Thursday, April 7, 2011

Study Says There Are 9 Million LGBT Americans

Though marketed to heterosexual men, lesbian p... LGBT rights activists have claimed that one in ten people is gay, lesbian or bisexual, ever since sex researcher Alfred Kinsey first published the results of his ground-breaking research that shook the country in 1948. However, a new study, published this week by The Williams Institute, says that the number is actually 3.5%, or 9 million Americans.

The Executive Summary of the study says, "Increasing numbers of population-based surveys in the United States and across the world include questions that allow for an estimate of the size of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) population. This research brief discusses challenges associated with collecting better information about the LGBT community and reviews eleven recent US and international surveys that ask sexual orientation or gender identity questions. The brief concludes with estimates of the size of the LGBT population in the United States."

In other words, researchers studied a wide variety of demographic surveys, including the U.S.Census, that specifically ask how the respondent identifies. They then crunched the numbers to arrive at their results.

Key findings from the research brief are as follows:
  •  An estimated 3.5% of adults in the United States identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual and an estimated 0.3% of adults are transgender.
  • This implies that there are approximately 9 million LGBT Americans, a figure roughly equivalent to the population of New Jersey.
  • Among adults who identify as LGB, 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. Bisexuals comprise more than half of the lesbian and bisexual population among women in eight of the nine surveys considered in the brief. Conversely, gay men comprise substantially more than half of gay and bisexual men in seven of the nine surveys.
  • 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 LGB. 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.
  • Understanding the size of the LGBT population is a critical first step to informing a host of public policy and research topics. The surveys highlighted in this report demonstrate the viability of sexual orientation and gender identity questions on large national population-based surveys. Adding these questions to more national, state, and local data sources is critical to developing research that enables a better understanding of the understudied LGBT community.
The report acknowledges some flaws in it's estimate, such as the lack of a single methodology and inconsistent questions used in each of the surveys. As it relates to LGB's, researchers admit the surveys they studied relied on how people self-identify, which may not be an indicator of actual behavior, which was the primary focus of Kinsey's study.

But when you factor in the other 19 million on the D.L., and another 25 million that admit to having lusted in the locker room, Kinsey's 10% looks a lot more plausible and certainly more straightforward.

The report also addresses the difficulty in identifying transgender Americans, saying, "Defining the transgender population can also be challenging. 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."

I don't know about you, but I'll stick with my Kinsey 6 rating. You can view the entire Williams Institute report here, if you're into that sort of thing.

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