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You may have read that 10% of the population is homosexual. The number comes from Alfred Kinsey’s pioneering 1948 study, where he found “10% of males were more or less exclusively homosexual and 8% of males were exclusively homosexual for at least three years between the ages of 16 and 55”.

However, other studies produce lower numbers. For example, the 1990-1991 National Health and Social Life Survey found that 2.8% of men and 1.4% of women identify themselves as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. On the other hand, some studies have been higher, such as a September 2006 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine that found 12% of New York City men reported having sex with other men. So what’s going on?

The answer is that some studies look at if the subject has *ever* had homosexual sex, or whether they were exclusively homosexual for a given period of time (sexual behavior). Other studies examine lifelong sexual orientation, or current status. All of the studies are “self-reporting”, and rely on the subject to tell the truth as to their sexual identity. It’s a numbers game, and the value you choose from 2 to 15 percent simply reinforces you want to believe.

The religious right has always been confused by a definition of homosexuality. They tend to have a “one drop” octoroon rule where if a man engages in homosexual sex even once, they are permanently gay, unless they undergo a 6-year “restoration” therapy. To the fundamentalist christians, there is no such thing as a gay man or women, just a straight person who has been temporarily led astray by the devil.

The point I’d like to bring out, is that even if the number of openly homosexual people is 2.8%, that still amounts to nearly 4 million men and almost 2 million women.

That’s more than the number of jewish people in America (5.2 million) or mormons (3.8 million).

More than the number of farmers (0.8 million), lawyers (0.9 million), and truck drivers (3.3 million) combined.

The bottom line is that gay marriage is important, and there is a huge segment of our population that is lacking legal and medical rights. If there was any other group in the US with as many numbers and political clout, they would have lawmakers fighting over their votes. Hopefully, the religious right will stop bickering over numbers, and provide millions of Americans with basic human rights.

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I guess it also depends on who participates in the study. It wouldnt surprise me if the result of any study states that 2.8% of US males were gay if major metropolitan areas were left out of the study - even missing one is enough to skew the results. Likewise, I'm srprised that _only_ 12% of New York City men reported having sex with other men; I'm curious of the study's parameters. Heaven knows the language is vague...

I think the marriage argument is very slippery. The problem is that marriage, as an instituion, seems like it is always going to be around, and in order to get equal status, we have to participate in that instituion. This enfuriates me.

Personally, I don't believe in marriage as a legal status. If anyone wants to partake in a religious ritual and be married in their church, that's fine. But the term "marriage" as I see it legally defined now - or even if it were to include 2 same-gender people and change in no other way - is archaic. I'd much rather see people be able to enter - and be able to exit without harm - agreements between them which define the rights and benefits bestowed upon everyone in the agreement. The fact that such a binding contract is based on who you fuck seems almost laughable. If two old ladies want to join their lives together in order to pool their resources and take advantage of the same rights as what is currently reserved only for two people who presumably fuck under a state sanctified contract, then they should be able to. And in fact, there was an article on NPR recently about two elderly sisters in the UK who were suing the state in order to be able to do just that. On a related note, you should not be subject to penalty if you engage in sex outside of your marriage, and yet, it is legal grounds for divorce.

I'm more in favor of a legal entity being established which more fluidly defines a household. It would be able to support traditional marriage as well as any other alternative combination and number of people, adults and children, who would want to engage in it. It would essentially mimic the functionality of what we now refer to as "the nuclear family" with or without the traditional roles. The details would have to be worked out, of course, but this is the vision I've had for a long time. This is, admittedly, kind of utopian, but the closer we get to adopting gay marriage and conforming to the current cultural norm, the further we get from that ever becoming a reality.

I’m not a statistician, but every quality scientific study tries to compensate for sampling issues by creating a large sample size, cross-referencing other variables, and carefully phrasing the questions. For that study, only 4,193 people were asked, barely 0.1% of all male residents of NYC. That’s a huge error bar. Still, it was one of the largest studies on sexual behavior vs. identity every attempted. Clearly, we need more funding for studies of gay and lesbian behavior.

But yes, you have a point… gay marriage was bitterly debated in the early nineties, when part of the gay community thought there were more important issues (AIDS funding, hate crimes bills) than the right for rich couples to get tax breaks. Many feminists see marriage as a patriarchal way for men to gain power over women and don’t want any part of it.

So, I see what you’re saying. But my post was about the millions of gay people that disagree with you and want legal rights. We can also talk about legal rights for polyamorous threesomes, aging siblings, and other alternative families. But those are separate issues – related to be sure, but a far smaller subset, in my opinion. Eventually, I’d hope that all the people in the US with financial problems due to their family status can petition the government for changes.

Well, I am a statistician. This is a fairly typical binomimal experiment.

Just to round off the numbers so I can do this in my head, if you sample 4,000 people from a population (n = 4000) where 10% of them are gay (p = 0.1), the number of gay people you count in your sample has an expected value of np, which is 400, and a variance of np(1-p) = 4,000 x 0.1 x 0.9, which is 360. The standard deviation of your measurement, which is generally the size of the "error bar", is the square root of the variance, or about 19 people. In other words, this measurement is accurate to (roughly) plus or minus 19 people, or about 0.5%, and the size of the population you're sampling from doesn't matter. It is likely that systematic biases in the experiment are larger than the sampling error.

I jotted this down rather hastily, so of course it could be wildly wrong.

Realistically, of course, the easiest way to obtain these rights is to pursue the institution of marriage, since it requires what at first appears to be the least amount of cultural adaptation. I mean by this that it is facilitated by a smaller group assimilating into the culture of a larger group, rather than having the culture of the larger group completely be completely redefined. I'mnot arguing that point.

I am not convinced, however, that this is beneficial to us in the long term. Simply because millions of people are for a given issue is not sufficient to make it the wisest choice. It may be the best choice of those perceived to be available, but the point I was trying to get across is that there are alternatives we seem to have abandoned.

Here are some more fun statistics:

There are more gay people than the population of every single US city (except for New York City, which has over 8 million residents. But still more than Los Angeles at about 4 million.

If very single gay person made the median US income of $43,318, that means homosexuals have a total buying power of almost $260 billion dollars. That’s almost three times more than was spent by the government on education this year ($90 billion). Or half of what we spent on defense for 2007.

The nearly 6 million gay people in the United States have somewhere between 6 and 10 million children.

Of course, there’s a lot of crossover in these statistics. It’s not like lesbians and people that live in Los Angeles are non-intersecting groups. It’s just that I would love to see even a small percentage of the budget for L.A.($850 million for 2006/2007) given for gay and lesbian causes.

As I said to someone once: 'What if there were only two gay people in the world? Would it be okay to treat them like dirt, really?'

Does that include the closted politicians, and the the closeted ministers?
That should be good for a bump of a point :)

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