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Friday, April 8, 2011

How Many Queers, Did You Say?

Which of these men represents the gay 1.7 percent of the population of Dallas?

Okay guys, there's lots of loose chatter going on about the new report from the Williams Institute on the number of LGBT Americans.  And much of the chatter is being slung around by people who have never read the frickin' report.

Don't you be that dumb.  Here is a link to the 6-page PDF report itself, which contains lots of stats and charts.  Read it for yourself, bro - don't let other people tell you what it says.

And here's the institute's own summary of its findings:
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.
Also important to note:

  • This is a survey of surveys, so to speak.  It's not a direct count.  It's a statistical best-guess of how many adults fall on this side of the rainbow - like so many other estimates in this world, it's playing with numbers, on a very high level of math - but not a direct count.  And the numbers given above totally ignore the thought that people under 18 also have an innate sexuality - as if nobody is "born that way," ya know?
  • A lot of news stories on this topic are making reference to the Kinsey Report of 1948, which allegedly said that 10 perecent of men were homosexual.  But that's not what Kinsey said.  Read up on that too, and be informed.
  • The Williams Institute is not a right-wing think tank, as some ignorant commenters have said.  It's part of the UCLA School of Law, and has published many, many reports on LGBT people.   For example, at the bottom of their homepage, you can find a clickable map with detailed demographics on gay couples in all 50 states, along with many other interesting reports.

And finally, I'll say this:  your Head Trucker is no mathematician, but some 15 years ago when I was living in a small city back east, I did a thought experiment - considering that the maximum number of guys who showed up at the bar on a big night probably represented only one out of ten or twenty gay men in the area, divide that number by the adult population - which gave me a figure of 2 or 3 percent gay.  Of course, that doesn't take into account closeted guys and all the other flavors of the rainbow. 

But it does explain why gay society is like a small town everywhere you go.  Even in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the country at 6.3 million, bigger than Connecticut and Rhode Island combined - yet in the gay community, you always find people who know somebody you know.  So we're not that big a chunk of the population.   (Pity.)

Bottom line:  When you consider all the pyschological and social complexities of fear and loathing, married bisexuals and closeted singles, transthis and transthat, late bloomers and liars and simple souls who really haven't a clue - nobody but God knows exactly how many gays there are in the world.   But before you get into a discussion on this point, at least be up to date on the facts.  I've made it easy for you here, so you got no excuse now, fellas.


Frank said...

Thanks for summing it up for us, Russ. We're all just so spread out. That's why going to PTown or a gay campground or a gay cruise is so liberating.

Let's see, if we all joined the Republican Party as infiltrators...no, I guess that wouldn't work.

Frank said...

What struck me in the various studies was the wide variance in the statistics, especially from studies done in different countries/cultures. Perhaps a combination of differences in questions, language and culture contributed to disparate results. Very interesting, nonetheless.

Russ Manley said...

Yes, well the problem with all these numbers is that they change from place to place and time to time, depending on what you ask and how you ask it. And every survey comes up with a different freakin' number! Which is not surprising,given that we are *still* dealing with "the love that dare not speak its name" in so many locales. As witness all the "It Gets Better" videos lately.

Cf. "Demographics of sexual orientation" in Wikipedia for more results from around the world. In the UK just a few years ago, the official government estimate was 6%; now down to 1.5%. That's a lot of ex-gays who suddenly got a yen for, um, fish, ya know?

Also - some macho closeted guys like to screw with other guys but they totally don't like the label gay. Wimps.

Plus - somebody needs to question the underlying assumption behind all of these surveys, i.e., that everyone who doesn't check "gay" or "bi" is by default totally and irrevocably straight. But supposing you surveyed all the people who checked "straight" - would 100% of them claim never to have had sex or felt romantic with/about the same sex, hmm?

Which raises the question of, what exactly does "gay" mean anyhow? I wonder. Oh but can we all just get along here, and get over all the crap? It's the 21st century already, for chrissake.

DeepBlue said...

Great post. Thank you.

I wonder though the reason of all this. I'm not saying that such studies aren't important. But would they exists if homosexuality was TOTALLY accepted by every country. I mean... If there were only ONE gay men in the whole world, wouldn't he have the right to be so!

I aggree with you! I also wish we could just get along...
I'm gay, now let's move on!
But I'm just dreaming.

M. Pierre said...

well all statatistics aside, talk about a small gay world. where did you get that pic from. im pretty sure i was there that night watching the competition. i know those guys,all the guys in the pic are gay.

Russ Manley said...

Deep Blue - glad you like, pardner.

M.P. - I found the pic on a Dallas blog somewhere, I'm guessing it was taken at the Roundup, ya think?

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