What percentage of the world population is gay, and, broken down into sexes, what percentage of men and women are gay?

I will provide the best set of statistics of which I am aware. However, excellent answers have already listed reasons why even the best statistics may not be as accurate as hoped.

To quote Time Magazine, "It's likely that you have never heard of Gary Gates but the odds are good that you have come across one of his statistics. The former research director at UCLA's WilliamsInstitute, Gates is responsible for many of the best estimates we have about the size and scope of America's LGBT population. When you ask Siri what percentage of the population is gay, she refers iPhone users to one of Gates' papers. When Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered the 2015 opinion that made same-sex marriage legal throughout the country, he quoted Gates' research." Gates was the fellow who pointed out just how diverse America's population was in terms of sexual identification by demonstrating that nearly 100% of districts in the US had same sex couples. He is the author of The Gay and Lesbian Atlas.

The statistics that follow are from a paper published in 2011 by The Williams Institute titled, "How Many People are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender?" by Gary J Gates.

"Key findings from the research brief are as follows:

  1. An estimated 3.5% of adults in the United States identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual and an estimated 0.3% of adults are transgender.
  2. This implies that there are approximately 9 million LGBT Americans, a figure roughly equivalent to the population of New Jersey.
  3. Among adults who identify as LGB, bisexuals comprise a slight majority (1.8% compared to 1.7% who identify as lesbian or gay).
  4. Women are substantially more likely than men to identify as bisexual. Bisexuals comprise more than half of the lesbian and bisexual population among women in eight of the nine surveys considered in the brief. Conversely, gay men comprise substantially more than half of gay and bisexual men in seven of the nine surveys.
  5. Estimates of those who report any lifetime same-sex sexual behavior and any same-sex sexual attraction are substantially higher than estimates of those who identify as LGB. An estimated 19 million Americans (8.2%) report that they have engaged in same-sex sexual behavior and nearly 25.6 million Americans (11%) acknowledge at least some same-sex sexual attraction.

Understanding the size of the LGBT population is a critical first step to informing a host of public policy and research topics. The surveys highlighted in this report demonstrate the viability of sexual orientation and gender identity questions on large national population-based surveys. Adding these questions to more national, state, and local data sources is critical to developing research that enables a better understanding of the understudied LGBT community."

If 3.4% of women identify as part of the LGBT community and 3.6% of males do so as well, that means that just over 4 million women (4,007,834) and over 4 million men (4,030,946) are members of that group. Moreover nearly 700,000 (697,529) people consider themselves transgender.

In terms of what percentage of women consider themselves gay and the percentage who consider themselves bisexual the statistics follow along with those for men.

1.1% of women consider themselves lesbian

2.2% of women consider themselves bisexual

The proportion is reversed for men but the total is somewhat similar.

2.2% of men consider themselves gay

1.4% of men consider themselves bisexual

All of these statistics are helpful but even they may underestimate the actual number of people who are not heterosexual. This is because sexuality is fluid in individuals and even in individuals over time. Snapshots alone cannot capture the subtle shifts that may occur in the expression of sexuality as individuals evolve and as acceptance or rejection of unexpressed fantasies might take flight or become more deeply repressed.

As a possible support for that understanding a gallup pole conducted with Gates published in January of this year, found that 4.1% of the US population identified as LGBT-up from 3.5% in 2012. Moreover, a shift in the millennial population was clearly evident.

The results of the poll are listed below.

  • 4.1% or 10 million Americans identify as LGBT
  • 5.8% of millennials were LGBT in 2012, 7.3% in 2016
  • Women were more likely to identify as LGBT
  • U.S. Adults Identifying as LGBT, 2012-2016

This question was asked: Do you, personally, identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender?

2012 3.5% which translates to 8.3 million LGBT

2013 3.6% which translates to 8.63 million LGBT

2014 3.7% which translates to 9.18 million LGBT

2015 3.9% which translates to 9.652 million LGBT

2016 4.1% which translates to 10.052 million LGBT

In terms of how the statistics translate to world data, it is difficult to know. It is possible that in nations that encourage an expression of all sexual orientations the numbers would be higher than in countries that tolerate such an expression, which would be higher than in countries that discourage anything but heterosexuality, and higher yet than in repressive nations.

I hope this helps.


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