How many young Americans identify as 100% heterosexual? Where do LGBTQ people live? In what countries is same-sex activity punishable by prison or death? These are all things the stats can tell you, and Bennett Singer has spent the last few years collating the most recent research to paint a data portrait of LGBTQ life in the US. Creating the book was as eye-opening for Bennett as it will be for readers, from how many same-sex couples are raising children in Mississippi, to the stigma against bisexual people and the knock-on effects that has in health risks. The truth is in the numbers, and understanding what the lives of LGBTQ people are like is the path towards better policy decision and individual interactions. Bennett Singer's most recent book is co-authored with his husband, David Deschamps: LGBTQ Stats: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer People by the Numbers.
Bennett Singer: Over the past year I’ve been working on a book project called LGBTQ Stats. I co-authored it with David Deschamps, who is my husband and partner on various film projects and other book projects.
And the idea was to take existing research—from studies, polls, surveys, websites, reports—and synthesize it. We looked at probably a thousand different existing publications and took the numbers from those publications and turned them into a book, organized in 16 chapters in a question and answer format. Sort of a Harper’s Index style, with the goal of making it as accessible and lively and eye opening for anybody who cares about equality or social justice in America.
It’s a great tool I think for researchers and academics, but also for folks who just want to know how many people are married in America or what’s the size of the transgender population or what’s the movie with the biggest LGBT grossing box office theme.
So in terms of surprises there were – I thought I knew a lot going into this project, but there were some major eye opening moments for me. One of the biggest I think was this question of how many people define themselves or identify themselves as not 100 percent heterosexual. Which is different than saying “I’m gay or lesbian or bisexual.”
But it’s fascinating to see the growing numbers of young people, particularly in the 18 to 29 year old demographic, who say that they are not 100 percent heterosexual. And the number on that is 31 percent.
So 31 percent of 18 to 29 year olds identify themselves as not 100 percent heterosexual. That’s eye opening to me.
When you look at geography and the question of “where do LGBTQ folks live,” one of the most eye opening details that we came across was: the state that has the highest percentage of same sex couples raising children turns out to be Mississippi, where 26 percent, one in four, same-sex couples are actually raising children.
As you noticed the book is indeed called LGBTQ Stats. and David and I both identify as gay men but really wanted to make the book as inclusive as possible to cover the full spectrum of LGBT and Q Americans, and even beyond America.
And so there are stats threaded throughout the 16 chapters that reflect bisexual and transgender experiences. But there are also separate chapters on bisexuality and on transgender issues within the book.
One basic starting point is: when you look at folks who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual, the majority actually, 52 percent of that population, are bisexual. And so while it’s often an afterthought—and I think unfortunately it’s often an afterthought—the experiences of bisexual people are incredibly central to this community and to the struggle for both legal acceptance, and I think acceptance within and among other gay and lesbian and transgender folks.
There is certainly a stigma and that’s reflected in the numbers too. When you look at like health disparities between lesbian and gay people on the one hand and bisexual people on the other hand, there are numbers and statistics that would suggest that bisexual people face additional stress and additional health risks—I think because of the stigma that is attached by various facets of society to being bisexual.
So I think that’s – and when you look at media portrayals too there’s been certainly strong progress for gay and lesbian characters and medium-strong progress for transgender characters. I think the bisexual representation is lagging, and GLAAD has done, you know, surveys that document specifically the numbers for each of these categories. But I think it’s fair to say that there’s a lot of room for more positive and more diverse portrayals of bisexual folks.