First survey on homosexual and bisexual people in Brazil released

Over 2.9 million adult Brazilians stated their sexual orientation

Published in 25/05/2022 - 14:30 By Mariana Tokarnia - Rio de Janeiro

In Brazil, 2.9 million people aged 18 or older call themselves gay or bisexual. The figures can be found in the National Health Survey (PNS): Self-identified Sexual Orientation of the Adult Population, released Wednesday (May 25) by the country's official statistics agency, IBGE. This is the first time data of this kind are collected on the Brazilian population, and is believed to be underreported.

Collected in 2019, the data show that 94.8 percent of the population, 150.8 million people, identify as heterosexual, i. e. they experience sexual or romantic attraction to people of the opposite sex; 1.2 percent, or 1.8 million, declare themselves homosexual, which means they are attracted to people of the same gender; and 0.7 percent, 1.1 million, state they are bisexual, have attraction to more than one gender.

The survey also shows that 1.1 percent of the population, 1.7 million people, said they did not know how to answer the question, and 2.3 percent, or 3.6 million, refused to answer. A minority, 0.1 percent, or 100 thousand, said their orientation should be defined otherwise. According to the IBGE, when asked how, the majority said they identify as pansexual—someone for whom gender and sex are not determining factors in attraction; or asexual—someone who feels no sexual attraction.

Age, education, and religion

The number of homosexual or bisexual people is reported to be higher among those with higher education (3.2%), higher income (3.5%), and age between 18 and 29 years (4.8%).

By region, the country’s Southeast has the highest percentage, 2.1 percent, while the Northeast has the lowest, 1.5 percent.

Considering Brazilian women alone, 0.9 percent declare themselves lesbian and 0.8 percent bisexual. Taking only men into account, 1.4 percent declare to be gay and 0.5 percent bisexual. Among both men and women, 1.1 percent said they did not know, and 2.3 percent refused to answer. The majority in both groups declared to be heterosexual.

The Brazilian result was, according to the study, similar to that of other countries. In Colombia, for example, 1.2 percent of the people state they are homosexual or bisexual; in Chile, this proportion reaches 1.8 percent, similar to Brazil; in the United States, 2.9 percent; and in Canada, 3.3 percent.

Underreporting

According to the agency, the number of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people registered in the survey may be underreported. The IBGE mention chiefly stigma and prejudice in society as factors that can make people feel insecure about stating their sexual orientation. The researchers note that homosexuality is a crime in about 70 countries, as shown by a survey conducted by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association (ILGA).

“We are not saying there are 2.9 million homosexuals or bisexuals in Brazil. We are saying that 2.9 million homosexual and bisexual people felt comfortable enough to state their orientation in the IBGE survey,” survey analyst Nayara Gomes pointed out.

Another factor that may lie behind the issue is the lack of familiarity with the terms used in the survey. “We still need to make strides with awareness-raising campaigns and initiatives. The more we ask, the more people will get used to it, and this is the path we plan on taking. These are a few of the challenges before us,” she added.

She clarified that, in this edition, only sexual orientation was covered. The study did not collect data on gender identity, which would help estimate, for example, the number of trans people in Brazil. The IBGE, however, reports it is studying a methodology to include this topic in surveys.

The survey

The PNS was conducted in 2019. In all, 108,525 households were visited and 94,114 interviews were conducted. The data represent 159.2 million Brazilians. For the first time, respondents were asked the question “What is your sexual orientation?”

It comes as part of a block of questions considered sensitive, along with others on physical and sexual violence and sexual activity. Replies are anonymous and researchers try during the interview to guarantee the privacy of respondents so they do not feel uncomfortable in front of other residents of the household.

The goal of the study is to produce nationwide data on the health situation and on the lifestyles of Brazilians. The survey also deals with access to and use of health services, preventive initiatives, continuity of health care and the availability of financial resources.

Translation: Fabrício Ferreira -  Edition: Graça Adjuto

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