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Queer Talk: LGBT Population Estimates By State

LGBTByState2012MapGallupViaWilliamsInstitute

A new Williams Institute study and Gallup poll provides estimates of the LGBT population in each state. Over 206,000 adults were surveyed, with 41 of the 50 states having samples exceeding 1,000. See the list by state at the end of the post.

Via the Williams Institute:

The percentage of adults in the United States who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) ranges from 1.7% in North Dakota to 5.1% in Hawaii and 10% in the District of Columbia, according to findings from a new study released by Williams Institute Distinguished Scholar, Gary J. Gates, and Gallup Editor-in-Chief, Frank Newport. The study is the largest population-based survey ever conducted that includes measurement of LGBT identification.

While LGBT communities are clearly present in every state in the union, their visibility is generally higher in states with greater levels of social acceptance and LGBT supportive legal climates. With the exception of South Dakota, each of the states with populations 4 percent and over has laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. These states have also taken steps toward more LBGT equality by recognizing same-sex marriages, civil unions, or domestic partnerships. Iowa is the only state among those with the lowest LGBT populations to extend similar rights. In fact, six of the ten states with the lowest LGBT populations are among the most conservative states in the country.

And the obvious follow-up on that is one I’ve seen in several places: the more difficult it is to be out, the more likely LGBT individuals and families won’t be. Or probably more accurately, the more selectively out they will be.

Zack Ford, at Think Progress has this analysis:

With demographics, it’s always important to keep in mind that the number represents something very specific: the number of people who are willing to disclose their identity to an anonymous pollster. It doesn’t represent the number of people who are actually gay but don’t want to tell a pollster, who don’t yet know that they’re gay, who deny that they’re gay, or who don’t identify as gay but do engage in same-sex behavior.

Still, these numbers are telling. The health benefits of coming out are well documented, so in an indirect way, these results show that having laws that protect LGBT people not only protect them from discrimination, but support their mental health and well-being. Indeed, the value of such positive climates is arguably a more compelling conclusion from this study than the demographics themselves.

I’ll add another related point, one which I know I make frequently: the fact that there are out LGBTs in every state — but perhaps especially in those which don’t make the top ten, or even top twenty — is absolutely essential to the progress toward equality being made. I’ll freely admit, it’s a point of particular frustration for me when someone argues that LGBTs in the “less safe to be out” states should pack-up and move to states, and metropolitan areas, where it’s easier. (Not easy. Easier.) Equality really is a grassroots “issue,” and that means all the grassroots.

Cheers to all those who identified as LGBT in the poll. And if you are, but you didn’t, coming out is a very personal decision. No worries. But I hope your time comes soon.

LGBTByState2012Gallup2ViaWilliamsInstitute

(LGBT By State 2012 Map Via Williams Institute
LGBT By State 2012 List Via Williams Institute)

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