A new report from the Department of Health & Human Services has found that less than three percent of the U.S. population publicly identifies as gay, lesbian or bisexual.
The report from the Centers for Disease Control, which was made public on Tuesday, found that 1.6 percent of Americans identify as gay or lesbian and 0.7 percent identify as bisexual. Those numbers mean 2.3 percent of the population identifies as LGB.
Meanwhile, 96.6 percent of the population identify as straight and the remaining 1.1 percent identify as “something else” or stated “I don’t know the answer.” No data was collected on identification based on gender identity or transgender status.
The information was based on data from the 2013 National Health Interview Survey, which for the first time in its 57-year history last year included questions related to sexual orientation.
According to the report, the addition of survey questions related to sexual orientation should help meet the Healthy People 2020 goals identified by HHS in addition to health objectives related to LGBT people.
“NHIS includes a wide range of survey questions on health, the addition of questions on sexual orientation will facilitate many opportunities for future researchers to examine health among sexual minority populations using a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults,” the report states.
Using the information, the report makes some comparisons between the LGB and the straight population. For example, a higher percentage of women 18–64 who identify as bisexual had experienced serious psychological distress compared to straight women. Moreover, among men 18–64, a higher percentage of those who identify as gay or bisexual have received tests for HIV compared with those who identify as straight.
The report also finds that alcohol and cigarette consumption is higher among people who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual than it is for straight people. Among the findings: 33 percent of gay and lesbian people consumed five or more alcoholic beverages in a single day, compared to 22.3 percent of straight people and 39.5 percent of bisexual people.
Among men, the report also found a higher percentage met federal guidelines for aerobic physical activity. Among gay men, 63.5 percent of respondents met that standard as opposed to 53.7 percent of straight men and 53.3 percent of bisexual men.
A spokesperson at HHS deferred questions on the report to CDC, which didn’t immediately respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment.
The percentage of those who identify as gay in the report is smaller than the commonly held belief that 10 percent of all people are gay, but the report’s findings are along the lines of a 2011 study from the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles. That report found that 1.7 percent of the population identifies as gay or lesbian and 1.8 percent of the population identifies as bisexual. An estimated 700,000 transgender people live in the United States, the report found.
Gary Gates, a distinguished scholar at the Williams Institute, said the new CDC report is a “milestone” for its inclusion of sexual orientation questions and is on par with the result of existing surveys.
“Without question, these data will provide an important resource to help us to better understand the health needs of LGB Americans and identify possible health disparities associated with sexual orientation,” Gates said.
The report was the result of an announcement from former Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius in 2011 that her department would begin collecting LGBT data as part of federal health surveys. At the time, Sebelius predicted that questions on sexual orientation would begin in 2013, but made no similar forecast for questions based on gender identity, saying more time was needed to consider the appropriate questions for that category.
The transgender director of the Network for LGBT Health Equity at CenterLink, who goes by the moniker Scout, said it’s time for federal health surveys to include questions on gender identity.
“It’s frustrating that sexual identity data collection is taking off while gender identity is still stalled,” Scout said. “These new data will unleash a wave of articles and research projects and health interventions — all for LGB people, not T. We wouldn’t stand for this exclusion on ENDA, I’m not sure why we’re tolerating it for our health. The feds admit they aren’t even testing T measures, why aren’t we demanding this be fixed?”
The Williams Institute’s Gates also shared the view that gender identity questions should be included in the federal health surveys.
“Full LGBT inclusion in these data will not come until the survey also includes a measurement of gender identity,” Gates said. “I encourage HHS to prioritize the development of a gender identity measure for inclusion on the NHIS in future surveys.”