Power in Numbers?

According to a scientifically compiled sex survey conducted by Indiana University, 15% of the American population, ages 14 to 94, identified themselves as “homosexual or bisexual.” And the surveyors concluded, “the percentage of people who have had same gender sex is higher.” Taking the latest aggregate Census Bureau data, that means we may be as many as 30 million strong.

Contrast this with the 14.4 million Americans who classify themselves as “Asian” or the 6 million who identify themselves as “Jewish,” or the mere one million who are devotees of the super conservative Tea Party movement, and our numbers (granted there are overlaps in race, religion, and ethnicity) are even more staggering, considering the shit we have to deal with.

Meanwhile, there is this Gallup poll, self-lauded as the first official study to count gay, lesbian, bi and transgender individuals state-by-state. After polling about 100,000 adults in all 50 states where it asked if the participant “identified” himself or herself as LGBT, our numbers averaged a 3.4 % nationwide with a low of 1.7% in North Dakota (surprise! surprise!) and 5.1% in Hawaii (ya think the warm weather and lazy lifestyle has anything to do with it? Duh). Every state polled with supposedly LGBT populations of 4% or higher have laws prohibiting same sex discrimination or are leaning towards or have already approved same-sex marriage or an equivalent thereof.
O.K., and I respect and believe Gallup’s methodology, but are these stats even close to reality?

First, Gallup concludes that contrary to popular opinion, LGBT communities aren’t based solely in urban centers. Sure, we’re all over the place like dog shit on a sidewalk, but I still think the vast majority of us live in the Chicago’s, New York City’s, and LA’s for a couple of pragmatic reasons: jobs, and gay ghettos where we feel more comfortable living and where there’s more gay or gay friendly businesses and in-the-flesh social outlets, though admittedly the web has lessened the isolation of living in the boonies.

Secondly, the study says non-whites (blacks, Latinos, Asians) are more likely than white populations to identify as LGBT, i.e., 4% or higher vs. 3.4% of whites. I think this is somewhat distorted since (a) from my humble observations as a bar fly, 85% of the guys I see in the bars and bathhouse are white; (b) some Latinos or even Asians may classify themselves as “white:” and (c) and this is not a racist conclusion, but maybe, just maybe, since there are more whites than blacks in the general population and therefore in the working population, there are more white boys making “big money” and so are less likely to say they’re gay because they have more to lose. Like a nice six figure job with a conservative, even homophobic employer.

To back me up here, the Census Bureau says 86.01% of all households in the top two upper-middle range incomes were headed by a person who identified him or herself as white, while only 7.21% were being headed by someone who identified as being Hispanic, and 7.37% by someone who identified as being African American.

Interestingly, when you look at results correlated with age, a whopping 6.4% of individuals under 29 who are less closeted than the rest of us ID’d themselves as LGBT vs. 3% or under for older folk; and this same age bracket also had the lowest earning power, under $24,000 a year. Again, less to lose by opening up about their sexual orientation?

But what strikes me particularly confusing is that this Gallup study isn’t in sync with the Indiana University study; nor Kinsey, who while his stats may have been skewed, claimed 10% of us were gay. The U.S. Census Bureau, unfortunately, is only beginning to get its act together when it comes to counting us, sneakily extrapolating how many of us there are through counts of solo or same sex households. Another mechanism is its “community surveys” that ask an adult living in a household with another adult his or her relationship to that other person, listing as one of the options, “unmarried partner.” This is followed by questions regarding the sex of the two individuals. In 2010, the Bureau estimated there were over 600,000 married gay couples in the U.S. but obviously that is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to counting all of us.

But, OK, whatever stat you believe, even at the low balled 3%, our numbers are up there as a “significant” minority in the U.S.; and if you take the Indiana University study as gospel, we are equal to the largest current minority population in America, Latinos. And we have a unique demographic that crosses all race and ethnic lines.

True, three out of four gays voted democratic in the last Presidential election, and our clout and economic power are helping to make possible what was once not even dreamed about, i.e., same sex marriage.

Yet, there remain some of us, maybe many of us who are apolitical or obsessed with only the glitz of this lifestyle – be it the indiscriminate sex or the non-stop clubbing – and really have no interest beyond our respective shitty two by four worlds.

If only we were truly a cohesive group, i.e., had our act together, imagine what we might achieve for our cause.

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