The Williams Institute, a think-tank devoted to LGBT research at UCLA did a recent study that found that an estimated 9 million Americans identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. That’s 4% of the entire American population. 1.8% of that 4 make up the bisexual chunk. It was also found that the bisexual identification is classified more in women than in men. This is the most up-to-date report of the population which actually test lower than than a percentage that is mostly commonly used by many LGBT groups done in 1948. That study found that 10% of the American population identified as LGBT.
What’s really interesting is that this study comes on the heels of another report published by the Institute of Medicine that emphasizes the need for more federal funding to research LGBT health problems. “Sexual orientation is complex, but measurable,” said Gary J. Gates, chief researcher and a Williams Distinguished Scholar. “Hopefully, this will begin to prompt some dialogue on what it means when we say LGBT.”
Did you know that 19 million Americans (8.2 percent of the population) said they had engaged in same-sex behavior, and 25.6 million (11%) acknowledged same-sex attraction. Many gay advocacy groups are saying the report is a critical first step to inform public policy, research and federal funding, crucial in identifying health and economic disparities, discrimination, domestic partnership benefits and the impact of same-sex marriage.
Gates says the lower number compared to the previous 10% assumption does not surprise him. However, he thinks it may surprise the general population. The 10% number was kind of smart. Big enough to make an impact but not so big that it was threatening to the people within the population who are uncomfortable with it. What the study doesn’t account for is the portion of the population that may be in the closet who secretly does identify as LGB. “We actually did commission data within the survey and asked about to what degree they were closeted,” Gates said, “and 13 percent who identified as LGB had never told anyone about it.”
“Many are still quite discreet about their sexual orientation,” he said. “If you ask people in the bisexual population, they will tell you it’s a different kind of a stigma they experience. Some don’t feel completely at home in the LG community because they often think of them as being way too gay and hold them with a level of suspicion. And in general, they are subject to the general stigma of same-sex behavior.”
The American Census does not account for how many Americans identify as LGBT but this next round will account for same-sex spouses. However, Richard Socarides, president of the gay advocacy group Equality Matters, thinks that the census should be tracking LGBT Americans. “They still won’t do it, and now they are counting same-sex couples who live together, but that’s not counting,” he said. “Just as the census does a survey of race and ethnicity, they ought to do sexual orientation.”
In a time where the country is making very important decisions for LGBT Americans, isn’t it important that those in power really know how many people they are dealing with and where we are populated? Now that being gay isn’t as highly frowned upon anymore, I think we will slowly begin to see more studies and surveys done to “count the gays” in America.