It Doesn’t Matter What Percentage of Americans Are Gay August 8, 2014

It Doesn’t Matter What Percentage of Americans Are Gay

How many people in the United States are gay?

Depending on who you ask, a lot of people may say the answer doesn’t matter; that rights should be afforded to people on the very basis that they are rights, regardless of how many people they impact.

Some conservative Christians would disagree. That’s why Michael Brown, a writer for the Christian website Charisma, is both delighted and outraged by a recent study that suggests fewer Americans are LGBT than we may assume.

The number we toss around colloquially is that about 10% of the population identifies as LGBT. In 2013, the CDC’s National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) asked for participants to identify their sexual orientation, and only 1.6% of adults self-identified as gay or lesbian, and 0.7% as bisexual. Very limited information is available about the number of trans-identified Americans because few to no surveys ask about gender identity.

According to Brown, this means we should abandon the LGBT equality cause altogether, because who cares what happens to 2% of the population?

Even though gay activists knew the figure was inflated, they used it as a convenient lie, since, as two leading gay strategists noted in the late 1980s, “there is strength in numbers.” (For details, go here.) As expressed by a gay leader a few days ago, “The truth is, numbers matter, and political influence matters.”

In other words, if Americans realized that less than 2 percent of the population was gay rather 10 percent (let alone 25 percent), they would have a very different view of “gay rights.”

Is he right that fewer LGBT people could mean fewer allies working toward equality for LGBT people? Maybe, again depending on who you ask. Personally, I’d say no; if your brother is gay, you (presumably) want the best for him, even if nobody else in the world shares his experience. Yes, there is strength in numbers, but there’s even greater strength in stories. Those are doled out one by one.

Still, Brown’s feelings are hurt because the mean gays apparently lied to him:

The truth is that America has been lied to and duped, and gay activists have been complicit in the deception, if not actively leading the way in the ruse. With the new survey out, it’s time to expose the lies.

But nobody’s lying to anybody. These stats are not new — and there’s a good chance they’re not accurate. The survey results were released last month, and LGBT leaders have already responded (mostly with disappointment). Another survey released around the same time found 3.5% of respondents identifying as LGB.

Both estimates are probably wrong; it doesn’t take a degree in social science to figure out that LGBT people are likely to lie on official surveys like this one in fear of retaliation, losing their job or home, or any other number of consequences that could come from being outed. To many LGBT folks, the risks of checking that box far outweigh the contribution to accurate population estimates.

Even though all this information has long been front and center, Brown believes the *gay left* is deliberately hiding these stats to “dupe” Christians into thinking that everyone is gay.

Back in 2003, in their official brief in the landmark Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court decision, a major coalition of 31 gay and pro-gay organizations used the figures of 2.8 percent of the male population and 1.4 percent of the female population as identifying as gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

This means that these activist organizations were fully aware that the 10 percent figure was completely bogus and yet they never protested when that figure was used to advance their cause. Why expose such a useful lie?

Uhh… isn’t citing a population estimate in an official legal brief pretty much the epitome of “exposing” that information? I think this man is a little confused.

Even if the percentage of LGBT individuals is lower than many people thought, it still stands to reason that everyone is deserving of equal marriage rights, protection from workplace discrimination, and the host of other rights LGBT people are fighting for.

Brown posits that the American public has been strategically brainwashed to believe that a higher proportion of us are gay. But let’s think about that claim for a second.

When you ask a person how many people in the world are LGBT, she isn’t wracking her brain trying to remember the details of the latest study on the topic. She’s making a conjecture based on personal experience, thinking about how many LGBT people she knows and sees in the real world. That’s why so many of us are wary of these estimates; they just don’t add up to what we have experienced in real life. Even those of us who don’t tread mostly in queer circles can honestly say that more than 1/25 of our acquaintances are LGBT.

But for the sake of argument, let’s say the CDC figures are accurate and that no survey-takers were afraid to be honest, that everyone understood the terms of the survey, and that as a result every gay American has been counted. Hooray! In that case, 2% of the population still amounts to around 6,300,000 people, hardly a figure worth throwing under the bus.

And if the LGBT population is so minuscule, why is the Religious Right so threatened by us?

Don’t get the wrong idea, though. Like most anti-gay Christians, Brown wouldn’t dare suggest we actively persecute LGBT folks. He just doesn’t mind if that’s what happens.

To be sure, it is wrong to bully or oppress or mistreat anyone based on gender or ethnicity or romantic attractions, so that is not the question. And whether gays are 1 percent of the population or 90 percent, they should not be mistreated.

But you don’t overhaul the legal system to the point of attacking freedoms of speech, conscience, and religion based on the sexual and romantic desires of a tiny percentage of the population, nor do you engage in a massive social experiment, like redefining marriage, because of a statistically tiny group of people.

I don’t understand why these writers insist on including a lukewarm lie suggesting that LGBT people shouldn’t be harassed into silence, when that’s exactly what they’re advocating for. Maybe it relieves some cognitive dissonance they feel about blatantly ignoring that whole “love thy neighbor” thing, but it doesn’t convince readers like us, who see right through the bland sentiment. Beats me.

Embracing marriage equality isn’t “redefining marriage”; it’s improving it. Implementing workplace protections isn’t attacking free speech; it’s upholding it. And we don’t fight for these things because the number of LGBT people in the country has hit a certain threshold deserving of equal treatment. We fight for them because they’re right, whether the LGBT population is six million or six.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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