Washington Week

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LGBT America: By the Numbers


By Joan Greve
Washington Week Fellow

On early Sunday morning, 49 people were killed and 53 injured inside Orlando's gay nightclub Pulse. Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump has renewed his call for a "Muslim ban" while Democrat Hillary Clinton responded by demanding tougher legislation on gun control. As condolences and policy proposals stream in, we took a look at the history and make-up of the community hit by this tragedy.

How many Americans identify as LGBT?
Accurate estimates of LGBT Americans have proven elusive for many researchers over the years. Gary Gates of UCLA's Williams Institute, who has studied the matter extensively, blames this on surveys' shifting definitions of LGBT and inconsistent questions.

Analyzing the conclusions of eleven studies, Gates theorizes that there are approximately 9 million members of the LGBT community in America today. This number would indicate that the LGBT community is larger than the population of 40 American states.

What percentage of the U.S. population is LGBT?
Gates estimates that approximately 3.5% of Americans identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, while 0.3% are transgender.

Have nightclubs factored into LGBT history before?
A 1969 police raid of the Stonewall Inn, a popular bar among New York City's gay community, set off riots which lasted several days. It also marked the beginning of the modern LGBT rights movement. 

Just four years after Stonewall, though, the city of New Orleans was rattled by a massive fire in another gay bar, the Upstairs Lounge. The act of arson left 32 dead, making it the largest mass killing in LGBT history, until Sunday

How many Americans are now in same-sex marriages or partnerships?
Gallup estimated in 2015 that 780,000 Americans are in same-sex marriages, while another two million live with a same-sex domestic partner. That number will likely increase in the coming years, given the Supreme Court's 2015 decision striking down all remaining same-sex marriage bans.

Are there openly LGBT politicians in the U.S.?
Openly gay Americans have been serving in political office since 1974, when Kathy Kozachenko won her election for city council in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The 1978 assassination of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, the first openly gay office holder in California, brought renewed attention to the LGBT community's attempts and struggles to be represented in government.

In the decades since, openly gay politicians have served in each of the 50 states. Today, seven members of Congress identify as gay or bisexual, including Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who became the first openly lesbian senator in America when she was elected in 2012. The six openly gay or bisexual House representatives also co-chair the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, which counts another 77 representatives as members.

How many military service members are LGBT?
The Williams Institute estimated in 2010 that 70,000 members of the U.S. military were lesbian, gay, or bisexual. In 2014, the Institute also concluded that about 15,500 transgender Americans currently serve in the armed forces.

While the 2010 repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" outlawed military discrimination against lesbian, gay, or bisexual service members, transgender military personnel do not enjoy the same protections.

How often are hate crimes committed against LGBT Americans?
Looking at 14 years of hate crime data, Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center recently told the PBS Newshour, "LGBT people are targeted for violent hate crimes at a rate of two times that of... Muslims or black people, four times that of Jews, and 14 times that of Latinos."

Data from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs also shows that the transgender community is particularly vulnerable to such violence. In 2013, 67% of hate crime homicides were committed against transgender women of color, a group also present at the Pulse nightclub shooting.

What about other forms of discrimination?
Despite many legislative and social gains in recent years, LGBT Americans still frequently experience discrimination. Statistics from the Human Rights Campaign show that 42% of LGBTQ youth report living in a community that is "not accepting." 92% of them also said they "hear negative messages about being LGBT."

SEE ALSO: By the numbers: Muslims in America

Top Photo: flickr / Maia Weinstock