An overwhelming majority of gay and lesbian people in New Zealand want government recognition of same sex relationships. Most of them would prefer that recognition to be marriage rather than a civil union. That is one of the many findings from the Lavender Islands survey – the most extensive survey of this community ever undertaken in New Zealand.
Well over half of both men and women respondents report that they have been ‘outed’ by someone without their permission. Three-quarters of men and two-thirds of women have been verbally assaulted because of their sexuality, and almost one in five men and one in 11 women have been physically assaulted because of their sexual identities.
Overall, 2,276 people participated in the survey which was launched in April and what the gay and lesbian community said about themselves is expected to bring some surprises. Few, for example, showed any liking for the use of the term “queer”.
The Lavender Islands research team comes from across various disciplines including business, social work and nursing. They were lead by Dr Mark Henrickson, a senior lecturer in social work at the Albany campus. Dr Henrickson says the preliminary results show the lesbian, gay and bisexual communities are robust, politically involved, hold traditional values about relationships and are highly educated.
The researchers say the results make a significant contribution to knowledge of gay and lesbian communities and will be of value in shaping public policy. The results help the gay community and social scientists understand an array of important issues including identity, relationships, family structures and economic choices, says Dr Henrickson.
Lavender Islands was the broadest survey of these communities and the first strengths-based research initiative. Although there are no official statistics on the gay and lesbian population there could soon be a more accurate count – 87 percent of participants in the survey supported including a question on sexual orientation in the census.
Of the 2,276 people who responded 45.3 percent were women and 54.5 percent were men. The majority of responses came from Auckland and other urban centres. The research team was surprised by the overall high level of educational achievement and high level of income. A large number were either managers or working at senior administrative level.
Both men and women reported being more happy than unhappy with their sexual identity, although women as a group were significantly more likely to choose to be lesbian if they had the choice. Both men and women believed that lesbian/gay people are born, not chosen. More women preferred to be identified publicly as lesbian or gay, but many more of the male group said they didn’t care how people identified them.
Eighty-six percent of the women said they preferred exclusivity in relationships compared with 54.5 percent of the male group.