US LGBTQ+ population hits 20 million

At least 20 million adults in the U.S. identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according to a new analysis of government data, representing nearly 8 percent of the nation’s total adult population.

Millions more may identify as something “more expansive” like pansexual or asexual, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation said in a recent report.

Using data from the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, an experimental household probability survey released in bi-weekly phases during the pandemic, the HRC report estimates the U.S. adult LGBTQ+ population is nearly two times larger than it had been believed to be.

Census data suggests that more than two million adults in America may identify as transgender, up from an estimated 1.4 million in 2016, according to the Williams Institute, a UCLA think tank focused on sexual orientation and gender identity issues.

An additional 2 percent of survey respondents said they did not use the terms “cisgender male,” “cisgender female” or “transgender” to describe their gender, suggesting they may identify as nonbinary, genderqueer, or gender fluid, according to the HRC report.

Similar to prior research, the report indicates that bisexual adults comprise the largest contingent of LGBTQ+ people in the U.S., representing about 4 percent of the LGBTQ+ population. Gay and lesbian adults accounted for 3 percent.

While LGBTQ+ people are found in “every community across every state,” the report found California and Texas had the largest LGBTQ+ populations based on the census data.

The HRC noted that previous attempts to document the size and demographics of America’s LGBTQ+ population have faced significant roadblocks related to sampling and bias.

In one of the most comprehensive studies of the LGBTQ+ community, the Public Religious Research Institute’s American Values Atlas estimated 4.4 percent of Americans identified as LGBT. That was followed by a Gallup poll published earlier this year, which saw the percentage of LGBT Americans grow to 5.6 percent of the total adult population.

The HRC’s estimate nearly doubles those figures, though it may still underestimate the LGBTQ+ community’s size.

“This data shows what we’ve suspected: our community is larger and more widespread than we could have known up to this point,” Human Rights Campaign Interim President Joni Madison said in a statement.

“We’re proud to bring this data to light and set the stage for a future where all the millions of LGBTQ+ people in America enjoy full legal and lived equality. I commend the Biden administration and the U.S. Census Bureau for finally allowing researchers to count us, and look forward to seeing the LGBTQ+ community counted in further studies,” she said.

l Approximately 8% of respondents to the Household Pulse Survey self-selected that they were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. This suggests that 20 million adults identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

✚ An additional 2% of participants identify with a sexual orientation that is something else other than lesbian, gay, bisexual or straight. These individuals may identify as pansexual, asexual, or a host of many other identities, but it remains unclear.

l The data on transgender participants also suggest that more than 2 million adults (more than 1%) in America could identify as transgender, a number higher than previous estimates of 1.4 million.

✚ An additional 2% of participants said that none of the terms “cisgender male,” “cisgender female” or “transgender” described their gender. We could suspect that some individuals identify as non-binary, genderqueer or genderfluid, though we don’t know exactly.

l Similar to previous research, bisexual people comprised the largest contingent of LGBTQ+ people, representing about 4% of participants, next to gay and lesbian adults who comprise 3% of Household Pulse Survey participants.

l LGBTQ+ people live in every community across every state. Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas have the largest number of LGBTQ+ people who responded to the survey residing in their states.

l California (approximately 2.6 million LGBTQ+ adults) and Texas (approximately 1.7 million LGBTQ+ adults) are the two states with the largest number of LGBTQ+ people who responded to the survey.