Norway ranks high among countries with a high level of equality. In 2022, Norway was ranked fourth on the rainbow map published by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) Europe.1 Studies show that many queer people in Norway live good lives, and several advances have been made for queer people in Norway and in several other European countries. However, we still face major challenges.
Many queer people experience prejudice, discrimination and hate crime. 'Homo' is used as an insult in Norway,2 and transgender people, in particular, face a great deal of hate speech. We have some way to go before gender and sexual diversity is fully accepted in Norway, and before queer people can enjoy the same quality of life as the general population.
Queer people score significantly worse than the rest of the population on Statistics Norway's quality of life variables. In Statistics Norway's 2022 quality of life survey, 48 per cent of non-heterosexuals report low satisfaction with their own mental health, while 25 per cent of heterosexuals report the same.3 The living conditions survey among queer people shows significant challenges in living conditions among queer people, especially bisexual and transgender people.4 In the National Safety Survey 2020, about 15 per cent of queer people stated that they had been subjected to hate crime during the year.5
The police do a good and important job to safeguard our common security, and in the police's Norwegian Citizens Survey, 80 per cent of the population state that they have very high or quite high confidence in the police.6 In 2022, the police conducted a separate survey to learn more about the level of confidence in the police among queer people.7 Of the respondents, 37 per cent say they have very or quite high confidence that the police address their needs as queer people, while 30 per cent state that they have very low or quite low confidence. The survey also shows that many queer people experience hate crime or harassment. As many as 40 per cent state that they have been a victim of hate crime in the past two years. Of that 40 per cent, only eight percent have reported the matter to the police. There are various reasons for this, and one important reason is probably a lack of confidence in there being any point in doing so. This is a challenge for queer people, the police and society as a whole. The Norwegian police should be for everyone and should enjoy the confidence of the entire population.
It is positive to see that developments in a number of countries are moving in the right direction in terms of protecting the rights and equal treatment of queer people.8 Nevertheless, queer people continue to be subjected to stigma, discrimination, violence and arbitrary imprisonment all over the world. In nearly 70 countries, same-sex relations is still a criminal offence, and a number of countries have enacted legislation that prohibits organisations working to promote the human rights of queer people or that restricts freedom of expression concerning same-sex relationships and gender diversity. In humanitarian crises, groups that are already in a vulnerable situation, such as queer people, are particularly vulnerable. Discrimination against queer people is in many places linked to a general worrying deterioration in the situation as regards democracy and the human rights.
Queer people with minority backgrounds and queer people in religious communities
Research shows that belonging to several minorities can pose specific challenges and involve experiences of multiple or double discrimination. The 2020 living conditions survey among queer people shows that transgender people in particular, but also bisexual men and women, experience discrimination on several grounds.9 Queer people from ethnic minority backgrounds can experience discrimination both because of their minority background and because they transgress gender and sexual norms.
Studies show that queer people from ethnic minority backgrounds experience racism, homophobia and prejudice.10 A study on living conditions among queer people from immigrant backgrounds in Norway shows that 22 per cent of the respondents have attempted to take their own life, and that 30 per cent often feel lonely.11 In a report from 2022, conditions at asylum reception centres, in introduction programmes and adult education are highlighted as being particularly challenging for queer refugees.12 The use of interpreters is also considered unsafe.
It is reported that young queer people with a Sámi background in Sápmi experience silence on topics such as sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics. This is seen as being linked to traditional gender roles, heteronormative expectations and the position of Laestadianism in Sápmi. Studies show that it can be difficult to be queer in Sámi communities, but that things have changed for the better, partly as a result of there now being more queer Sámi role models. In addition, Sápmi Pride, which is held annually, has contributed to more visibility and acceptance.13
Research indicates that queer people with disabilities suffer negative attention, bullying and discrimination, and that several of them experience invisibility and loneliness. People with permanent disabilities are more often subjected to hate speech than people without permanent disabilities, regardless of whether the disability is visible.14
Being queer in a religious community can be challenging. This is partly because several religious communities – or individuals or groups in the religious community – do not recognise gender and sexual diversity. The Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs has conducted a small-scale survey which found that conversion therapy occurs in Norway, also in relation to minors. It mainly occurs in religious communities and organisations, and in families.
Transgender people and people with gender incongruence
Attitude surveys show that the Norwegian population is more positive towards queer people today than 15 years ago.15 However there are still negative attitudes towards people who transgress gender and sexual norms. According to a survey from 2022, 12 per cent of the population express negative attitudes towards transgender people.16 At the same time, the 2020 living conditions survey among queer people shows that transgender people are the group of queer people in Norway who are most exposed to discrimination, violence and mental ill-health.17
The same survey shows that one in four transgender people have experienced direct threats of violence, compared to 14 per cent of the cis people who participated in the survey.18 Over the past five years, 40 per cent of transgender people had experienced negative comments in the workplace.
In the living conditions survey, transgender people more frequently reported low life satisfaction, while one in three transgender people reported that they had attempted to take their own life. The extent and quality of health care provision has a major impact on living conditions and quality of life, with health services for people with gender incongruence having long been inadequate.
Queer people in sports
Sport is one of the last gender-divided social arenas. Research shows that breaking with gender and sexual norms can be more difficult in gender-divided settings than in other arenas.19 Only four per cent of gay men report training with a sports team weekly or more often, compared to 16 per cent of lesbians and about ten per cent of bisexual women and men.
Research and studies show that there has traditionally been a narrow view of masculinity in sports, which has reinforced stereotypes and created barriers to coming out as non-heterosexual.20 One in three bisexual men are not open about their sexual orientation in their sports club, and nearly one in five trans women report the same.