Local gay community with high rates of suicidal thoughts and perceived discrimination – Survey

In a survey conducted by gay rights group Rainbow of Macau, the local LGBT+ community expressed they feel the level of discrimination in Macau is high, with the group considering that local gay people are more likely to have suicidal thoughts, experience discrimination or report a lower happiness index in connection to sexual orientation.

“As always we hope the data will provide valuable information to academics and policy-makers to better serve the LGBT community […] Gay people deserve higher attention because they are more likely to have suicidal thoughts; perceive more severe discrimination and are less happy,” the survey research coordinator and Rainbow of Macau founder, Jason Chao, told the press.

The research was the third Macau LGBT+ Survey conducted by Rainbow of Macau, with the online survey held in October of this year having collected 994 valid responses, the largest sample size amongst the three rounds, with 715 collected in 2016 survey and 186 in 2013.

About 92.9 per cent of the total of 994 respondents were local residents with 52.6 per cent of the residents describing their gender of birth as ‘female’, a close percentage to the local female population ratio.

A total of 359 respondents described themselves as bisexual, with the number of people who identified themselves as being transgender said to be quite low.

Chao pointed out that since the survey was conducted online it had higher participation by the younger LGBT community, with most respondents between 20 and 40 years of age.

“[Online] is the most effective way to collect our data […] Right now we don’t have an effective means to reach the older LGBT generations,” Chao noted.

The sample size was also said to be larger than similar studies conducted in Hong Kong, with the Macau population being about one-tenth of that of the neighbouring SAR.

The survey results indicate that 14 per cent of LGB people in Macau have considered committing suicide in connection to their gender identity, with gay men having a significantly higher percentage of having suicidal thoughts (18.9 per cent) when compared to the lesbian group (11.2 per cent).

Rainbow of Macau also devised a Happy Index from 1-10, with the average score, at 4.54, with perceived discrimination and lack of family acceptance seen as main factors for the results, with gay and bisexual males seemingly unhappier than lesbians and bisexual females. 

“The score for gay people is below average […] Gay and bisexual men also tend to be less happy than gay and bisexual women,” Chao noted.

The survey coordinator also noted that after running some statistical models Rainbow of Macau found out the Happy Index correlated to family acceptance, being higher according to wether family relatives were more accepting of their sexual orientation.

According to the Rainbow of Macau President, Anthony Lam, Macau has a culture of strong traditional Chinese influence in which gay and bisexual men can face more difficulties in their daily lives than gay women.

Anthony Lam (Left) and Jason Chao (Right)

“From sociology studies, we can see that society expects a more masculine and macho image from the male gender, so when they pair with another man, people’s impression is not very positive or some people even detest this imagery. This is why, we believe, gay men face more discrimination,” Lam noted.

In a multiple-choice section of the survey, about 77.2 per cent of respondents indicated to have concealed their sexual orientation for worries of not being accepted by their family, with 52.8 per cent also citing the fear of discrimination and about half the fear of being shunned by co-workers/schoolmates.

“Male heirs are expected to sustain the family bloodline, so gay people have higher pressure and feel a higher level of discrimination,” Chao added.

About 44.2 per cent of respondents also claim to have faced pressure due to their family’s expectations for marriage with 40 per cent seeing active opposition by their family over their sexual orientation.

Meanwhile, about 27 per cent of respondents indicated to have been the target of discrimination, with 27.6 per cent saying they suffered verbal assaults due to their sexual orientation and 3 per cent reporting violent acts committed against them.

About half of the respondents also cited the fear of being shunned by friends or fear of stereotyping as some of the reasons that have led them to avoid coming out.

The data from the survey was said to have been presented by Rainbow of Macau first to the Social Affairs Bureau (IAS) today for their reference and study on how to better assist the LGBT community.

Chao noted that further study would be required to access the specific and objective discrimination faced by the gay community, something the IAS has shown interest ij knowing such data, in but noted that when proposing such study to the department, it was recommended that Rainbow of Macau do so.

“We told them more resources would be needed to carry out that study […] They thought it would be better if [we] carry the study on objective discrimination,” Chao added.

“To enhance the well-being of the LGBT people the government should commence visible and effective destigmatization work […] It is important for the government to carry out the work in a more visible manner […] We communicated to the IAS that although you claim your services are inclusive you need to be more visible and raise awareness on how inclusive your access is”