What percentage of the United States population identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT)? A large, nationally representative survey conducted by Gallup in 2017 put the overall number at 4.5% of the U.S. population. This number is up a full percentage point from 2012, when it stood at 3.5%. This trend suggests that as the LGBT community has made more social and political gains--including nationwide marriage equality in 2015--more Americans have decided to come out.
The overall number is but one small part of the story here, however. What is perhaps even more interesting about this survey is that it reveals a major generational divide when it comes to the number of Americans who identify as LGBT. You’ll see exactly what I'm talking about in the table below.
Percentage of Americans responding affirmatively to the question "Do you personally identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender?" by birth cohort (2012-2017)
As the figures above indicate, millennials have become increasingly likely to report LGBT identities in the past several years. By contrast, we haven't really seen sizable change in LGBT identification among Generation X'ers, while LGBT identification among Baby Boomers and older generations actually appears to have decreased a little.
Five years ago, millennials were three times more likely to identify as LGBT than the oldest Americans; today, they’re six times more likely to report an LGBT identity. These trends are fascinating and they suggest that as millennials age, the overall percentage of the population that identities as LGBT will continue to grow.
In short, what all of this tells us is that when we see any survey or study that attempts to establish the prevalence of LGBT identification, we shouldn't necessarily take the results as the final word; rather, we should look at them as snapshots in time that may very well change going forward.
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