Northern Ireland is least LGBTQ+ country in the UK, new census data suggests

People celebrating Pride in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland has the smallest proportion of LGBTQ+ people in the UK, new census data suggests.

A little more than two per cent of Northern Ireland’s population identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual, the census found.

This was the first time that the Northern Ireland census, which surveys everyone aged 16 and older, asked respondents about sexual orientation. No statistics regarding gender identity were collected.

According to data published Tuesday (21 March), at least 31,600 people in Northern Ireland identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual, compared with 1.364 million adults who identify as straight.

Of the LGB+ Northern Ireland citizens, 17,700 identified as gay or lesbian, while 11,300 identified as bisexual and 2,600 identified as another sexual orientation.

Around 7.9 per cent of people either did answer the question or preferred not to say.

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This suggests that Northern Ireland has the lowest proportion of LGBTQ+ people in the UK.

Comparatively, 2021 census data showed that Wales’ population was three per cent LGB, while the figure for England was 3.2 per cent.

Scotland’s census was conducted separately a year later and data has not yet been published. In 2018, ONS data found that 2 per cent of Scots were LGB+, compared to 1.2 per cent of people from Northern Ireland (England and Wales were put at 2.3 and 2.4 per cent respectively).

Belfast boasts the highest number of LGB+ people in Northern Ireland by far, with 4.1 per cent adults identifying with one of those labels.

At the other end of the scale, in Mid-Ulster only 1.1 per cent of people identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual.

Younger people were more likely to choose a sexuality that was not heterosexual, with about 4.6 per cent of adults under the age of 25 identifying as LGB+.

Meanwhile, LGB+ adults over the age of 65 were found to constitute just 0.3 per cent of the population.

John O’Doherty, the director of The Rainbow Project, an organisation promoting the health and wellbeing of queer people and their families, welcomed the statistics, saying that the LGBTQ+ people have “always existed” in the region.

“Today’s release is a meaningful first step towards ensuring all LGBTQIA+ people are counted and visible within our society,” he said. “[The figures] should be viewed as a baseline and not a full reflection of LGBTQIA+ populations in Northern Ireland.”

But O’Doherty added: “We are disappointed that changes were not made to allow for gender identity data to be gathered in the census, leaving a further gap in the inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people.”

He said that the region’s “hidden population” could be partly due to “repeated failures by government and public bodies to carry out their statutory duty to collect and record data on sexual orientation and gender identity”.

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