1. People & Relationships

Discuss in my forum

So, how many people are gay? Is it one in ten (the statistic most people use) or is it one in twenty? There is no simple answer and there are several things that must be considered before compiling a single number.

See what the experts have to say about the "one in ten" convention and why it may not be as accurate as you might think: What Percentage of the Population is Gay?

  • m.nd: "The gay population seems to have had a drastic increase in the past few years. Does anybody have a plausible explanation to this increase?"

  • benny77: "I'm not sure if there are really more numbers of gay people, or if there are just more coming out and admitting it. I must confess that it has only been in the last few years that I would ever admit I was gay in a poll, survey or other 'official' record. It makes me think about all the studies done at colleges, research facilities, etc..."
  • (join the discussion)
Suggested Reading:

Top Myths About Gay Men
Top Myths About Bisexual Men

Image © Maarten Uilenbroek.
August 10, 2007 at 2:55 pm
(1) Alex says:

If this were a Wikipedia article, then it would be called a “stub,” or request references and citations. It asks more questions than it answers, provides no substantive response to its own sensational title (which is carried on Google’s RSS feeds), and is basically an irresponsible tease, with links to further speculation.

Most scholars and researchers observing the GLBTQ Community (of whom there are very few without a political or ideological agenda) acknowledge that Kinsey’s studies were flawed, but even Pavlov used the same dog over and over, and we rarely question his contribution to our current understanding of “conditioning.”

Ultimately, there is no solid figure on “who is gay at this moment” because a great deal of the contemporary research relies on self-report, asks faulty questions (“Have you ever…?” “Do you currently…?”), or makes improper inferences from the collected data.

The predominance of certain sexual behaviors may change across an individual’s lifetime, as may their identification with certain terms used to describe anyone who is not exclusively, actively heterosexual.

Ultimately, I have seen studies and figures that range from 2% (ludicrous) to 15% (a bit generous). The “ten percenters” arise from a mediation of these discrepancies and is considered “safe,” but can obviously change when you are considering different populations. We still cannot get an accurate picture of the worldwide–and therefore more accurate–estimation of our number within the human species, mostly due to violent forms of intolerance outside Western culture (and within it).

What I do know is that “homosexual” behavior is recorded in many other species, and as it thereby arises naturally in other lifeforms, is natural to us. The only thing that makes any form of non-procreative intercourse unnatural is how our complicated brains have brought us to regard it.

May 4, 2011 at 9:25 pm
(2) k says:

I applaud you.

August 10, 2007 at 7:20 pm
(3) gaylife says:

Hi Alex,

You definitely picked up on the subtle point I was trying to make with the piece. People continue to search for a magical number of gay people in any given population. My purpose of the article is to show that classifying LGBT in any capacity will always be flawed because it will forever be dependent upon self-identification. And sexual identity is far too complex (varying at stages of life and some by experience) to classify with two-dimensional check boxes.

There are a multitude of questions that must be asked when trying to narrow down such a complex issue such as sexual identity, which is why (just like the nature vs. nurture issue) it will be a matter of debate for some time.

And yes, there are many species that exhibit homosexual behavior

August 11, 2007 at 7:30 am
(4) Alex says:

I realize you’re trying to be gentle…as if I missed the thing you were trying to do. I don’t fault you for insinuating, for suggestion, or for a grand ol’ fan dance of principles and factoids.

But the truth is, this page has a high SEO, and all sorts of people see it. From the gay kids to the questioning adults, through all the people who would take anything pro-gay apart just because it offends them.

You cannot afford to equivocate, or to suggest. I’m not saying that you need to be asserting the too-ambiguous “Homosexual Agenda,” but could you at least provide enough information in one single location, and not have a bunch of dithering links that can’t support an assertion you haven’t made?

The heading asks a question. It isn’t answered. Yes, I agree with you that most answers would be fatuous and a waste of everyone’s time, but we both have to consider who reads this stuff. Tell a child (10-16 or so, depending) that he’s like a unicorn, then most will self-destruct, or believe that there’s no one else like them.

The actual percentage is no fairy tale, pun intended. It’s a real figure, supported by what the human population can bear. If there wasn’t some gal out there recently giving birth to her 17th child, then I suppose I might need more specificity…but we only need look to China and India for what happens when homosexuality is more deliberately discounted.

August 11, 2007 at 11:48 am
(5) gaylife says:

Hi Alex,

I appreciate your comments, but as stated before there are as many numbers given for the population of LGBT people as asked.

My “gentle” quest, as you put it, is not based on deception. It is what it is! As previously stated, there is no magical number no matter how many people are sourced or how many links lead to additional information that my readers can go to to gather more information. Of course the figure is real. My point is, it cannot be quantified.

If you walked door to door in this country and the next and asked each household individual how they identify, you still wouldn’t come up with a n accurate number… Because it is dependent on the factors mentioned in the article.

Best in your quest, Alex.


August 12, 2007 at 6:17 am
(6) Tom Head says:

I don’t think our cultural understanding of sexual orientation has advanced to a point where a realistic statistical assessment of LGB Americans can be made. Too many people are in denial, to others and quite often to themselves. My suspicion is that if it were possible to statistically assess sexual orientation, the largest category by far would be best categorized as bisexuals with strongly inculturated orientation and that “natural” Kinsey 0s and Kinsey 7s would be extremely rare, if in fact they exist in nature at all. Folks tend to back away slowly when I say this, but I think it happens to be true.

There’s also the fact that we tend to think of sexual orientation in linear terms when in fact there is a huge amount of diversity even within sexual orientations. Personally, I think sexual orientation is an unnatural concept, a relic of an obsolete heterosexist model of relationships, that we will discard altogether at some point in the future of the human species in favor of a more individualistic understanding of sexuality. It won’t happen within my lifetime, but I expect it’ll happen and the world will be a much better place when it does.

August 12, 2007 at 10:26 am
(7) gaylife says:


Good point. I see that transition happening as more people openly choose not to sexually identify. And as far as I’m concerned, why should they have to?

We are still living in a time where many are in denial, as you say, that bisexuality actually exists. Most would rather believe that bisexuality is a transition towards the extremes of gay or straight – which is far from the truth.

People take such comfort in labels and then fight to dispel the generalizations and misconceptions that inherently come from those labels.

October 11, 2008 at 2:25 am
(8) Gregory Orme says:

The percentage of self-identifying gay men worldwide is about 2 percent, although 4.1 percent have had some homosexual experience. The percentage for lesbian women is about half that. These figures take into account many well-designed studies in several different countries over many years.

March 9, 2009 at 11:33 pm
(9) Pat says:

“…violent forms of intolerance outside Western culture…”

East Asian culture is (or was) IMO more accepting of homosexuality than western culture. Before exposure to western culture, countries like China and Japan were completely accepting. In Japan, people weren’t labeled as “homosexual” or “heterosexual”, only sexual acts were one of the other. When these countries wanted to appear more “western” they introduced anti-homosexuality laws. Thailand, as a particular example, is very accepting even today – probably more so than Scandinavian countries. The king of Thailand use to have both male and female lovers. China and Japan are now back on par with with most US States. However, a man being beaten up just because he “is gay” is almost unheard of. Not so with most of the US unfortunately. I live in West Hollywood, and it’s even happened here.

“The only thing that makes any form of non-procreative intercourse unnatural is how our complicated brains have brought us to regard it.”

It has more to do with religion. The brains of the ancient Greeks or Romans were no less complicated than our own. Nor the Thais or Fijians. Lots of peoples around the world view sex for fun as just fine.

January 7, 2010 at 6:37 pm
(10) justlivin says:

How about a person who “flip flops”. Wouldn’t the fact that a bisexual person discount the notion that gays are born that way? How can a person be born both ways? Would that not mean they are choosing one over the other and it could possibly be they are effected by some experience earlier in life?

September 1, 2010 at 3:39 am
(11) Scott says:

Hi, Ramon….I have a comment, rather than a question. I never thought I would live long enough to see a black President. I thought that I would see a female President. I was very pleasantly surprised to see President Obama elected. My ultimate joy would be to see unconditional equality for ALL people. Regardeless of race, sexual orientation, religion etc. I’m not gay, but I await patiently for the day when gays, everywhere, are treated, and given the rights that heteros have. Until then, we will never truly, be equal. Here we are in 2010, and people still make one’s sexual orientation an issue. I’m glas that I’m not one of those people…. Thank you.

November 21, 2010 at 2:41 pm
(12) Pleasantly Patient says:

I think we need to realize that human sexuality, like all human attributes, falls along a spectrum rather into a few hard choices.

For example, everyone is not just tall or short. You don’t have humans who either over 6 feet tall or under 5 feet tall. You have a whole spectrum – 5’3, 5’6, 5’10 and so on.

As another example, everyone does not have either straight, thick black hair or straight, thick blond hair. You have a spectrum – black, dark brown, light brown, red, gray, black and white (or salt and pepper) colors of hair and you have curly, thick, thin and straight textures of hair.

The same applies to human sexuality. Some people may be exclusively straight or exclusively gay but most people fall along a spectrum.

Some people for example, like athletic bodies, regardless of whether they are male or female bodies. One guy I know loves to wrestle and be pinned down by either a large man or a large woman but prefers to have sexual intercourse with women most of the time. I know of a woman who likes confident, masculine people who dress in suits with short hair regardless of whether they are male or female but prefers having sexual intercourse with men most of the time.

Most straight men have reported that given a choice between having sex with Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie, most chose Angelina Jolie. However, when asked who would they do, Brad Pitt or Rosanne, many chose Brad Pitt while some refused to answer the question.

How would you classify all of the above persons? Gay? Straight? Bisexual? Bi-curious? Latent homosexuals? Pansexuals? Who knows?

Human beings are too complicated to fall neatly into pre-determined categories. Personally, I think everyone should experiment – but keep it safe of course.

September 20, 2011 at 3:59 pm
(13) paul says:

so nobody really knows about how many people are gay.is it a lot a little or…………..anybody

October 7, 2011 at 6:09 pm
(14) CannibalCat says:

I’ve seen studies that range from 1% to 20%.
I know that the number 10% is thrown out a lot, but it’s also assumed that this number is bloated.

Most studies I’ve read assume, using the following parameters, range it between 2.5 and 5% worldwide IDENTIFYING themselves as LGB (this doesn’t account for those still in the closet and afraid to admit it even in an anonymous census).
1. Discluding “experimentation”.
2. Discluding prison sex or similar situations where choice of gender of partner is limited.
3. Discluding rape or non consensual sex.
4. Discluding “bi-curius” individuals who haven’t acted on it.

One thing most studies DO seem to agree on is that there are roughly TWICE AS MANY gay/bi men as there are women.

I would guess, non scientifically, that roughly 3% of LGB’s are out of the closet and at least half that number are still in the closet in America. Using that as a “sample” for the world, I’d agree with the 5% assessment.

October 8, 2011 at 10:05 am
(15) paul says:

just because it’s ok to be gay now a days dose not mean the majorityof people agree with it.I think if there was a true and honest poll you you find that most people do not think that being gay is ok

April 30, 2012 at 12:53 am
(16) John says:

Well. As a moral question, if you have to choose between gay relationships being moral or immoral, less than half of Amercans say its immoral. The prevailing view seems to be that it’s amoral though (the gender not being seen as a moral issue at all). And a huge majority support protections for gays (over half even support marriage).

PS: A huge majority may say, say … that Bhuddism or Judism is “wrong” (as in not ‘correct’) but that doesn’t mean they think they should be treated without basic respect (especially by the government).

June 3, 2013 at 11:40 pm
(17) Nyibol says:

I honestly think that there is a bigger percentage of LGBT in the world than there is straight people considering there are loads of factors like admitting it or knowing it & it seems most people are you have to think about it if people probably become more accepting of homosexual people in at least lawful ways there probably will be a increase in the LGBT community & they probably will be people who came out more than just

Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>
  1. About.com
  2. People & Relationships
  3. Gay Life

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.