How many homosexuals are there in Australia?Monday, October 29, 2012
There has often been confusion in the minds of the average Australian about the number of homosexuals and other people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) in Australia. This is understandable because of the media attention and the often loud voice this group of people have.
This confusion has been seen in the USA. A Gallup poll in 2011, asked people to estimate how many Americans were homosexual. The majority of people estimated 25 per cent, but the actual number, reported recently by another Gallup poll, is 3.4 per cent (“Americans think gay population is 735% higher than it is, Gallup finds”, Family Research Center, 19/10/12).
Similarly large estimates may be expected in Australia, but despite the media attention, the percentage of homosexuals in Australia is between 1 and 2 per cent.
Research conducted by the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS) at La Trobe University in 2003, has shown that of the 20, 000 people surveyed, about 1.2% of adults identify as homosexual (gay or lesbian). Among men, 1.6% identify as homosexual, and among women, 0.8% identify as lesbian, while 1.4% of women and 0.9% of men identify as bisexual (see the graphs below). An overview of the study can be found on the ARCSHS website and a four page summary of the study's results can be found here: http://www.latrobe.edu.au/ashr/papers/Sex%20In%20Australia%20Summary.pdf.
Source: Smith, A.M.A., Rissel, C.E., Richters, J., Grulich, A.E., & de Visser, R.O. (2003), “Sex in Australia: Sexual identity, sexual attraction and sexual experience among a representative sample of adults”, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Publich Health, vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 138-145. <http://www.latrobe.edu.au/ashr/> Summary of the whole study here: http://www.latrobe.edu.au/ashr/papers/Sex%20In%20Australia%20Summary.pdf.
Another study conducted in Victoria, this time by the Victorian government in 2008, found that among Victorians aged 12 to 24 years old, 97.9% identified as heterosexual, 1.5% as bisexuals, and 0.6% as homosexual ("Snapshot of our youth", Herald Sun (Melbourne), July 8, 2008, p.5).
The 10% myth
The 10% figure is a widely quoted number that came from research done by Alfred Kinsey around 60 years ago and is likely to influence people’s estimates of the number of homosexuals in Australia. However, it doesn’t accurately represent what Kinsey reported.
Kinsey wrote that "10% of the males are more or less exclusively homosexual for at least three years between the ages of 16 and 55", and about 4% of white males were exclusively homosexual throughout their lives. Studies since then have found much lower numbers, and the Kinsey studies have been criticised for methodological limitations such as biased sampling, flawed statistics and unethical research methods.
The subjects used for his 1948 Male Report were far from representative of American males. Up to 25 per cent were prison inmates, of which 44 per cent had had homosexual experiences as prisoners, while the adolescent subjects were recruited by a homosexual teacher at only one school. As the sample of people surveyed by Kinsey was not randomly drawn from the population and thus cannot be considered representative, conclusions drawn should not have been generalised to the population.
Despite these flaws being pointed out to Kinsey, he chose to ignore them and refused to correct for the errors predicted (J. Reisman & EW Eichel, Kinsey, Sex and Fraud: The indoctrination of a people. JH Cort and J Gordon Muir (Eds.), Lochinvar-Huntington House, 1990).
A brief summary of U.S. studies on the prevalence of homosexuality can be found here: http://www.kinseyinstitute.org/resources/bib-homoprev.html.
Same-sex couples as a proportion of all couples in Australia
According to the 2011 Census, there were around 33,700 same-sex couples in Australia, with 17,600 male same-sex couples and 16,100 female same-sex couples. Same-sex couples represented about 1% of all couples in Australia.
In 2011, the vast majority of same-sex couples described their relationship as de facto partner (96%).
Summary of facts
• 1.2% of Australians identify as gay or lesbian
• 1.6% of men in Australia identify as gay, 0.9% identify as bisexual
• 0.8% of women identify as lesbian, 1.4% identify as bisexual
• 97.9% of Victorians aged 12-24 identify as heterosexual
• Same-sex couples represented about 1% of all couples in Australia
It is clear from these studies that the number of homosexuals in our society is not as high as the media often claims or portrays. Yet for their small numbers they have a lot to say. Before making radical changes is society based on their demands, we should understand how many they really are.
- Marriage and sexuality