How Many Gay Men Are There in America?

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The answer to the above question has always been difficult to pin down with an exact number or percentage, especially with the closet still having such a negative impact on LGBT visibility in many parts of the nation. Historical estimates have ranged from as low as 2 percent of the population to as high as 10 percent.

Hoping to find a more concrete answer, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz with The New York Times analyzed surveys, social network info, pornographic searches and dating site date to arrive at the following conclusion:

At least 5 percent of American men, I estimate, are predominantly attracted to men, and millions of gay men still live, to some degree, in the closet. Gay men are half as likely as straight men to acknowledge their sexuality on social networks. More than one quarter of gay men hide their sexuality from anonymous surveys. The evidence also suggests that a large number of gay men are married to women.

Stephens-Davidowitz also looked at anonymous, aggregate data from Google related to searches using the terms "gay porn" or "Rocket Tube," a popular gay adult site, to see if the gay population might be more concentrated in states that were more tolerant of homosexuality:

While tolerant states have a slightly higher percentage of these searches, roughly 5 percent of pornographic searches are looking for depictions of gay men in all states. This again suggests that there are just about as many gay men in less tolerant states as there are anywhere else.

Since less tolerant states have similar percentages of gay men but far fewer openly gay men, there is a clear relationship between tolerance and openness. My preliminary research indicates that for every 20 percentage points of support for gay marriage about one-and-a-half as many men from that state will identify openly as gay on Facebook.

Another interesting piece of evidence that gay men in intolerant states are deep in the closet can be found by looking at the Google searches of married women:

It turns out that wives suspect their husbands of being gay rather frequently. In the United States, of all Google searches that begin "Is my husband..." the most common word to follow is "gay." "Gay" is 10 percent more common in such searches than the second-place word, "cheating." It is 8 times more common than "an alcoholic" and 10 times more common than "depressed." 

Searches questioning a husband's sexuality are far more common in the least tolerant states. The states with the highest percentage of women asking this question are South Carolina and Louisiana. In fact, in 21 of the 25 states where this question is most frequently asked, support for gay marriage is lower than the national average. 

To read the article in full, click HERE

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  1. "...with the closet still having such a negative impact on LGBT visibility in many parts of the nation..."

    How about simply a big impact? Why negative?

    Having been on both sides of the closet door as an adult, I don't think my being closeted was negative or positive. It was neutral.

    However, when I came out it actually had a negative impact on MY LIFE to a large extent. I lost jobs, friends, clients, even my place to live... so one can see why so many are still in there. It's not easy as many of us know, but there's no reason to paint being in the closet as a negative place.

    For many, it's a very safe place in a very unforgiving world. I am not a fan of "everyone should be out of the closet" types of thinking. For many it would quite challenging and even dangerous.

    Posted by: johnny | Dec 9, 2013 3:00:14 PM

  2. Johnny how many closeted republican cocks have you sucked today?

    Posted by: litper | Dec 9, 2013 3:06:24 PM

  3. Johnny - nobody loses friends when they come out. People they thought were friends, perhaps.

    Posted by: ScottCA | Dec 9, 2013 3:19:24 PM

  4. Pretty much a different colored electoral map

    Posted by: Bubba | Dec 9, 2013 3:19:53 PM

  5. Although I don't believe a word of the top comment, some people actually do live in places that are hostile to queer people. But none of them are fooling anyone by not confirming their sexuality. It's 2013 -- nobody is surprised to find out that anyone is gay.

    Posted by: oncemorewithfeeling | Dec 9, 2013 3:32:58 PM

  6. The most Catholic state is the most tolerant state. Chew on that for a while, Cardinal Dolan.

    Posted by: woody | Dec 9, 2013 3:36:50 PM

  7. Glad I live on the liberal left coast.:-)

    Posted by: Tom | Dec 9, 2013 3:39:17 PM

  8. This study was one, "Duh" after the next. There are more closeted men in conservative states. Duh. Many gay men are married to women. Duh. Millions of gay men are still in the closet. Duh.

    This kind of lame research was done by a PhD? If they had just gotten a few gay guys in a focus group, they would have gotten the same answers in 10 minutes.

    I find that much academic, social research is divorced from reality. They substitute methodology for common sense.

    Posted by: gr8guya | Dec 9, 2013 3:39:54 PM

  9. I thought as much - 10% sounds way too high, but those conservative estimates of 1.5 - 2% sounded way too low. 5% is what I've always thought is the true number of people who are gay (I realise that this looks at men only, but I see no reason why this shouldn't be true of gay women also).

    That means that there are over 15 million Americans who are gay. No wonder Democrats are winning elections at the moment.

    Posted by: Peter Hargmier | Dec 9, 2013 3:41:11 PM

  10. Yeah, most of the conclusions are of the D'UH variety, but the big conclusion - that roughly 5% of the U.S. male population is gay - that's the prize winner. I like the methodology they used to make this much more accurate estimate. Yep the 1.5% is ridiculously low, and the Kinsey 10% overestimate is because few people realize that counts every boy who's EVER had a homo experience.

    So 5% is the Goldilocks number and I'm glad to have it basically confirmed by some clever modern-life methods of internet revelations.

    Posted by: Zlick | Dec 9, 2013 3:52:48 PM

  11. Envelope please. And the winning number is: eight and a half per cent.
    The study ignores hard science and relies on social science methodologies -- but the empirical scientific evidence is there. Read the Hypothalamus article on Wiki.
    8.5% of rams are gay. Eventually we will prove that 8.5% of male humans are gay.

    Posted by: John | Dec 9, 2013 3:53:44 PM

  12. @ John

    8.5% of the St. Louis Rams? Wow.

    Posted by: gr8guya | Dec 9, 2013 4:20:19 PM

  13. The least tolerant is also the fattest and least intelligent state in the nation. Big surprise.

    Posted by: JK | Dec 9, 2013 4:21:13 PM

  14. @Johnny

    I think you're lying, but you fail to realize that being in the closet is a demeaning existence for anyone. Why would you think having someone else define your life is an ok thing?

    Posted by: JK | Dec 9, 2013 4:24:15 PM

  15. It's rather humorous to me that so many thing a simple, non-political, non-threatening statement is a "lie". How can you possibly know what every single gay man has gone through in their lives, either closeted or otherwise? That kind of thinking is ludicrous.

    Obviously, the most hypocritical statement here is that "coming out of the closet" would in some way free a person from having someone else define their life - when the truth is that doing so would actually be (for many) letting a vocal gay minority define what your life should be and how you should live it.

    Live how you want to live, period. That's true equality.

    I'm not condoning or rejecting either situation. But what I find odd is that so many feel the need to FORCE their own opinions/needs on any closeted gay man. Isn't that the very thing we're trying to fight against when we call out the religious right for the same type of behavior? (telling someone else how to live?)

    Happily, what I find truly liberating is my freedom from having to try and prove what I say is true. It's my own personal truth, I don't have to prove it, I've already lived it.


    Posted by: johnny | Dec 9, 2013 5:26:42 PM

  16. I'm not sure that 5% of gay porn searches constitutes 5% of the population. To reach that conclusion you'd need the following assumptions: the population searches porn evenly; str8 women search gay porn as frequently as gay men search lesbian porn; str8 men and lesbians do not search gay porn in any significant numbers; searches for gay porn equals consumption of gay porn, etc.

    I'm going to guess too, that if you suspect your husband is gay you should also see if he's turning into an alcoholic too. Any searches for "Is my husband a meth addict?"?

    Posted by: anon | Dec 9, 2013 5:35:09 PM

  17. Many parts of NYC and suburbs are very hostile to gays, and have high rates of violence and discrimination against lgbts. This could simply be a result of population size. A small percentage of homophobes in a large population is more dangerous than a large percentage of homophobes in a small population size. So basically, the map is meaningless.

    Posted by: Kev C | Dec 9, 2013 5:49:46 PM

  18. @Johnny

    I understand why some people stay in the closet, but the closet as a concept, is wrong. There should not be closets to live in. You should be very grateful to the brave men and women of the past who decided to step out of society imposed closets in order to establish a path towards equality. Being Out means we are visible and have a stake in society. Remaining in the closet is tantamount to terrorism as far as I'm concerned. Gay people don't force anyone to come out.

    Posted by: JK | Dec 9, 2013 6:00:26 PM

  19. @ Lipter,

    your comment at Johnny was kinda' mean.


    what is Johnny lying about?

    I don't agree with almost every opinion Johnny gives on this blog. But in this discussion he gave an honest (self-testimonial) trying to describe why some men stay in the closet.

    Some of y'all are so vicious.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Dec 9, 2013 6:03:25 PM

  20. little Rhody. Go figure. I believe R.I. is the most heavily Italian state in the country. Many Irish, French Canadians, Portuguese too. A very Catholic state, at least nominally.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Dec 9, 2013 6:07:18 PM

  21. Stephens-Davidowitz is a simplistic fool. To reduce gay men to gay pornography is the act of a moron. It's also homophobic.

    Where do bisexual men fit into the picture?

    Posted by: ASam | Dec 9, 2013 6:15:41 PM

  22. Many gay men prefer to watch straight porn. In any case, porn watching does not equal sexual orientation. This research in the NY Times is nonsense.

    Posted by: ASam | Dec 9, 2013 6:18:38 PM

  23. @ratbastard, Governor Cuomo is italian, Governor Christie is half-italian. Both of them are anti-gay. I don't know how anyone can say NY and NJ are tolerant when they are represented by a couple of homophobes.

    Posted by: Kev C | Dec 9, 2013 6:22:12 PM

  24. John:
    That is just a misunderstanding of Kinsey's results. 8.5% of rams have homo experience doesn't mean they are gay. Some of them are just curious.

    Posted by: simon | Dec 9, 2013 6:29:42 PM

  25. 5% is still way too low in my personal opinion. Just from being out there living and seeing how many are out and proud but also how often supposedly straight guys end up not being so straight. There are so many men who have sex with men that never identify as gay or bi who don't necessarily search for gay porn or are even married. This also doesn't account for all the truly bisexual men that I believe might never act on the impulse if they were happily married to a woman. I think if we're talking about the something like the Kinsey scale, that it is a spectrum, I'd say that no more than 80% of people are exclusively straight AT MOST. This is what experience tells me but you can call it wishful thinking if you like.

    Posted by: Jack Ford | Dec 9, 2013 6:40:57 PM

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