How Many People Are Gay?

It\’s one of those questions to which there\’s not really been a satisfactory answer. Yes, of course, sexuality is a spectrum and it depends to a certain extent upon the immediate environment but given the general environment in the country, how many are gay?

Homosexual campaigners have claimed previously that as many as one in 10 of the population is gay.

That doesn\’t even pass the snigger test.

Ben Summerskill, the chief executive of the gay rights group Stonewall, believes the true figure to be about six per cent.

That\’s not that much better: which pressure group head is going to downplay his own constituency?

Only one in 100 Britons would describe themselves as gay, according to the first government research into the nation\’s sexuality.

Yes, there are problems with their results (3%, ie, more than the number who claimed to be gay or bisexual told the interviewer to bugger off) but it\’s the best answer we\’ve got that has been arrived at by a process of any rigour.

That it also accords with my own prejudices/Bayesian priors/life experience of course makes me more inclined to believe it. While "who do you prefer to have sex with?" isn\’t a standard topic of conversation in pubs and coffee shops across the land (as opposed to the more common, "would you like to have sex with me?") simple eyeballing (no, I know, you can\’t say "Teh Gay!" by looking at someone but you know what I mean) of the limited sector of the population I\’ve met of four different countries that I\’ve lived in indicate that the 10% or 6% numbers are vast over-estimates.

4 thoughts on “How Many People Are Gay?”

  1. Is Commons and Cabinet membership then truly representative of the population? And can we add sexual orientation into any proposed PR schemes?

  2. You might want to read this. Sure, if you look at who has had a same-sex partner in the last 5 years, it’s low. But, if you look at who’s had same-sex experiences sometime in their lifetime, it’s about 10%. It’s a bit simplistic to see everyone as either five-star gays or five-star heterosexuals. There’s an awful lot of grey in-between.

    Tim adds: Classing everyone who has ever had a same sex experience as gay is as lunatic as classing everyone who has ever had an opposite sex experience as heterosexual.

  3. One I have noticed: the enormous increase in “perceived” gayness over the last 25 years. At the rate we are going it will become compulsory quite soon.

  4. A survey by the student newspaper Varsity of over 1000 Cambridge students (about 7% of the total) gave an answer of 16% gay or bisexual i.e. they defined themselves as gay or bisexual, not that they had had sex with someone of the same sex.

    In the ‘real’ world that does seem to be remarkably lower – I would probably say around 3-4% tops. 10% is far too high, but 1% seems a bit on the low side.

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