The Statistics of Gay Men
Well, no one knows the number of us. Or how to count us. Or what to count. Or even if we should be counted. So anything said is pretty much guessing, or even, alas, fabrication. Still, I would like to look at our alleged numbers.
First, the census does not count us. There has never been a question in the census asking if one is a gay man. NPR reports that for the 2010 census:
"Next year, for the first time, the United States census will count same-sex couples who identify themselves as spouses."
This doesn't even count gay men, nor gay couples, but only those who claim they're couples; I know couples who would not answer, and I'm single, so I would not be counted.
In 2000 gay couples tried to get counted - even though the census did not specifically try to count us - and there was controversy about the way the vague question was tabulated. Apparently, the Census bureau changed gay couples to straight couples; not surprising since they weren't asking the question and their computer software had to make a decision.
Then there are the "comparisons" that have supposedly been done between the 1990, 2000, and 2010 censuses - and by the time they're done adjusting, fiddling and correcting they still have a guess. Everyone involved in this data collection admits it's guess work, and thus no one can point to any Census "data" about gay men.
The Census bureau at most relies on counting "single men over 18" in certain zip codes and privately contracted phone surveys. Two of the most recent such surveys were by Gary Gates of UCLA's Williams Institute, and Gallup. Gates took several old phone surveys and did his mumbo-jumbo and came up with an astoundingly precise figure of 2,491,034 gay men. I shall never forget it, for it's so absurd. There's no logical or mathematical way that phone surveys over a decade can produce such a figure. What a waste of grant money, I agree.
Gallup asked "Are you a member of the LBGT community?" and came up with 3.4% and then tried to break it down. Besides the margin of error and the way the questions are asked, and all the perils of polling, there are several glaring flaws in the phone polls. Chief among them is that I know many men who, if they received a phone call asking them if they were gay, would slam down the phone without a word, draw the blinds, and cower under the covers. They are, may I say, Heterophobic. Maybe they are the 4.6% of the people who "didn't know-didn't answer" as Gallup says.
If the call is answered by a mom, and her 20 year old not out of the closet gay son is there, she's not going to say "Yes, there's a gay man here." She doesn't even know yet (probably has an inkling, though.) If the question is like Gallup posed, even I would hesitate to say "yes," for I don't really belong to this "LGBT community." But I'm also the type to change "White" to "European-American" on surveys that ask. And if a bisexual took the question with his or her heterosexual partner around they're not going to answer truthfully either.
So, no matter how you look at it, there is no real count of gay men. For a nation that is both consumed with counting everything, and many of the belief that gay men are a danger to society, I find this odd.
However, mathematically it is impossible to know any percentage of gay men who do this or that since we have no absolute number from which to start. Any statistic on gay men is questionable if not spurious, my own speculations included. It is sheer guess work, and mostly bad at that. Even on HIV/AIDS gay men aren't counted -- we're subsumed into the "men who have sex with men" category.
And of course, there's the Kinsey study of 1948, which is well debunked and oft misrepresented, and is brought up only as a foil, to say that the number is 10%, and then be dismissed. What Kinsey said is that 4% are exclusively gay, and 6% are bisexual in some way, and upwards of 30% or more tried it. So, I bring up Kinsey, and say, "forget it."
Meanwhile, I note one oddity of humankind: for every 100 girls born there are 106 boys born. Strange as it may sound, I suspect these extra 6 boys are the gay ones. My gaydar tells me that out of every 106 men I see, 5 or 6 are gay - which returns an absolute number of about 7.5 million gay men of all ages. (150 million males x 5%)
There is one interesting statistic from the horse's mouth, however. The Ex-gay "cure" industry admits to a catastrophic failure to cure anyone. From Alan Chambers, Exodus president:
"The majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9% of them have not experienced a change in their orientation or have gotten to a place where they could say that they could never be tempted or are not tempted in some way or experience some level of same-sex attraction."
And one of the leading proponents, the late Dr. Charles Socarides, who was involved in a book "Preventing Homosexuality" by a group he co-founded, NARTH, has a gay son. Experts, you know?
But the worst sort of misinformation I see are charts like this one put out by the Family Research Council:
Well, if you don't know how many gay men there are you can't very well figure out when we die. Since I'm going to be 55, and most of my friends are as old or older, I guess we all outlived whatever "data" these people used or created.
This is not a matter of whether you like us or not, this is a matter of accuracy. As you know, conservatives deal with real numbers, facts and solutions. Alas, here seem to be none about gay men.