Blog Post

How do LGBT+ people experience life in the capital?

London has the highest proportion of people identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual in the UK. But although many LGBT+ people enjoy living in the capital, a large minority of this group are struggling to lead safe and prosperous lives.

This blog explores some of the experiences of LGBT+ people in London. It is based on our Snapshot of Londoners, a new regular survey of Londoners’ attitudes and behaviours by Centre for London and Savanta. This piece also draws on a survey of LGBT+ people ordered by Government in 2017. While this was the largest ever survey of LGBT+ people conducted in the UK, its sample is self-selecting and this may skew the results.

On the whole, LGBT+ people in London face higher levels of poverty and loneliness than the heterosexual population. They are also more likely to experience harassment or violence for their sexuality or identity than their counterparts outside the capital – showing that London is perhaps less tolerant than it appears to be.

Of course, experiences are extremely varied. There is not just one LGBT+ community in London – differences are shaped by gender identity (being female, non-binary or transgender), and by the other characteristics that LGBT+ people hold – from ethnic, religious or class background.

This blog cannot cover everything, but looks at LGBT+ Londoners’ experiences on a few key themes:

Poverty and prosperity

London’s LGBT+ community looks more polarised than the city as a whole: LGBT+ Londoners are more likely to experience higher levels of both financial comfort and also poverty than the heterosexual population.

Figure 1: To what extent do you agree with the following statements?

Source: Snapshot of Londoners, produced in partnership with Savanta.


Young people, people with a disability and people with lower formal qualifications are also more likely to struggle financially in the capital – so LGBT+ people from these groups are more likely to experience hardship.

This greater experience of poverty, and awareness of economic inequality, could help explain why LGBT+ Londoners were more likely than not to say that London is unfair (one of only two groups to do so, alongside people from mixed-race backgrounds).

The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown have exacerbated income inequalities between groups in precarious employment or rented property, which are more likely to experience a squeeze, and those continuing to work from home, with lower outgoings.

Satisfaction with public services

LGBT+ Londoners were less satisfied with several key aspects of life in the capital than heterosexual Londoners. Fewer LGBT+ people were happy with the parks and public spaces, transport and emergency services in their local area. It may be that fewer LGBT+ people think these public services meets their needs – or could be due to the younger profile of the LGBT+ community in London, who are more reliant on public transport or public spaces, and therefore more aware of where they fall short. These negative perceptions are a real challenge for urbanists and policing teams, two responsibilities of City Hall.

London does perform well in other ways – satisfaction with sexual health services for example, is higher in the capital.

Figure 2: Thinking about the last 12 months, to what extent would you say you are happy or unhappy with the quality of the following public services in your local area?

*includes police, fire brigade and ambulance services

Source: Snapshot of Londoners, produced in partnership with Savanta.


LGBT+ Londoners are not only more aware of city’s inequality – they are also more likely to act on it than their heterosexual peers. LGBT+ people are more likely to have donated money or time in the last week or month (54% v 45%).


London fares similarly or worse than the rest of the country on several indicators of LGBT+ safety, particularly outside the home. LGBT+ Londoners are more likely to “ever avoid holding hands in public for fear of a negative reaction” (73% Londoners v 67% UK), and a similar proportion feel that they cannot always be open about sexual orientation or gender identity. Women and non-binary people are more likely than men to have avoided being open about their sexual orientation.

Avoidance behaviours are unfortunately grounded in experience. 41% of LGBT+ Londoners have experienced verbal or physical violence, or threats of such violence, in the past year – an even higher figure than the 36% in the rest of the UK. Among transgender Londoners, 69% have experienced violence or threats of violence is the past year – which again is higher in London than in the rest of the country (56%). The experience of LGBT+ people in the workplace is more positive, but also shows how far attitudes still need to change – for example, after, reporting abusive behaviour, 40% of transgender people said this behaviour did not stop.

With London often considered a refuge for LGBT+ people, some may be surprised to see that the majority of LGBT+ people do fear for their safety at least some of the time. While London does offer spaces where LGBT+ people can be themselves, LGBT+ Londoners are exposed to a wider range of experiences, both positive and negative. As such, London may not be a more hostile place to be LGBT+ compared to the rest of the country, but with higher poverty rates in the capital, more LGBT+ people are experiencing the tough end of life.


56% of LGBT+ Londoners feel the city is welcoming to people like them, a figure close to that for the rest of the population. 63% of LGBT+ Londoners say it is comfortable being LGBT+ in UK – compared to 55% in the rest of the country. But this figure falls to 41% for transgender people, which is as low as in the rest of the country.

LGBT+ people are also facing higher rates of social isolation. The capital may (usually) have a thriving social scene, but LGBT+ Londoners are twice as likely to often feel lonely as heterosexual Londoners (15% v 8%). And 36% of LGBT+ Londoners say they do not have anyone to rely on in case of an emergency, compared to 24% for the heterosexual population.

The year ahead

Given their reported experiences, it won’t come as a surprise that LGBT+ Londoners are less likely to hold a rose-tinted view for the year ahead. They are less optimistic about their personal finances, their health and their family situation than heterosexual Londoners. They are also less likely to say that they will be in London in 12 months’ time (80% v 65%).

Figure 3: Looking forward to the next twelve months, would you say you are optimistic, neutral or pessimistic about the following areas?

Source: Snapshot of Londoners, produced in partnership with Savanta.


The UK may be one of the “best countries for LGBT+ rights”, and a majority of members of the LGBT+ community are happy with their life in the capital. But a large minority of LGBT+ people are routinely exposed to poverty, hate or both. While there is progress worth celebrating, London will need to work hard to meet some of the basic rights and expectations of its LGBT+ population. And with only £4.5m of government funding allocated to implement the last national LGBT action plan, there is a lot of room for improvement.



Nicolas Bosetti is Research Manager at Centre for London. Follow him on Twitter.