In This Series:
How many lesbian- and gay-identified people live in America?
A Gallup poll  showed that when Americans were asked that question, their responses averaged out to 25 percent.
The results of the poll show that “over half of all Americans estimate that at least one in five Americans are gay or lesbian, including 35 percent who estimated that one in four are.”
Only 4 of the people questioned gave the answer “less than 5 percent” – which means 96 percent of the people questioned got it wrong.
In fact, most current studies show that the number of gay- and lesbian-identified people is somewhere between 1 percent and 3 percent of the population. Adding in those who identify as bisexual or transgender might bump that number up to 4-5 percent.
How could so many people be so far off in their estimates?
The Ten-Percent Myth
Let’s backtrack a little, to speculate about where this number could’ve come from. For years, the standard reply was “10 percent.” This number came from a mis-reading of data from Alfred Kinsey’s 1948 study. The entire study itself was seriously compromised by:
* The inclusion of a large number of sex offenders, prostitutes, prisoners and college students;
* Questioner bias (“We always assume that everyone has engaged in every type of activity”);
* “Volunteer bias” (those who volunteered for sexual surveys in the 40’s might be more than a little eager to share their proclivities); and
* The agenda of the author to normalize any and all sexual behaviors.1
So ten percent was the number named and promoted and chanted for years — from Virginia Uribe’s “Project 10” to Kevin Jennings’ book, One Teacher in Ten, to protesters at an Exodus conference who shouted, “Ten Percent is not enough! Recruit! Recruit!” That number, like any other spurious statistic repeated often enough, took on a life of its own and became “settled fact.” Despite no real evidence to support it, despite the fact that Kinsey’s report never said that 10 percent of the population was homosexual, and despite the fact his research was statistically inaccurate and methodologically compromised, the myth of 10 percent continued.
Sometimes activists used the 10 percent number even though they knew it was false. Newsweek wrote the following in 1993:
“Some gay activists now concede that they exploited the Kinsey estimate for its tactical value, not its accuracy. ‘We used that figure when most gay people were entirely hidden to try to create an impression of our numerousness,’ says Tom Stoddard, former head of the Lambda Legal Defense Fund.2″
How Did We Get From “10 Percent” to “25 Percent”?
How is it that, when asked what percent of Americans are gay or lesbian, the answers given averaged 25 percent? This is where we enter the realm of uncertainty, so let me put forth a few ideas. It could be that Americans are just really bad at math. This may be true, but it doesn’t explain why 96 percent of people over-estimated the numbers of gays or lesbians. So here are a couple other ideas.
I think the reason most people overestimate their numbers are because gay- and lesbian-identified people have done a terrific job of promoting their agenda over the past 40 years. This group is highly visible and wields much influence. Here’s just a short rundown of some of the elements in this:
* The lesbian-, gay-, bisexual-, and transgender-identified (LGBT) community has a number of simple, colorful and easily recognized symbols that are commonly seen — the pink triangle, the rainbow flag, the equal sign, red ribbons for HIV/AIDS.
* LGBT-identified folks are known for big celebrations, lavish fundraisers, and numerous parades: “Gay Pride” events, LGBT film festivals and “circuit parties” now cover the entire calendar — from January to December — and occur in cities and countries around the globe, from Mauritius to Bulgaria, from Estonia to Brazil.
* LGBT “holidays” have been proclaimed all through the calendar: Ally Week, Celebrate Bisexuality Day, Day of Silence, International Day against Homophobia, Pride month, LGBT History Month, Transgender Day of Remembrance … and the list continues to grow and to be celebrated, often accompanied by presidential, state and local proclamations and endorsements.
* Thousands of LGBT groups and organizations have been formed: Gay-straight alliances in local schools, local pride centers, legal groups, political advocacy groups, parents’ groups, health organizations, think tanks, foundations, churches, groups within churches, choirs — and much more.
* Hollywood and Broadway have gladly jumped on the gay bandwagon, with television, movies and theatre increasing the number of LGBT characters and themes. Indeed, an actor who portrays a gay or lesbian — especially one who dies, goes to prison, or is mentally or physically disabled — is showered with kudos and celebrated for “being brave” and “pushing the envelope.”
* The academic world has jumped in, creating “queer studies” and “gender studies” departments in universities; the American Library Association gives prizes for LGBT literature; and the push is on educators to teach more LGBT history, to use LGBT examples and literature at all grade levels and to teach that gender is fluid and is a social construct, while sexual orientation is fixed and unchangeable.
* Political and lobbying groups have spent millions lobbying and campaigning for federal, state and local ordinances and candidates, and these groups have worked to place judges and government appointments at all levels; where voting has failed, lawsuits by LGBT legal groups have done a lot to change our culture.
* Most of the main-stream media caters to the LGBT agenda and adopts their language — anyone that disagrees with this agenda is “homophobic,” “anti-gay,” or “bigoted.” In addition to creating their own news outlets, newspapers and magazines, LGBT-identified people are highlighted and catered to in all kinds of general publications, from Architectural Digest to People magazine.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. It’s pretty easy to see why many Americans think that 25 percent or more of the population is gay or lesbian: “If there were only 10 percent some years ago, surely that number has increased!” “Look how prominent and visible they are!” Indeed, this small group of people has wide-spread influence and power, and has been masterful at promoting their social and political agenda. Far from being a poor, oppressed, downtrodden minority, they and their allies have dramatically changed the American culture over the past 50 years.
So, What’s The Real Answer?
The real answer is nobody knows the exact number; in part because sexual behavior, attractions and identity are fluid and sometimes change over time. But a wide variety of studies suggests the number of men and women who self-identify as gay or lesbian is somewhere between 1 and 3 percent of the population. This is a far cry from the over-guesstimate in the recent Gallup poll. Here are a few different surveys:
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a study on the sexual attraction, behavior and identity among those between the ages of 15 and 44 years.2 While higher numbers reported having ever had same-sex attractions and behaviors, in surveys from 2006-2008, 1.1 percent of the women identified as homosexual, gay, or lesbian, while 3.5 percent identified as bisexual. Of the men surveyed, 1.7 percent identified as homosexual or gay, while 1.1 percent identified as bisexual.
The same study compares its results with other studies, including the General Social Survey, which surveyed those 18 years and older, in 2004 and 2008. This study found that 1.8 percent of women identified as homosexual and 1.5 percent as bisexual. For men, 1.5 percent identified as homosexual and 0.7 percent as bisexual.
The National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, surveying those from 14-94 years old, in 2009, showed 0.9 percent of women self-identifying as homosexual, with 3.6 percent identifying as bisexual, while 4.2 percent of men self-identified as homosexual, with 2.6 percent identifying as bisexual.
Gary Gates, from the Williams Institute, an LGBT think tank, averaged five different US studies together and suggests that lesbian, gay and bisexual men and women make up 3.5 percent of the population, with 1.1 percent of woman and 2.2 percent of men self-identifying as lesbian or gay.3
The same report cites other studies from Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and Norway, as shown below, respectively:
* Adults self-identifying as lesbian or gay: 1.1 percent, 0.9 percent, 1.0 percent, and 0.7 percent
* Adults self-identifying as bisexual: 0.8 percent, 1.2 percent, 0.5 percent, and 0.5 percent
* It would be safe to say that self-identified gays and lesbians make up about 1-3 percent of the U.S population.
Small Numbers, Lots of Influence
Amazingly, this small percentage of Americans has created an over-sized image far larger than its numbers. This small group — along with their allies — also drives the agenda to redefine marriage and family, to transform our views of sex and sexuality and to overturn deeply important theological views.
1 Dr. Judith Reisman and Eward W. Eichel, Kinsey, Sex and Fraud: The Indoctrination of a People, (Lafayette, LA: Huntington House Publishers, 1990), see pp. 1-82 for a thorough critique of the Kinsey study.
2 Patrick Rogers, “How many gays are there,” Newsweek, 15 February 1993, p. 46.
3Chandra A, Mosher WD, Copen C, Sionean C., “Sexual behavior, sexual attraction, and sexual identity in the United States: Data from the 2006–2008 National Survey of Family Growth,” National health statistics reports; no 36 ( Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, 2011). <http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/press/press-releases/new-research-answers-question-how-many-lgbt-people-are-there-in-the-united-states/>
4 Gary J. Gates, “How many people are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender?” The Williams Institute, April, 2011. <http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/press/press-releases/new-research-answers-question-how-many-lgbt-people-are-there-in-the-united-states/>