Over 4,000 of Bedford residents identify with LGB+ sexual orientation

It’s a historic step forward after decades of campaigning, says Stonewall
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Thousands of residents in Bedford identify with an LGB+ sexual orientation, new figures reveal for the first time.

The Office for National Statistics introduced voluntary questions for people aged 16 and over on sexual orientation and gender identity in the latest census.

Stonewall described the publication of the figures as a “historic step forward” after more than two centuries of LGBT+ lives being “missing from the national record”.

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A rainbow-coloured corner flag in support of LGBT
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The ONS data shows 4,004 people in Bedford identified as a sexual orientation other than heterosexual when the census was carried out in March 2021 – 2.7% of respondents.

The most common LGB+ sexualities were gay or lesbian (44.5% of those who did not identify as straight) and bisexual (43.8%).

The vast majority of residents said they were heterosexual (90%).

A further 10,700 people in Bedford did not answer the question.

ONS director Jen Woolford said the first census estimates were “crucial”, adding: “They will ensure decision-makers have the best information so they can better understand the extent and nature of disadvantage which people may be experiencing in terms of educational outcomes, health, employment and housing.”

The census also asked people aged 16 and over about gender identity, with 898 (0.6%) Bedford residents stating they did not identify with the gender assigned to them at birth.

Of them, 173 people were trans men and 172 were trans women. A further 65 said they were non-binary.

About 8,600 people did not answer the voluntary question.

Nancy Kelley, Stonewall chief executive, said: “For the past two centuries of data gathering through our national census, LGBTQ+ people have been invisible, with the stories of our communities, our diversity and our lives missing from the national record.

“Today is a historic step forward after decades of Stonewall campaigning to record sexual orientation and gender identity in the census, finally painting an accurate picture of the diverse ‘Rainbow Britain’ that we now live in, where more and more of us are proud to be who we are.”

The LGBT Foundation said the data is a “huge first step in making LGBTQ+ people feel included” but added it will be years before the figures provide an accurate picture.