Record number of Americans now identify as LGBT+

‘It reflects what we are seeing in society and the way society is changing,’ says Gallup senior editor Jeff Jones

James Crump
Wednesday 24 February 2021 15:54
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A record 5.6 per cent of US adults now identify as LGBT+, an increase of more than 1 per cent from polling in 2017.

The figure was reported in a survey by Gallup, which found that of those within that group, 54.6 per cent identified as bisexual, 24.5 per cent as gay, 11.7 per cent as lesbian and 11.3 per cent as transgender, while 3.3 per cent said they used another term to describe their identity, such as queer.

The total figure in the survey exceeded 100 per cent as respondents were able to choose one or more categories that they felt best described their identity.

More than 15,000 US adults were interviewed for the survey throughout 2020, with the final figure of 5.6 per cent identifying as LGBT+, representing around 18 million Americans.

Gallup’s last poll in 2017 found that 4.5 per cent of US adults identified as LGBT+, and the polling company’s senior editor Jeff Jones said that the new survey reflects an upward trajectory since the company started it in 2012.

“It reflects what we are seeing in society and the way society is changing,” Mr Jones added in a statement about the survey results.

Mr Jones revealed that the survey found a generational shift in people willing to be open about their identity, as the poll found that nearly 16 per cent of Generation Z, those aged between 18 to 23, identify as something other than heterosexual, which is a much higher figure than the 2 per cent of US adults aged 56 and older who identify as such.

Of the Generation Z respondents who said they identify as LGBT+, 73 per cent of them said that they consider themselves bisexual.

Referencing the marked difference in generations, Mr Jones told NBC News: “Younger people are growing up in an environment where being gay, lesbian or bisexual is not as taboo as it was in the past.”

He added: “So they may just feel more comfortable telling an interviewer in a telephone survey how they describe themselves. In the past, people would maybe be more reluctant.”

Despite the shift in acceptance for those in the LGBT+ community, Ineke Mushovic, executive director of the Movement Advancement Project, told USA Today that there is still more that needs to be done.

“The fact that it’s 2021 and we’re still pushing for the Equality Act, decades after federal non-discrimination protections were originally introduced, shows that our laws need to catch up to the public on these issues,” Ms Mushovic said.

However, she clarified that LGBT+ people should be hopeful, telling USA Today: “Less than 20 years ago, just being in a same-sex relationship could be a crime. Now, LGBTQ people can marry the person they love.”

Ms Mushovic added: “And the Supreme Court found, just last year, that it’s not legal to fire someone just for being LGBTQ. So LGBTQ people finally have a little more freedom to be themselves.”

Gary Gates, who helped Gallup develop its 2012 survey, told NBC that it is “valuable” to know what people self-identify as, but said that the results of the poll should not be taken as a full count of LGBT+ people in the US.

“What they’re trying to come up with is the people who self-identify,” Mr Gates said. “It’s a measure of identity, not behaviour or feelings or some other measurements we might use. They weren’t trying to count all the people in the closet.”

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