Sexual orientation

A person’s sexual orientation is defined as whether their sexual attraction is towards their own sex, the opposite sex or to both sexes.

‘Sexual orientation usually refers to the emotional, sexual or romantic attraction to a particular gender, to both genders, to another gender or to neither gender’, according to a report carried out by Cheshire West and Chester Council. The report lists three categories that are generally referred to:

  • Heterosexuality – attraction to the opposite sex
  • Homosexuality – attraction to the same sex and usually referred to as gay (for both men and women) or lesbians (used for women only)
  • Bisexuality – attraction to both sexes.

The report goes on to explain that lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people may experience homophobia, abuse or hate crime throughout their life course. They may experience discrimination in accessing health and social care, as well as other services.

Assessing risks to the LGB community

The LGB community is at risk of poor coping mechanisms such as drug and alcohol misuse and are also at higher risk of breakdown in family relationships, homelessness, and poorer physical and mental health. The report adds that there is a lack of data available on LGB people, which has contributed to their needs being a relatively low national priority in terms of health and social care policy.

A recent ONS survey estimates that 1.5% of the population is lesbian, gay or bi-sexual. Regional variations were found in the proportion of adults identifying as LGB, ranging from the highest at 2.2% in London, to the lowest at 0.9% in Northern Ireland. In the North West, the proportion was the same as the UK average (1.5%) (Joloza et al, 2010). The survey’s statistics are considered experimental, in a testing phase, as they have not yet been assessed by the UK Statistics Authority.

The preferred estimate up until now has been that provided by the DTI of an LGB population of between 5 to 7%, as provided in the Final Regulatory Impact Assessment: Civil Partnership Act 2004 (DTI, 2004).

The GP Patient Survey for England includes a question relating to sexual orientation. The survey suggests between 92% and 95% of patients across Cheshire & Merseyside define themselves as being heterosexual / straight, with around 4% stating their sexual orientation as being either Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or Other. Results for each Clinical Commissioning Group are available via: www.results.gp-patient.co.uk/report/13/result.aspx

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