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Graphic artist, Toby Ng, asserts that 10% of the world is homosexual in his work "The World of 100". I can't see where he claims this data to be from. This seems high to me and low to my sister-in-law, so I guess that more or less reflects personal experience.

Can this be true? Does it depend on how inclusively you define it?

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This question is impossible to answer properly since it doesn't clearly define "homosexual". According to Kinsey and pretty much all the subsequent studies, homo/hetero sexuality is a spectrum, not a binary yes/no. So the answer is what you alluded to: "It depend on how inclusive you define it" –  user5341 Nov 11 '11 at 14:23
@Konrad - leaving aside the vagueness of definition (even your clarification attempt in a comment is vague - what's "predominantly"? Do you count bisexuals?), a second problem is you can't get reliable data "for the world". The only way to obtain such data is through surveys, and would you really trust a survey on a homosexual tendencies in Iran (where it's punishable by stoning), other Islamic countries (where there are assorted negative consequences), or, heck, Russia (where up till very recently you went to jail for being gay)? –  user5341 Nov 11 '11 at 18:30
@dtanders: "We know that homosexuality is not a product of culture or upbringing" Have a source? Many would disagree with you. Furthermore, even this suffers from a lack of definition. Consider the "homosexuality" discussed here... is this homosexuality according to your definition? If so, then a "sufficiently large sample" of people in ancient Greece would indicate that a very high percentage of the world population is homosexual--and this was very clearly "a product of culture." –  Flimzy Nov 11 '11 at 20:43
"heck, Russia (where up till very recently you went to jail for being gay)" Not sure why you are picking on Russia here. There are some places in the USA where it is still illegal, and arrests were made as late as 2003. Parts of Australia (Tasmania) had homosexuality still illegal until 1997. Russia making homosexuality legal in 1993 almost seems progressive in comparison. –  Oddthinking Nov 12 '11 at 0:18
@Oddthinking - as far as Russia seeming progressive compared to Texas - may have something to do with the fact that you know as much about Russia as I do about Tasmania, or at least very little. Same MotherJones article said "63 percent of eligible voters supported at least some form of legal recognition for gay couples [in TX]". Care to wager what the level of support is in Russia (hint: sucker's bet: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recognition_of_same-sex_unions_in_Russia )? Also, compare Dallas Gay Pride parades to this: thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2011/05/31/230989/moscow-gay-pride –  user5341 Nov 12 '11 at 2:45

1 Answer 1

The 10% figure comes from (*drumroll*) Alfred Kinsey... Or rather, it originated in his book, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male.

Does this mean that 10% of the population is homosexual? No, it means that, of the 5300 white males polled by Kinsey and his peers, 10% answered that they were predominately homosexual. That's all.

Different polls and different sources have their own figures. For example, a 1993 Janus Report estimated that 9% of men, and 5% of women, had more than "occasional" homosexual relationships. While The Family Research Report says "around 2-3% of men, and 2% of women, are homosexual or bisexual." And The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force estimates 3-8% of both sexes.

One of the biggest issues comes from agreeing on a definition. As someone pointed out in the comments, it's hard to establish exactly what "homosexual" actually means. For example, if a man lives and dies, and had one homosexual experienced during his lifetime: Was he gay, bisexual or straight? Whatever category you'd place that man into, Kinsey's reports indicate that roughly 37% of men would fall into it. So it all depends how you classify sexuality.

And to make matters even more confusing, some (like the Canadia based Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) suggest "sexual orientation may be fluid and change over time". So even if someone identifies with being straight at one point in their lives, at another point they may naturally find themselves identifying with homosexuality.

In short: There's no definite, conclusive answer.


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given the low figures reported by the NGLTF (which has of course every incentive to want high numbers, it would mean more fuel for their cause) I'd give those credit for probably being reasonably accurate. If the actual figure'd been higher, they'd have claimed a higher number :) (plus it matches with the baseline of the other studies you cite, giving it credibility). –  jwenting Jan 11 '12 at 11:26
It's probably worth noting that it's said that your sexuality can change throughout your life, which renders the figures even more meaningless. –  Django Reinhardt Jan 11 '12 at 17:44
that's true. And not just that. One Dutch study (url sits on a dead harddisk, sadly) a few years ago reported that 3-5% of people (slightly more men than women if I remember correct) are transsexual (not all to the point of wanting gender change treatment). Those are often classed with homosexuals as a group, but most of them aren't (many Ts are not sexually active at all, others have their sexual relation with their physical sex which is different from how they consider themselves to be). –  jwenting Oct 17 '12 at 3:39
Shorter answer: "Human sexuality is almost infinitely complex, so assume any kind of hard numbers are essentially meaningless." –  Shadur Jun 14 '14 at 9:53

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