects your life but doesn’t necessarily define who you are.
Monitoring forms routinely ask about other things like ethnicity, gender, religion and disability. These ‘characteristics’, along with sexual orientation, gender reassignment, marital/civil partnership status and maternity are protected from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.
If publicly funded services don’t count how many lesbian, gay or bisexual people are using the service then LGB people’s needs and experience won’t be included.
So if a service provider or an employer asks about your sexual orientation as part of their monitoring, it’s a positive thing and shows they are working to ensure equality in their organisation.
If you feel unsure about their confidentiality policy, or have some suggestions of how they could improve their monitoring practice, let them know!
“How will it benefit me?”
Being lesbian, gay or bisexual is now more accepted by society, but there is still a huge lack of evidence about LGB people, our needs and experiences.
Sexual orientation monitoring has lots of benefits for you as a service user and as an employee:
- Ensuring equality of access and opportunity at work
- Ensuring equality of access to services
- Improved services, more specific to your needs
- Creating a culture of inclusivity and openness at work
Recognition that your sexual orientation is as important a part of your identity as your gender or ethnicity, but it doesn’t necessarily define you as a person.
“What can they do with the information?”
Monitoring data should always be kept confidential and stored in line with the Data Protection Act. If you’re unsure about this, ask the organisation what their policy is.
Monitoring sexual orientation leads to improved outcomes for LGB people. A few examples are:
- Lesbian and bisexual women are less likely to attend cervical screening tests than straight women. If a healthcare provider knows through their own monitoring that a low proportion of their service users are lesbian and bisexual women, then they can run a targeted awareness campaign to encourage more LB women to go for screening.
- Data from staff satisfaction surveys can be used to indentify incidents of bullying and harassment related to sexual orientation and support targeted work to address these.
- Housing providers can cross-references complaints about contractors or areas with data they hold on sexual orientation, to identify homophobic incidents and take steps to tackle them.
“What do LGB people think?”
“I used think asking about my sexual orientation was intrusive and unnecessary. But now I know unless I can feedback about services as a bisexual woman, I’ll stay invisible” Bisexual woman
“I was amazed to see a question on sexual orientation was included alongside other questions about age, gender, ethnicity etc on a survey from my GP. It made me feel proud to tick that box! Knowing that sexual orientation is recognised as important by my GP made me feel important to them.” Gay man
“When we received monitoring forms at work, it seemed that the only person in our office of ten who wasn’t concerned about the presence of a sexual orientation field was the lesbian! The others felt that there was absolutely no reason for it to be there. It would be a wonderful world if there really was no need for it to be there, but in the meantime, I’ll keep proudly ticking that box and reminding my colleagues why it needs to be there.” Lesbian
For information on LGF’s guide for service providers to improve their sexual orientation monitoring visit www.lgf.org.uk/SOM