A new study from The Williams Institute (PDF) estimates that 3.5 percent of adults in the United States identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual and 0.3 percent identify as transgender. The new figures represent consistencies across a number of national studies that have invited participants to disclose their sexual orientation and gender identity:
The analyses suggest that there are more than 8 million adults in the US who are LGB, comprising 3.5% of the adult population. This is split nearly evenly between lesbian/gay and bisexual identified individuals, 1.7% and 1.8%, respectively. There are also nearly 700,000 transgender individuals in the US. Given these findings, it seems reasonable to assert that approximately 9 million Americans identify as LGBT.
However, studies of same-sex sexual behavior and same-sex sexual attraction show much higher numbers. An average of 8.2 percent Americans (nearly 19 million) have actually had sexual interactions with the same sex. The numbers for same-sex attraction are even higher: 11 percent of Americans (nearly 25.6 million) acknowledge that they have had them. (These figures more closely represent the common 10 percent estimate most people know from Alfred Kinsey’s studies of sexuality in 1948 and 1953.)
The disparity between these numbers confirms challenges in measuring the true population of LGBT people. As the study points out: “Identity, behavior, attraction, and relationships all capture related dimensions of sexual orientation but none of these measures completely addresses the concept.”
The study’s recommendation for asking sexual orientation and gender identity to large-scale surveys echoes a similar recommendation for data collection offered by the Institute of Medicine last week. The true impact of “LGBT” policies can only be measured if the questions continue to be asked.