NSSHB on gay percentages

Published: October 5, 2010

Indiana University’s Center for Sexual Health Promotion has released its National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, what is dubbed “the largest, most comprehensive national survey of Americans’ sexual behavior since 1994.” As part of its extensive review of American sex practices, the NSSHB also provides information on the prevalence of gay people in the population.

Determining the size of the LGBT community is difficult. Even defining it can be a challenge.

I define a homosexual as someone who exclusively or predominantly experiences romantic and/or sexual attraction towards persons of the same sex. A bisexual experiences significant romantic and/or sexual attraction towards person of both sexes.

But measuring such characteristics can be problematic. Because same-sex attraction occurs in small percentages of the population and because there are few ways of measuring attraction that can be applied across a large study sample, calculation of the size of the gay and bisexual subpopulation relies on self-reporting, a notoriously flawed method. Self-reporting is only as accurate as the participants’ honesty with themselves and with the survey and requires that there be some agreed upon definitions.

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