Last week, demographer Gary Gates released results from a study of several surveys. From the data, he estimated that approximately 9 million people in the U.S. are LGBT. Read more about that at The Advocate…
In a Washington Post op-ed last Friday, Gates called for a better count of LGBT Americans:
Lots of Americans have no idea how many people are gay or lesbian. A 2002Gallup poll suggested that one in six Americans had no estimate, and those who did have an opinion put the figure at a whopping 20 percent.
As a demographer who studies the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, I’ve been asked how many LGBT people there are more often than I can count. Politics may still play a role in why the answer is critically important, but there certainly is no longer a need to prove that gay people exist. Today, quantifying the population is about documenting how LGBT people live their lives. How many marry? How often do they have children? How many are serving in the military? How often do they experience discrimination?
These facts matter because legislatures, courts and voters across the country are debating how LGBT people should live their lives. All parties deserve to be informed by fresh research, not a six-decade-old study. We should be able to search the standard places where scholars and policy advocates go for information about the health and well-being of Americans — all Americans. Places such as the Census Bureau’s decennial count and American Community Survey, the premier sources of demographic data in this country. Or the National Health Interview Survey, a primary source of information about Americans’ health. Or the Current Population Survey, the preeminent source of information about the nation’s economic well-being. Or the National Crime Victimization Survey, where we get most of our data about experiences of crime.
But searching these sources for information about LGBT people would be largely futile. None ask questions about sexual orientation or gender identity.