Prevalence of Homosexuality, Bisexuality

Because many people are hesitant to answer sexual surveys, obtaining exact percentages on the prevalence of homosexuality is difficult. Further complicating matters is that perhaps as few as 10 percent of the homosexuals in the United States have actually come out of the closet (admitted to being gay) to family and friends. The rest who “stay in the closet” are passing (“passing themselves off” as heterosexual). Support groups and National Coming Out Day (celebrated annually on October 11) are available for gays and lesbians who wish to tell their families and friends about their sexual orientation.

Today's estimates are that as many as 4 percent of men and 1 to 2 percent of women in the United States are homosexual. The Centers for Disease Control further estimates that approximately 2.5 million U.S. men are exclusively homosexual (or 1 percent of the total U.S. population, currently at 250 million), with an additional 2.5 to 7.5 million men engaging in occasional homosexual relations.

Regarding such “occasional” relations, Kinsey found that roughly 37 percent of men and 13 percent of women surveyed reported having had at least one same‐sex encounter. In another study in 1989, R. E. Fay found that about 20 percent of nearly 1,200 men surveyed reported having had at least one same‐sex experience, and that about 3 percent reported having such contacts either “fairly often” or “occasionally.” Interestingly, 8 percent of married men in this same study also reported having homosexual contacts either “fairly often” or “occasionally.”

Social scientists generally agree that the popular figure of “10 percent” of the population as homosexual is probably an overestimate. Estimates of homosexuality, however, in certain settings like prisons will be higher because of situational homosexuality, or homosexual behavior in the absence of opposite‐sex partners.

Information on bisexuality is even less available because so many researchers define bisexuality as a type of homosexuality. Self‐labeling is another issue. Some who have both opposite‐sex and same‐sex relations consider themselves heterosexual, while others who marry and raise children as a social “cover” consider themselves gay, and not bisexual.

Many bisexuals disagree with the notion that bisexuality is “the best of both worlds.” As a group, bisexuals often feel alienated from both homosexuals and heterosexuals. Bisexual communities, support groups, and resources are available, but they are few in comparison to the resources available for homosexuals. No doubt, this population will become increasingly visible in the future as more people become comfortable with “coming out.”