Prejudice still impacts data production on LGBTI+ people in Brazil

Specialists talk about the topic on Pride Day

Published in 28/06/2022 - 13:24 By Vinicius Lisboa - Rio de Janeiro

A historical demand from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transvestite, and intersex (LGBTI+) movement, the production of official data on this portion of the Brazilian population took an unprecedented step this year after the release of the first population count of homosexuals and bisexuals as part of the country’s National Health Survey (PNS), conducted by statistics agency IBGE.

On LGBTI+ Pride Day, celebrated today (Jun 28), Brazilian activists and researchers point out that, despite the progress, underreporting casts light on long-fought-for achievements against the fears and stigmas that often lead LGBTI+ people to hide their identity.

Released in May, the survey reported 2.9 million homosexuals and bisexuals in the country. In its own presentation, the IBGE recommends caution interpreting the figures. “We are not stating there are 2.9 million homosexuals or bisexuals in Brazil. We are affirming that 2.9 million homosexuals and bisexuals felt comfortable to self-identify as such to IBGE,” analyst Nayara Gomes remarked in a press conference.

Among the main factors that can make people feel insecure about stating their sexual orientation, the institute mentioned stigma and prejudice in society. People’s lack of familiarity with the terms used in the research may also have contributed to the underreporting, the IBGE went on to note.

Pedro Paulo Bicalho, a representative with Rio’s Regional Council of Psychology for LGBT Rights, believes that any data collected on LGBTI+ people are subject to underreporting for as long as there are violence and stigmas against the diversity of gender identities and sexual orientations.

“If we were to carry out a survey with no underreporting, aimed at understanding who LGBTI+ people are and how they live, we’d have to do this in a society free from LGBTI-phobia, which is not the case,” he said. “The farthest we can go is a survey about people who recognize themselves as LGBTI+.”

This obstacle should be seen as part of the context for interpreting the data—not a reason for not collecting them, Bicalho goes on to argue. “It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep at it. It just needs to be very well considered.”

An important goal, he noted, is to build a relationship of trust between the research and LGBTI+ people, so they believe in the purpose of the study and the use of data in building a better life.

National Census

Lack of data means that the demands from this group are not addressed as they could be, said Cláudio Nascimento, public policy director for the National LGBTI+ Alliance, who headed state program Rio Sem Homofobia (“Rio Without Homophobia”).

“Do we need policies focusing on the LGBTI+ population? We know we do, but we don’t have data to confirm this and to guarantee public policies that can change this reality in the coming years. Brazil faces a critical data gap, which strategically interferes in the production of policies for the LGBTI+ community.”

Nascimento believes that an important step in this direction could have been the inclusion of questions in the coming National Census, which could bring in more data, despite the underreporting issue.

“The inclusion of the LGBTI+ population in not simply a matter of counting how many we are. We need to assess the inclusion of LGBTI+ people across a range of policies—such as access to education, health care, employment, professional training, housing conditions,” he said. “When the race question was included, underreporting was massive, as there were no campaigns, and the IBGE team had little training. Over time, with campaigns and training, a huge change was observed, and today over 50 percent declare themselves as black or mixed. The same holds true for the LGBTI+ community. Underreporting may occur at first, but it’s an important step.”

After a civil motion by federal prosecutors, the inclusion of questions on sexual orientation and gender identity in the National Census was determined by the court authorities in Acre state earlier this month, but the court overturned the injunction to grant an appeal from the Office of Brazil’s Attorney-General. The IBGE had argued it was no longer possible to include the questions less than two months before the start of census operations, adding that, in order to comply with the decision, it would have to postpone the survey yet again. The National Census had already been put off in 2020 and 2021.

In addition to the census, questions related to gender identity and sexual orientation should be included by the IBGE among the topics in the Continuous National Household Sample Survey (PNAD Contínua), in the first quarter of 2023; the National Demographic Health Survey (PNDS), scheduled for the second quarter of 2023; the National Health Survey (PNS), to be conducted in 2024; and the next edition of the Household Budgets Survey (POF).

Translation: Fabrício Ferreira -  Edition: Graça Adjuto

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