Hot on the heels of last week’s claim that only 1.5% of the UK’s population identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual – in roughly equal measure – comes a rival study from the USA suggesting we should double that figure, and that nearly one in ten have had same-sex sexual experiences, regardless of their current identity or choice of label.
One in how many?
The Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at the UCLA School of Law issued results of a new study showing that only a third of adults who have had same-sex sexual experiences identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. While they found 3% of adults identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB), an additional 6% identify as heterosexual but say that they have had same-sex sexual partners since age 18.
Study author and Williams Distinguished Scholar Dr. Gary Gates notes that, “These provocative findings demonstrate the challenge in understanding the complex relationship between sexual orientation identity and behavior. Given that nearly half of Americans still believe that homosexual
relationships are morally wrong, it is not surprising to find ambiguity between how people behave sexually and how they identify their sexual orientation.”
The new study analyzes data from the 2008 General Social Survey (GSS), conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. The GSS has monitored social and demographic changes in the United States since 1972. The 2008 GSS marks the first time that survey participants were asked about their sexual orientation (prior surveys had only asked about same-sex sexual behavior). The 2008 survey also includes a module of questions designed by Williams Institute scholars that ask sexual minorities about their experiences of coming out, relationship status and family structure, workplace and housing discrimination, and health insurance
Findings from the new report focus on the coming out experiences and the demographic characteristics of sexual minorities who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual or report same-sex sexual behavior. Future reports to address discrimination and relationship and family structures are planned.
Analyses show that although 90% of LGB people are out about their identity to other people, only 25% report being out to all of their coworkers in the workplace. Gates observes that, “Fear of discrimination in the workplace is still common among lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals. Many more are open about their sexual orientation to friends and family than to their work colleagues.”
The study also highlights how self-identified bisexuals differ in several ways from those who identify as gay or lesbian, including being less likely to be out and more likely to be women and to belong to racial or ethnic minorities.
Other findings from the study include:
· 1.7% of adults self-identified as gay or lesbian and 1.1% self-identified as bisexual
· More than 3 in 4 lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) adults say that they were first attracted to someone of the same-sex before they were 18 years old.
· Women are more likely than men to be LGB (4.6% vs. 2.9%). They are twice as likely to be bisexual than men (1.9% v. 0.7%, respectively).
· Younger people are more likely to be LGB. 7.2% of those aged 18-30 are LGB compared with 3.8% of those aged 30-54 and 1.4% of those aged 55 and older.
· Gay men and lesbians are more likely than bisexuals to be out to at least some people (96% vs. 75%, respectively).
· Older people are much more likely to be in the closet . Adults over the age of 55 are 83 times more likely than those under 30 to have never come out to another person.
· Bisexuals are more likely to be a racial/ethnic minority than heterosexuals, gay men, or lesbians. More than half of bisexuals are non-white compared to approximately 30% of heterosexuals, gay men and lesbian. The racial and ethnic characteristics of gay men, lesbians, and heterosexuals are similar to each other.