Two frequent problems in sex research depend on survey methods. First of all, most people tend to be less than perfectly objective when answering questions about their sex lives, so to obtain reliable data you usually have to resort to indirect observation. Even more influent, however, is the lack of consensus about what many terms actually mean. A typical example is how the number of people enjoying BDSM play varies from 8 to 12.5% depending on which survey you look at: is having sex while blindfolded and with your hands bound enough to qualify as ‘BDSM’? Or must whips and crops be part of the game? And what about strap-ons? And huge strap-ons?
Keeping this in mind, the Kinsey Institute recently analyzed the results of surveys estimating the number of adult LGBT (that is: lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) people in the United States, to understand the percentage of non-heteronormativeindividuals in that society. While the layman’s perception is that 25% of Americans are homosexuals, the actual, raw and surprising data apparently state that the real figure dropped from 10% in the Fifties to 3.4% today – but is this true?
To cut a long story short… Yes. And no.
In fact, the original one-in-ten estimate referred to people who had had any nontraditional experience, but included many who still identified with the predominant heterosexual model. The 3.4 figure is instead counting just those who are openly identifying with alternative orientations. Which, as Kinsey researchers pointed out, is quite impressive: this means that roughly one in twenty-five Americans has come out as a LGBT person!
But the latest Gallup/Williams Institute poll on the subject had even more surprises in store for number crunchers everywhere. Some of its questions were designed to assess the sociodemographic profile of the LGBT population in North America, and the picture they painted is rather different from what everybody was expecting. Here are, briefly, some especially notable information:
- There are slightly more LGBT women than men (3.6 versus 3.3%)… not counting that the majority of transpeople was born male but is now identifying as female;
- There are more young LGBT persons than older ones, with a steady decrease from 6% up to 29 years old to 1.9% for over-65 individuals;
- Remember the “wealthy gay” stereotype? Think again: most LGBT people earn definitely low incomes, and haven’t completed university;
- While 54% of heterosexuals are married and 23% single, 20% of LGBT people are married, 18% living with a partner and 48% single. Both heterosexual and LGBT women have children in 32% of the cases, but only 16% of LGBT men do compared to 31% straights;
- Only 13% of LGBTs are going to support Romney in the upcoming election, compared to 30% of heterosexual Americans. Go figure.