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!!!!!!!! Search error!  If the URL ends something like .htm/  or .htm# delete the character(s) after .htm and hit return.

Homosexuality and bisexuality

Part 1: Attempts to estimate the percentage
of North American gay, lesbian, & bisexual adults.

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Note:

Unfortunately, many sexual terms are used by therapists and sexual researchers
in a scientific sense, and by some faith groups as a pejorative term -- as "snarl"
words to denigrate sexual minorities. The term "homosexual" is one example. We
use the term throughout this web site in its scientific/human sexuality/medical sense.

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This is a continuation of a related topic: why accurate estimates are not available

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Estimates of the percentage of adults who are gay or lesbian:

Estimates vary over almost a 20 to 1 range!

  • 1948: Alfred C, Kinsey published a book -- presumably the first of the Kinsey Reports: "Sexual Behavior in the Human Male." According to Factbrowser.com, Kinsey wrote:

    "10 percent of the males are more or less exclusively homosexual for at least three years between the ages of 16 and 55, but that only four percent were exclusively homosexual throughout their lives, after the onset of adolescence."

    It appears that several gay-positive groups zeroed in on the 10 percent figure and used it widely in their publications starting in the 1960's. The number is still occasionally heard today. For example, a leading LGB clothing, calendar, and greeting card store on the Internet has the URL www.10percent.com

  • 2002-AUG: Gallup® conducted a poll among U.S. adults to determine their estimates of the percentage of lesbians and gays in the U.S. population. They believed, on average, that:
    • 21.4% of male adults were gay.
    • 22.0% of female adults were lesbian. 1

Gallup and other polling agencies often ask somewhat ambiguous questions on topics related to religion, morality and human sexuality. This survey, and a similar one in 2011 show this. In 2002, half of the persons sampled were asked: "Just your best guess, what percentage of men in the United States today would you say are homosexual or gay?. The other half were asked for the percentage of women who are "homosexual or lesbian." The question might be interpreted by the subjects in various ways, as:

  1. What percentage of adults have a sexual attraction only to persons of the same gender.

  2. What percentage meet criteria #1 and have acted on it at least once in their life.

  3. What percentage meet criteria #1 and have acted on it over a sustained interval in their life.

  4. What percentage meet criteria #1 and are currently sexually active with persons of the same gender.

  5. What percentage meet criteria # 1, 2, 3, or 4 and also have an attraction to persons of the opposite gender as well. That is, they are bisexual.

  6. What percentage meet criteria # 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 and openly express their sexual orientation.

There are undoubtedly other interpretations as well. Thus the precise meaning of the survey's results is unclear.

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  • 2004/2005: The National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions found that 0.7% of adults identified as bisexual and 1.0% identified as gay or lesbian. 2

  • 2006/2008: The National Survey of Family Growth found that 2.3% of adults identified themselves as bisexual while 1.4% identified as gay or lesbian. 2

  • 2008: The General Social Survey found that 1.1% of adults identified as bisexual, and 1.7% as lesbian or gay. 2

  • 2009: The California Health Interview Survey found that 1.4% of adults identified as bisexual and 1.8% as gay. 2

  • 2009: The National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior found that 3.1% of adults identified as bisexual and 2.5% as lesbian or gay, for a LGB total of 5.6%. 2 These values are significantly higher than other surveys. The conditions under which the survey was taken may have encouraged the subjects to divulge their actual sexual orientation. If this is true, then it may well be that these values are a better estimate of national figures, and that the values found by other surveys were low because of the subjects' very reasonable fear of disclosure. Animus, homophobia, and hatred towards sexual minorities was common in 2009 and remains so today.

  • 2011-APR: Gary J. Gates is a "demographer who studies the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community." He is the Williams Distinguished Scholar at The Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law. He is is working with the Census Bureau to improve its techniques for counting the LGBT community. 3 Referring back to Kinsey's 1948 book, he reported in the Washington Post:

    "I’ve been asked how many LGBT people there are more often than I can count. Politics may still play a role in why the answer is critically important, but there certainly is no longer a need to prove that gay people exist. Today, quantifying the population is about documenting how LGBT people live their lives. How many marry? How often do they have children? How many are serving in the military? How often do they experience discrimination?

    These facts matter because legislatures, courts and voters across the country are debating how LGBT people should live their lives. All parties deserve to be informed by fresh research, not a six-decade-old study. We should be able to search the standard places where scholars and policy advocates go for information about the health and well-being of Americans — all Americans. ... But searching these sources for information about LGBT people would be largely futile. None ask questions about sexual orientation or gender identity.*

    I recently reviewed findings from 11 large surveys conducted since 2004, seven in the United States and four internationally. Averaging across the U.S.-based surveys, I found that nearly 9 million Americans (3.8 percent of adults) self-identify as LGBT. That’s equivalent to the population of New Jersey." 4

    * A person's gender identity is the gender that they perceive themselves to be. For the vast majority of persons this matches the gender they were assigned at birth and the genetic gender implied by the sex chromosomes in every cell of their body. But a person with gender dysphoria -- a transgender person -- has a conflict between their perceived gender and their assigned/genetic gender.

Gates further estimates that of the 3.8% of adults who identify as LGBT, 1.8% are bisexual, 1.7% are gay or lesbian, and only 0.3% are transgender or transsexual. He also found that "8.2% [of the American adult population] have engaged in same-sex sexual behavior and 11% report same-sex attraction." 2,3

Ramon Johnson, writing for About.com commented about "Why is this number an estimate?:"

The number of LGBT persons in the U.S. is subjective. Studies pointing to the statistics are estimates at best. The most widely accepted statistic is that 1 in ever 10 individuals is LGBT; however some research estimates 1 in 20. Of course, this all depends on one's definition of gay (which may vary by study) and the participants willingness to identify as gay, bi, lesbian or transgender. 5

  • 2012-JUN: Forum Research Inc. is a Canadian firm. On 2012-JUN-28, they released the results of a poll on same-sex marriage in Canada and other topics related to the LGBT community. They employed an interactive voice response system (IVR) in which the respondents reply by pushing the numbers on a touch-tone telephone. The system doesn't know their name, only their telephone number. The polling agency was a private company, not the government. These factors might have reduced the reluctance that the respondents felt talking about their own sexual orientation. One of the questions asked was:

    "Are you lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered? [sic] 6 If you prefer not to answer, let us know."

    Those who didn't answer were not included in the results.

They found that 5.3% of the respondents identified as from the LGBT community. Since the number of transgender persons is known to be very small, the 5.3% value would be made up of essentially all lesbians, gay and bisexual. 7

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The estimate that we use:

On this web site, we accept Gate's 3.8% figure as the approximate number of North American adults who admit that they are gay, lesbians or bisexual. However, we use 5% as our best estimate of reality. We feel that substantial numbers of sexual minorities are still reluctant to reveal their sexual identities openly, particularly to pollsters who are strangers.

There are many reasons why LGBTs prefer to remain at least partly "in the closet." In many areas of North America, employers can fire employees for merely being perceived as being lesbian or gay. Discrimination against sexual minorities remains widespread, On the order of 40% of the LGBT community are victims of physical attacks during their lifetime that are motivated by their sexual orientation. The general wisdom is that about 25% of LGBT youth who come out to their parents suddenly find themselves ejected from their home, having been kicked to the curb.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

These information sources were used to prepare & update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Lymari Morales, "U.S. Adults Estimate That 25% of Americans Are Gay or Lesbian," Gallup, 2011-MAY-27, at: http://www.gallup.com
  2. Gary J. Gates, "How many people are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender," The Williams Institute, 2011-APR, at: http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/  This is a PDF file.
  3. "2011 Williams Institute research in review: U.S. Census & LGBT Demographics," The Williams Institute, 2011, at: http://gaylife.about.com/
  4. Gary J. Gates, "Gay people count, so why not count them correctly," Washington Post, 2011-APR-08, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  5. Ramon Johnson, "Gay population statistics: How many gay people are there>" About.com, 2012, at: http://gaylife.about.com
  6. The preferential term has been "transgender" in recent years.
  7. "One twentieth of Canadians claim to be LGBT," News Release, Forum Research, 2012-JUN-28 at http://www.forumresearch.com

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How you got here:

Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality> Basic info >here

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Copyright © 2012 & 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance 
Originally written: 2012-JUN-08
Latest update: 2013-JUN-16
Author: B.A. Robinson

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