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

Comments

  1. johnny says

    “…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.

  2. oncemorewithfeeling says

    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.

  3. gr8guya says

    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.

  4. Peter Hargmier says

    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.

  5. Zlick says

    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.

  6. says

    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.

  7. JK says

    @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?

  8. johnny says

    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.

    Ciao…

  9. anon says

    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?”?

  10. Kev C says

    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.

  11. JK says

    @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.

  12. Derrick from Philly says

    @ Lipter,

    your comment at Johnny was kinda’ mean.

    @JK,

    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.

  13. ratbastard says

    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.

  14. ASam says

    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?

  15. Kev C says

    @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.

  16. simon says

    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.

  17. Jack Ford says

    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.

  18. brian1 says

    @Johnny,

    Not getting into the relative merits of the closet, but just a clarification. In your first post, you complain about the use of the word negative in relation to the closet, which you felt was judgmental. But the article simply said that being in the closet had a negative impact on lgbt visibility, which is self-evident. Gays that are in the closet are by definition, not visible, hence the negative impact on visibility.

  19. mododavid says

    Something is wrong with the measures used in that graph. Rhode Island was the last New England state to get gay marriage. THAT indicates that it is far from most tolerant.

  20. ASam says

    The 5-90-5 rule is the best guide to male sexuality. 5% are exclusively straight, 5% are exclusively gay, and 90% are somewhere in between. The article in the NY Times completely fails to mention this mass of men in between.

    The resentment that women have in relation to male homosexuality explains why their husbands rarely admit to same-sex attraction. Women resent male homosexuality if it exists in men who are also into women.

  21. brian1 says

    @Mododavid

    That’s true but throughout the last decade Rhode Island always had the highest percentage of people supporting gay marriage in polls. Really the delay came down to one person, the Senate majority leader, who held up the bill for many years. So I think whatever methodology the study used probably relied more on polls and other measures of popular support since passage of laws can be held up by individual quirks.

  22. brian1 says

    @Jason/Asam

    Just because you call something you made up a rule doesn’t make it true. The idea that 90% of men are bisexual is ridiculous. Oh, and I’ll call that a rule to make it as valid as your statement.

  23. EchtKultig says

    That being said, this study’s methodology seems flawed to me in various ways although I agree with the overall conclusion. The more homophobic states are clearly brimming with closet cases, both lesbian and gay. I can believe the Rhode Island data set because my overall experience has certainly been that the average (practicing) Catholic is less homophobic than the (practicing) average Protestant. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a portion of Catholics who are just as homophobic though…look at Scalia & his family. NB the “average” protestant these days is an evangelical, not something far more liberal like the UCC.

  24. EchtKultig says

    Doh, where’d my other comment go? In any case, yes, agree with Brian1. The notion that most men are “bisexual” is absurd and just makes the gay men who espouse such a belief look craven, insecure, and reactionary. Yes, many totally straight men like being _intimate_ with other men, which is almost completely unrelated to wanting to be _sexual_ with other men. In fact I think the rapid acceleration of gay tolerant views among educated, younger, straight American men is because we’ve realized as a society that culturally accepting homosexual won’t awaken some sinister latent bisexuality in straight men…like the tooth fairy, it doesn’t actually exist. The notion of widespread bisexuality is actually a “tool of the patriarchy” if I may be so agitpropping.

  25. ASam says

    Brian1,

    You sound possibly homophobic.

    Echtkultig,

    You sound as if you are fashioning your position based on not wanting to offend straight guys.

    Neither of you understand male sexuality. Your viewpoints are based on “oh, we mustn’t offend women, we mustn’t offend straight guys”. You’re both pathetic.ys. You are pathetically PC.

  26. Tarc says

    I’m curious as to why the ACTUAL scientific stats aren’t satisfactory for this fellow… exclusively gay men are about 9%, exclusively gay women are about 6%. The percentage of the various shades of bi round out about a total of 30% of the population.

  27. brian1 says

    @Asam/Jason et al

    There is not one inkling of homophobia in my post. As Jason you’ve posted your “everyone is bisexual” meme for about a decade now with not a shred of evidence to back it up. It’s just plain stupid. Just changing your name to Asam and calling your silliness a rule doesn’t make it true.

  28. andrew says

    @Kev C: If Governor Cuomo is anti-gay, what was he doing marching in the NYC Gay Pride Parade with his two daughters and waving a Rainbow Flag??????????????????????????

  29. andrew says

    In spite of all the intolerance preached by the Catholic hierarchy, Catholics are more politically and socially liberal than Protestants. The states with the largest Catholic populations; R.I.- 44%, Mass – 43% N.J. – 42.3%, Conn – 41.5% and N.Y – 31.9% are among the most liberal in the USA. Many if not most Catholics tend to ignore much of what the Catholic Hierarch says. The best example of the lack of influence that the Hierarchy has on the Catholic people is the issue of Contraception. The Hierarchy teaches that using the Pill, condoms and all contraceptives is gravely sinful, yet about 98% of Catholic Couples have done so.

  30. Pablo says

    How is Maine only light purple if it was the first state….literally first place in the world….to legalize gay marriage by popular vote and on their own initiative?

  31. Tarc says

    Um, the 9% men, 6% women (people that are STRICTKLY homosexual) comes from a conglomeration of actual peer-reviewed scientific journals, not one, not some misinterpretation of one. The number is consistent over and over and over – as someone that is gay, a very well-established biologist/geneticist that is quite familiar with the scientific literature can assure you. Bi folks run the spectrum and comprise about the rest of a third of the population.

  32. Tarc says

    Oh, and I have never in my life run across a gay man that has any interest in straight porn if gay porn is available. OTOH, many (many) straight women love gay male porn.

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