Current Sociology

Sociologist of the Month, April 2024

Please welcome our Sociologists of the Month for April 2024, Sait Bayrakdar (King’s College London, UK) and Andrew King (University of Surrey, UK). Their article for Current Sociology LGBT discrimination, harassment and violence in Germany, Portugal and the UK: A quantitative comparative approach was shortlisted for the second edition (Vol. 71) of the Annual SAGE Current Sociology Best Paper Prize, and is Open Access.

Sait Bayrakdar

Andrew King

Could you please tell us about yourself? How did you come to your field of study?

S. Bayrakdar: I am a quantitative sociologist who is interested in social inequalities. My research primarily investigates how structural inequalities play out in people's lives across the life course and in different domains of life. I can say my interest in social inequalities started with my PhD studies, which was part of a project looking at migrant outcomes. In this project, I used a unique dataset to compare migrants in Europe to their non-migrant counterparts from their country of origin. Moving forward, I have conducted research on housing, LGBT+ inequalities and education. What I find exciting and aim to engage in my research is to reveal how seemingly individual outcomes are rooted in structural inequalities and how we can develop our understanding of these inequalities by moving beyond traditional modes of data analysis.

A. King: I’m a sociologist who has been researching LGBT+ lives for over 17 years. In that time my research has focused on LGBT+ ageing, housing and everyday experiences of inequalities and discrimination. Many of those interests came together in the CILIA-LGBTQI+ study, which compared intersectional inequalities amongst LGBTQI+ citizens in four European countries: England, Germany, Portugal and Scotland. We wanted to examine how everyday experiences are shaped by structural inequalities, but also how individual LGBTQI+ people challenge and transform these across their lives.

What prompted you to research the area of your article, “LGBT discrimination, harassment and violence in Germany, Portugal and the UK: A quantitative comparative approach”?

S. Bayrakdar: For me, LGBTQ+ inequalities as a research area became an interest when I joined the CILIA-LGBTQI+ project. Andrew was leading this research project, and I was responsible for the quantitative aspects of the research. When we engaged in an exercise to map out the quantitative data that was available to study LGBT+ inequalities, we saw that the comparative data opportunities were extremely limited. EU LGBT survey collected by European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights was one exception in this regard and we wanted to make use of this data. For us, it was essential to show international differences in discrimination so that we could highlight how contextual and legislative differences can play a role in reducing LGBT+ discrimination.

A. King: We were aware that there was limited cross-national data available on discrimination, harassment and violence experienced by LGBT people and as the CILIA project was very much interested in cross-national comparisons when we found this specific data set we wanted to make use of it. The dataset aligned well with the aims of the CILIA-LGBTQI+ project and the countries involved. Sait is a very skilled quantitative researcher and once we had formulated appropriate research questions, undertook the analysis, we then discussed the findings both substantively and conceptually.

What do you see as the key findings of your article?

S. Bayrakdar: I think there are two key messages from our article. The first thing is that there are differences in the likelihood of incidents of discrimination, harassment and violence across different groups within the LGBT+ community. For example, trans individuals are more likely to experience such incidents than lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals, which I believe requires immediate attention and policy responses tailored for this specific group. Second, there are country differences in the likelihood of occurrence such incidents. Our project focuses on four European contexts: England, Scotland, Germany and Portugal. We find that the reports of violence are higher in the UK, particularly for trans and gay people, which prompts us to think about why we see differences across countries.

A. King: The whole premise behind the CILIA-LGBTQI+ project was to explore different levels of intersectionality in LGBTQI+ communities, in different countries. As Sait has said, this is what we were able to do using this dataset. Ultimately, this means that policy responses to discrimination, harassment and violence also need to be similarly intersectional – to understand and respond to difference and diversity in a range of contexts across LGBTQI+ lives.

What are the wider social implications of your research in the current social climate? How do you think things will change in the future?

S. Bayrakdar: I think the fact that these adverse incidents are more prevalent for trans people is, to some extent, a reflection of how they are portrayed in media and public debate. We need to shift these discussions, any discussion really, to prioritise well-being and equality. Even when there are challenges and questions in implementing policies, we should not forget that these discussions directly affect individual lives.

Another thing I would like to highlight again is the country differences we find in our paper. This is a crucial point to make as I think it changes our perspective and prompts us to think about how contextual factors may make a difference in LGBT+ people's lives. It takes the focus from individual characteristics and pressures us to think about the environment in which we live and which we can shape. The question is how to shape it better so that people can live free of fear of discrimination.

A. King: I agree with Sait that prioritising wellbeing and equality throughout LGBTQI+ communities is really important. The countries included in the article all have relatively comprehensive equality policies, and yet experiences of discrimination, harassment and violence are apparent. We mustn’t be complacent. The article implicitly questions how effective these policies are and, give the current social climate, I think we need to ensure that they are not undermined or diluted. A lot of the people we interviewed in the CILIA project were concerned about current events and a further drift right-wards throughout Europe and all that may imply for the future of LGBTQI+ rights and lives. I agree that is something we need to be very mindful about. Sociology and sociologists are at the forefront of addressing these sorts of questions. I feel proud to be part of a wider sociological community whose research continues to illuminate and challenge social inequalities.

Do you have any links to images, documents or other pieces of research which build on or add to the article? Or a suggested reading list?

S. Bayrakdar: We have conducted plenty of great research, which is available on the project website. Andrew and I also wrote a short piece based on this particular article to make a call for more quantitative data sources to understand LGBTQI+ lives better and create the necessary evidence base which is currently missing from the public debate. This piece is available at this link:

A. King: We also were interviewed about the paper for a podcast series, which you can find here:

More information about the CILIA-LGBTQI+ project can be found here, including publications by ourselves and other members of the wider CILIA-LGBTQI+ research team: