Gay Demographics: More Than Just The Sum Of Their Parts


The story below about the Anoka-Hennepin School District showed how lawsuits can pave for the way for positive change, and that includes, potentially, the marriage equality suits the Supreme Court will soon hear, debate and weigh in on, and when they do, they’ll consider a number of demographic breakdowns and analyses.

Finally! The slowly growing statistics on LGBT Americans are being put to good use. From the Washington Post:

About one in five gay and lesbian couples is raising children under age 18. One in 10 men with a male partner or spouse is a military veteran. As many as 6 million Americans, roughly 2 percent of the population, have a parent who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).

These nuggets of demographic insight into same-sex couples were contained in an amicus brief filed in connection with cases before the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of California’s gay marriage ban and the Defense of Marriage Act.

A decade ago, such precise statistics were impossible to come by. Even now, many of the numbers commonly used to shape government policies are, for gays and lesbians, nonexistent.

But as gays become more visible in politics, demographic research into lesbians and gays is emerging from the shadows. Some gay advocates say it’s time for surveys to ask people their sexual orientation point-blank.

This comes as the NFL finds itself scrutinized for asking recruits about their personal lives, a development that moves that age-old debate about private lives and the power/importance of coming out onto a whole new playing field.

(Above, Gallup’s breakdown of LGBT populations across the United States.)


  1. Alan E. says

    The Williams Institute submitted a brief full of statistics. They even cited Nate Silver for part of it. It’s also the only brief I know that used graphs and charts.

  2. candideinnc says

    It will be many years before LGBT feel comfortable answering about their sexuality on censuses. These figures are most inaccurate in the states with the greatest discrimination. Gays in Idaho and Alabama just aren’t going to come out to strangers when they can’t come out to family. I can’t help but believe these statistics are unreliable and underreport our numbers.

  3. MikeMB says

    I’m going to guess that South Dakota’s results come from a small sample size and is a statistical anomaly. The state has no major population centre (like, Omaha) and isn’t demographically much different than North Dakota.

  4. BABH says

    MikeMB: Gay people in sparsely populated areas tend to move to gay enclaves where they are more likely to find partners. I don’t know, but it may be that North Dakotan gays tend to move to Rapid City, or something.

  5. Daniel says

    I’m surprised that Pennsylvania is so much lower than other states in the region, especially Ohio and Michigan. As a native Pennsylvanian (and gay man), I would much rather live in Philly or Pittsburgh than Cleveland or Detroit.

  6. ble.d_out.color says

    I agree with CANDIDIEINNYC.

    I also don’t buy the statistics that say gays are less than 5% of the total population. 8 still go with the ten percent from the I itial kinsey report. Maybe less than five per cent is out, but there are way more queerest than the rethugs want to let on that is for sure.

  7. andrew says

    The stats drastically underestimate the number of LGBT people in the country. Many many LGBT folks are reluctant to tell pollsters about their sexual orientation.

  8. Acronym Jim says

    The stats in the graph above only reflect those polled who OPENLY IDENTIFY as LGBT. Add those who are closeted and the percentage can only go up.

  9. MikeMB says

    @Babh: Fargo-Moorhead has a population of over 200,000. Rapid City has 70,000 people. Metro Sioux Falls is just a shade larger than Farg-Moorhead. I’m pretty sure that Mpls-St Paul is a much bigger draw for North Dakota gays. Otherwise, I agree with your post.

  10. GregV says

    It’s a ridiculous understatement yo say that “as many as”…”roughly” 2% of Americans have a parent who is gay, bi or trans.
    The number of people with transgendered parents is probably so tiny that it would not affect the rounded percentage cited, and the number of people with one parent who is gay or, most especially, bisexual and married to a different-sex partner is no doubt so huge that if it were even countable it would multiply that cited percentage exponentially.
    Most people in that latter category would, without any doubt, not subject their families to potential discrimination by self-identifying to a random stranger doing a poll.

  11. jamal49 says

    What this shows is Kinsey was probably conservative in his estimate that at least 10% of the male population of the United States is homosexual. The conservatives did a study in the 1990s to refute Kinsey’s research and concluded that only 2%-3% of the male population of the U.S. is homosexual and therefore, we should not be considered of any account politically or socially. The conservative study also concluded that sexual orientation is a choice and such orientation can be changed. This demographic map gives statistical truth to the fact that we are everywhere.

  12. Ted B. (Charging Rhino) says

    Having lived in Pennsylvania, it’s better to move to NYC, Northern NJ or even Baltimore or DC than Philadelphia. The famous description of Pennsylvania is Philly and Pittsburgh at each-end and rural-Alabama at it’s red-neck worst in the middle.

    While Pittsburgh and it’s suburbs have limited gay-rights; once you step foot outside of the city-limits of Philly into it’s suburban counties they can all-but burn you at the stake and no-one will do anything about it legally.

    And other than colleges, universities and hospitals there’s not much left of any industries or professional employers there today. Once you get your degree, you move away as fast as you can re-locate. At-least across the Delaware River in NJ gay-rights are state-wide…not just Allegheny (Pittsburgh) and Philadelphia counties.

    Lots of guys I knew when I lived in Philadelphia have moved to DC, Northern Virginia, or Boston if you don’t mind snow.

  13. andrew says

    @ Ted B: I have lived most of my adult life in Philly and have gay relatives and friends who live in a couple of the surrounding five counties and none of them have been all-but burned at the stake. In fact they are living quite successful and pleasant lives. You have painted a very false picture.

  14. ikhneumon says

    Why the hand-wringing over LGBT people being underrepresented in the demographic stats? Yes, due largely to the phenomenon of the closet, it’s probably safe to assume that this represents a very conservative estimate, and that further research is needed. But even that conservative number puts the LGBT population at a size comparable to the Asian and Jewish populations of the U.S., and significantly greater than followers of the Mormon, Buddhist, Muslim, or Hindu faiths! Are we really so insecure that we think a showing of anything less than Kinsey’s 10% will somehow invalidate our moral and legal claim to equal rights and respect?

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