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Gary Gates defends his LGBT estimates

Timothy Kincaid

April 9th, 2011

Gary Gates of UCLA’s Williams Institute has written an op-ed in the Washington Post defending his decision to estimate the LGBT population. Gates does not speak to the criticism about his methods, which is unfortunate.

He does, however, address a greater concern, one which I share:

These facts matter because legislatures, courts and voters across the country are debating how LGBT people should live their lives. All parties deserve to be informed by fresh research, not a six-decade-old study. We should be able to search the standard places where scholars and policy advocates go for information about the health and well-being of Americans — all Americans. Places such as the Census Bureau’s decennial count and American Community Survey, the premier sources of demographic data in this country. Or the National Health Interview Survey, a primary source of information about Americans’ health. Or the Current Population Survey, the preeminent source of information about the nation’s economic well-being. Or the National Crime Victimization Survey, where we get most of our data about experiences of crime.

But searching these sources for information about LGBT people would be largely futile. None ask questions about sexual orientation or gender identity.



enough already
April 9th, 2011 | LINK

I do not want bad data.
I do not want non-repeatable sampling methods.
I do not want non-falsifiable data sourcing.

His conclusions are of no value. Wore, they may well become “received wisdom” for politicians and pundits. It wasn’t that long ago that Democratic operatives were giving interviews in Newsweek that we weren’t enough people to be worth fighting for our civil rights.

Good, let’s hope that person went to Chicago to keep his master’s mayoral boots spit licked clean. The problem, however, remains – we need facts, not literature reviews on a level my freshmen wouldn’t turn in.

April 9th, 2011 | LINK

What about me? How many LGBT’s out there are college aged and spent the last 2 years living with 3 other college students in a shared-rent situation or some other situation where their sexual orientation is unattainable by any public data. The only data one could get on me is if they got the numbers from of how many users were seeking same-sex dates, and even then, how many people actually sign up for those sites. There is no way to measure how many gays there are, especially when there are those of us who haven’t gotten out of the closet yet. My girlfriend only just came out last year at the age of 29. Her past relationships include living for six years with a guy. There will never be an accurate way to estimate how many LGBT’s there are, and how do you count all the many many straights who have bisexual attractions but never acted on them? (if the people I’ve met in my life who tell me about their own measure of gayness because I’m so open and unapologetic about mine and won’t judge them, but have never actually dated anyone of the same-sex are any indication, then bisexuals probably outnumber all others combined). I’ve gone to my gay male friends’ houses only to find they’re having a fling with some jock I went to high school with who is in between girlfriends or cheating on a girlfriend. The world is full of bisexuals. This study is worthless to those of us who know it, and only harms the LGBT community as a whole because the “oh well, you’re only 3% of the population” argument will keep coming into play. Bill O’Reilly argued the same way when he thought we were 10% of the population. The argument would not be valid either way, but it will still carry weight with the people on the fence who listen to the idiot pundits.

Reed Boyer
April 10th, 2011 | LINK

Twaddle. He “. . . recently reviewed findings from 11 large surveys conducted since 2004, seven in the United States and four internationally . . .”, then extrapolated from the seven U.S. studies to arrive at his numbers.

This is a far (and somewhat hypocritical) cry from his assertion that “[all] parties deserve to be informed by fresh research, not a six-decade-old study.” Nor did he utilize any of the five surveys that he actually named.

I’m not surprised this UCLA-based number-cruncher chose to publish this self-justifying twaddle in the Washington Post rather than the Los Angeles Times. “Distance lends enchantment.”

Rachel H
April 10th, 2011 | LINK

I’m still struggling to understand why percentages are even relevant to questions of equality.

Regan DuCasse
April 12th, 2011 | LINK

Good point Rachel. Regardless of the SIZE of the gay or trans group, discrimination is a harmful and unacceptable social situation. The anti gay however, use number to great effect. However manipulated, or how many omissions there are, or even if whatever information presented has or had NOTHING to do with gay people or being gay, numbers are a big deal to those who support discrimination.

I’m with you that numbers shouldn’t matter really. Our laws assume each citizen is equal, even if individual citizens question how equal to themselves someone else might be.

I think the fact that gay people are a universal and indigenous part of all human life should disqualify any comparisons or conflation of political, social or religious affiliations a person might have which ALSO is part of how political strategies or civil laws are enacted.
Perhaps OUR strategy should be asserting that clear fact. Because the opposition sure likes to treat being gay as if it’s a lifestyle choice. Which throughout all human history, clearly never has been.

Indeed, it’s an indication of this being a RELIABLE CONSTANT in human life, where all the rest has undergone much profound change.

Mark F.
April 13th, 2011 | LINK

Numbers shouldn’t matter, I agree, but we need to present accurate statistics anyway. It does no good to deliberately inflate the numbers of gay people.

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