How many Americans are gay? That’s the question posed by a new piece in Time Magazine about the efforts of a coalition of experts from 21 federal agencies to figure out how to even start collecting data to help answer that question.
“After centuries in the shadows, many experts believe that we need a full accounting of the nation’s LGBT population and how they live for legal, economic and health reasons,” writes reporter Katy Steinmetz.
The old 1-in-10 rule popularized in the ’70s and based on Alfred Kinsey’s estimate that 10% of American males were homosexual has been replaced by more accurate number suggesting 5% of the U.S. population actually identifies as LGBT, Steinmetz reports. Of course, that doesn’t factor in people who may be closeted or who engage in homosexual behavior but don’t identify as LGBT. Meanwhile, most Americans seem to think LGBT people make up roughly 25% of the population for some reason.
But according to Steinmetz and the officials she spoke with, figuring out how many LGBT people live in the U.S. isn’t as simple as adding a sexual orientation checkbox to census forms. There are logistical factors such as the language different people in different age groups use to identify and the vagaries of a generation that is increasingly more interested in sexual and gender fluidity than traditional binary notions of identity.
All of which is why, Steinmetz says, the U.S. census won’t be asking about sexual orientation anytime soon, despite increased interest.