A Williams Institute report released in conjunction with the UCLA School of Law on Thursday points to 3.5 percent of American adults identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual, while an estimated 0.3 percent would identify as transgender. The report estimates there are 9 million people who identify as LGBT in the United States.
Drawing on information from four recent national and two state-level population-based surveys, the analyses suggest that there are more than 8 million adults in the US who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual, comprising 3.5% of the adult population. There are also nearly 700,000 transgender individuals in the US. In total, the study suggests that approximately 9 million Americans – roughly the population of New Jersey – identify as LGBT. Key findings from the study include among adults who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, bisexuals comprise a slight majority (1.8% compared to 1.7% who identify as lesbian or gay); women are substantially more likely than men to identify as bisexual; estimates of those who report any lifetime same-sex sexual behavior and any same-sex sexual attraction are substantially higher than estimates of those who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. An estimated 19 million Americans (8.2%) report that they have engaged in same-sex sexual behavior and nearly 25.6 million Americans (11%) acknowledge at least some same-sex sexual attraction.
As noted above, the demographer Gary Gates gathered estimates by averaging the results of surveys conducted in the United States between 2004 and 2009.
In a telephone interview with the Washington Post Gates said that concrete numbers are hard to come by, but emphasized that the numbers do matter because they begin to show us in more concrete terms a population that has so far remained largely invisible where national statistics are concerned.
The Post article demonstrates what Gates admits is a limitation of the report: that it relies on data where people have defined their own identity to pollsters. This is problematic given there is still a stigma attached to LGBT identity that may prevent respondents telling the truth:
In Maryland, the Gates numbers were seized upon by advocates and opponents of efforts to legalize same-sex marriage.
Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr. (R-Anne Arundel) noted that the number was considerably smaller than estimates made by advocates of same-sex marriage.
“Delegates in Maryland heard from their constituents,” he said. “That’s why same-sex marriage failed this year. Until there’s a wide acceptance of it across the state of Maryland, I don’t think those bills are going to be successful.”
Officials with Equality Maryland, which has lobbied hard for same-sex marriage to be legalized in the state, cited previous studies estimating that Maryland’s gay community has 178,000 people, including 15,000 couples.
“Because folks are self-identified, the number is probably always a little lower than expected,” said Linsey Pecikonis, a spokeswoman for the group. “But I think having 9 million Americans be members of the LGBT community, that’s a fairly significant community.”
Gates argues that more national surveys should include questions on LGBT identity even on subjects that would seem largely unrelated. This is because, as Gates points out, there exists little national data on LGBTs due to institutionalized homophobia that has narrowly defined sexual orientation and gender identity as purely matters relating to health and sex. This means LGBTs remain a relatively unknown and underrepresented population in terms of family life, child-rearing and other habits.
The report also specifically notes a difficulty in assessing the transgender community in this regard, saying: “Definitions of who may be considered part of the transgender community include aspects of both gender identities and varying forms of gender expression or non-conformity. Similar to sexual orientation, one way to measure the transgender community is to simply consider self-identity. Measures of identity could include consideration of terms like transgender, queer, or genderqueer. The latter two identities are used by some to capture aspects of both sexual orientation and gender identity.”
This report notes that only with wider and far-reaching research can a more accurate picture be built.
You can read the full study at the Williams Institute website by clicking here.
Earlier this week saw the release of a groundbreaking study into LGBT-elder care and the problems and fears that LGBT older adults face when considering long term care. For more information on this, click here.
Image taken from the report under fair use terms, no infringement intended.