LGBTQ Agenda: Survey says bisexuals make up most of the rainbow umbrella

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday February 28, 2023
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A new Gallup survey shows that the number of self-identifying LGBTQ people nationally is 7.2%, with bisexuals making up three-fifths of them. Photo: Rick Gerharter
A new Gallup survey shows that the number of self-identifying LGBTQ people nationally is 7.2%, with bisexuals making up three-fifths of them. Photo: Rick Gerharter

The percentage of American adults self-reporting as non-heterosexuals remained steady last year — and almost three-fifths of those are bisexual, a Gallup survey found.

The survey results, released February 22, were based on phone conversations with 10,000 people in 2022.

The survey found 86% of adults identified as heterosexual, 7.2% as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or "something else, allowing them to choose multiple identities," and 7% declined to answer.

The number reporting as LGBTQ is almost double what it was in 2012, when the survey began with a report that 3.5% of adults said they were LGBT, the term used at the time.

In 2021, the reported percentage of LGBTQ adults among the general population was 7.1%. In 2020, it had been 5.6%. This year's increase is the smallest since 2014, when the total percentage of LGBTQ adults went from 3.6% to 3.7%.

"As is typically the case, the greatest share of LGBT adults — more than half, or 4.2% of all U.S. adults — identify as bisexual," Gallup stated. "About one in five LGBT adults identify as gay, about one in seven say they are lesbian, and slightly fewer than one in 10 identify as transgender."

As a matter of fact, bisexuals accounted for 58.2% of all LGBTQ adults. Pansexuals, who are attracted to people regardless of their sex or gender identity, accounted for 1.7%.

The Bisexual Resource Center and the American Institute of Bisexuality did not return requests for comment for this report as of press time.

Twenty-two percent of LGBTQ adults reported their identity as gay; 13.4% reported their identity as lesbian; 8.8% reported their identity as trans; 1.3% reported their identity as asexual; 1.2% reported their identity as queer; and 1.8% reported their identity as some other type of LGBTQ.

The percentage of people who identify as LGBTQ, both in general and in each particular identity that makes up the rainbow umbrella, increases in each generation, the study found.

Only 1.7% of the Silent Generation (born 1924-1945) identifies as LGBTQ. That number rises to 2.7% of baby boomers (1946-1964), 3.3% of Generation X (1965-1980), 11.2% of millennials (1981-1996), and 19.7% of Generation Z (1997-2004).

Bisexual identity was the most prevalent in the three most recent generations and it rose dramatically between the millennial generation (6.9% of the total population) and Gen Z (13.1% of the total population).

Among boomers an equal percentage identified as lesbian and bisexual (0.7% of the total population) and among the Silent Generation the largest share (0.8% of the total population) identified as gay.

The percentage of Gen Z identifying as transgender is 1.9%, up from 1.0% among millennials.

In a statement to the Bay Area Reporter, the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBTQ rights organization, interpreted the results as meaning that more and more people are choosing to come out of the closet and live as their authentic selves.

"The LGBTQ+ community is a diverse and ever-growing force in the United States as the number of American adults who identify as LGBTQ+ continues to grow each year," Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign, stated. "This growth shows the impact of a more inclusive society and closely mirrors HRC findings. Both emphasize the need to codify legal protections against discrimination and implement LGBTQ+ inclusive data collection at federal, state, local and private levels. With more LGBTQ+ people than ever before living openly and embracing their identity, the fight for LGBTQ+ equality in America must continue to represent this ever-growing and beautiful community."

Bianca D.M. Wilson, a senior scholar of public policy at the Williams Institute, an LGBTQ think tank at UCLA School of Law, told the B.A.R. that it is unclear why LGBTQ ID is rising, particularly among young people, but it may be because identification with the community is tracking more closely with reported rates of same-sex attraction.

"In terms of why do we see these generational differences, or a much higher proportion among young adults, we do not yet have great research that has tracked to explain that difference," Wilson said. "The reasonable possible explanation: younger people are more willing to disclose, that's a possibility as culture and society has shifted. ... We may also be seeing a shift in who claims sexual minority labels in line with some level of same sex attraction. Maybe identifying as something other than straight is becoming more comfortable."

Wilson, who identifies as a sexual minority who has "worked with Black queer women's communities for some time," also said that the survey is good news for the future of surveys and data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity surveys.

"Sexual and gender minorities are willing to fill out surveys about sexual and gender identity. That's always one great result of seeing the Gallup poll come out is what a great response they're getting," Wilson said. "Also it's interesting, though I don't know how to explain it, that where there'd appear to be an ongoing increase it seems in this one year of time to have stabilized. It may be a function of improved methodologies becoming stable."

Gallup noted the near-stability of the figure in its wrap-up of the survey results.

"LGBT identification has become much more common in the U.S. in the past decade, though in the past year, the figure has been stable," Gallup stated. "With many more younger than older adults seeing themselves as something other than heterosexual, the LGBT share of the entire U.S. adult population can be expected to grow in future years. However, this growth depends on younger people who enter adulthood in future years continuing to be much more likely to identify as LGBT than their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents."

LGBTQ Agenda is an online column that appears weekly. Got a tip on queer news? Contact John Ferrannini at [email protected]

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