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Gay Population Statistics

How Many Gay People Are There?

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How many gays are there in the population?
© Dimitri Vervitsiotis/Getty
How many gay people are there in the United States?
The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, a sexual orientation law and public policy think tank, estimates that 9 million (about 3.8%) of Americans identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (2011). The institute also found that bisexuals make up 1.8% of the population, while 1.7% are gay or lesbian. Transgender adults make up 0.3% of the population.

Why is this number an estimate?
The number of LGBT persons in the U.S. is subjective. Studies pointing to the statistics are estimates at best. The most widely accepted statistic is that 1 in ever 10 individuals is LGBT; however some research estimates 1 in 20. Of course, this all depends on one's definition of gay (which may vary by study) and the participants willingness to identify as gay, bi, lesbian or transgender. So, why can't the actual number of GLB people be counted? There are many things to consider when trying to count the number of GLBT persons.

What do the experts say?
When asked about GLB population statistics, Gary J. Gates, a Senior Research Fellow at The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy, says:

"That's the single question that I'm asked the most. The answer is unfortunately not simple. I'll respond with a question. What do you mean when you use the word 'gay'? If you mean people who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual in a survey, then the answer is that it's likely not one in ten, but closer to one in twenty. A recent government survey found that 4 percent of adults aged 18-45 identified as 'homosexual' or 'bisexual.' A similar proportion of voters identify as GLB. If you define gay as having same-sex attractions or behaviors, you do get higher proportions that are a bit closer to the one in ten figure." Read more of my interview with Gary Gates.
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