Letter: Gay survey results cannot be accurate while stigma remains

WITHOUT wishing to cast aspersions on those who conducted the survey into homosexuality in Britain (Review, 23 January), their findings should be treated sceptically.

Not surprisingly, the authors report that respondents admitted to more homosexual experience in their written replies than they had during face- to-face interviews. Yet why should even these written replies be regarded as accurate? It really is nave to expect most people to be willing to commit to paper their true feelings and activities in this area when the personal consequences of doing so are potentially so damaging.

The truth is that the vast majority of gay people in Britain would risk losing their friends, family and employment if their sexuality were publicly known. Sealed replies could only be identified by number, but everyone knows that no scheme is flawless. While there is any risk whatsoever that such information might fall into the wrong hands, the incentive to lie will be enormous.

Not until society treats gay people as equals can the results of such a survey be regarded as accurate.

Dr Stephen Pullinger

London WC2