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. @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.

    Posted by: brian1 | Dec 9, 2013 6:42:50 PM

  2. 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.

    Posted by: mododavid | Dec 9, 2013 6:48:15 PM

  3. 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.

    Posted by: ASam | Dec 9, 2013 7:22:12 PM

  4. @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.

    Posted by: brian1 | Dec 9, 2013 7:33:06 PM

  5. @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.

    Posted by: brian1 | Dec 9, 2013 7:36:31 PM

  6. Kev C, Ratbastard, Asam, Rick: different names, same closeted, cowardly troll. Don't feed him.

    Posted by: Tyler | Dec 9, 2013 7:50:46 PM

  7. 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.

    Posted by: EchtKultig | Dec 9, 2013 8:40:55 PM

  8. 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 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.

    Posted by: EchtKultig | Dec 9, 2013 8:47:14 PM

  9. Brian1,

    You sound possibly homophobic.


    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.

    Posted by: ASam | Dec 9, 2013 10:17:04 PM

  10. Whether people are tolerant or intolerant of me makes no difference. I am just supremely annoyed by being labeled as something that must be "tolerated".

    Posted by: Chadd | Dec 9, 2013 10:55:01 PM

  11. 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.

    Posted by: Tarc | Dec 10, 2013 12:32:10 AM

  12. @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.

    Posted by: brian1 | Dec 10, 2013 1:35:48 AM

  13. @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??????????????????????????

    Posted by: andrew | Dec 10, 2013 1:49:12 AM

  14. 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.

    Posted by: andrew | Dec 10, 2013 2:15:36 AM

  15. Brian1,

    You are a dill.

    Afraid that homosexuality exists in most men, are you?

    Posted by: ASam | Dec 10, 2013 2:23:39 AM

  16. Jason/Asam,

    Oh no, you called me a dill, I give up, you win, we're all bisexual!

    Posted by: brian1 | Dec 10, 2013 3:12:20 AM

  17. @Andrew, politicians are inherently dishonest people. His support for gay marriage is forced and spotty. And many people have implicated Andrew Cuomo as responsible for the 'Vote for Cuomo, Not the Homo' signs of 1977.

    Posted by: Kev C | Dec 10, 2013 6:13:07 AM

  18. @Tarc - do you have a link to that study? I'd like to read it. Thanks if you do.

    Posted by: Jack Ford | Dec 10, 2013 11:07:14 AM

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

    Posted by: Pablo | Dec 10, 2013 2:46:26 PM

  20. 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.

    Posted by: Tarc | Dec 12, 2013 1:31:25 AM

  21. 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.

    Posted by: Tarc | Dec 12, 2013 1:33:04 AM

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