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'Gay people count, so why not count them correctly?' writes Gary Gates in Washington Post

From the Williams Institute:


Read Gary Gates' Op-Ed


Gay people count, so why not count them correctly?

By Gary Gates

Back in the 1960s, pioneering gay activists found an obscure passage from a 1948 book written by prominent sex researcher Alfred Kinsey that read, "10 percent of the males are more or less exclusively homosexual . . . for at least three years between the ages of 16 and 55." They used that quote to claim that 10 percent of the population was gay, even though Kinsey’s study was not designed to make a population-based estimate. The motivation behind using the 10 percent figure was less about science and more about politics. In those days, gay activists needed to prove the very existence of a gay community. One in 10 was big enough to "matter." It certainly mattered to me when, as a young, closeted gay man, I would look around a classroom with 50 people in it and think, "Wow, there are four other people here just like me."

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I was really fascinated by this article. I had never really thought about the ins-and-outs of conducting studies regarding the LGBT community. At the end of the article, Gates mentions his excitement about how the LGBT population is "so close to equality, given how small the community is." A family member of mine, my younger cousin, finally came out to the family and I'm so proud of him! I'm excited that the voice of the gay community is finally being heard! You're fight towards equality has allowed my cousin to finally feel comfortable enough to be who he is.

Congrats on getting Kinsey's original statement down; almost nobody does.

But if you read the original on page 651 of his "Male" studies you'll see that he was providing figures for the general population. And his actual figure for "exclusive homosexuality" over a lifetime was 4%.

You may be correct in your statement that a large section of the gay community was responsible for the widespread notion that Kinsey claimed 10%. But my memory is different. As I recall, the anti-Kinsey anti-sex anti-gay forces found a footnote in an obscure legal brief submitted by one gay group. Then they hyped the 10% figure to the skies, the better to attack Kinsey as an individual and the gay community as a whole. Thereafter the 10% figure worked its way into general (mis)knowledge.

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