Fast Facts: Sexual Orientation

Source: Freedom to Marry

Source: Freedom to Marry

Source: Freedom to Marry

The lesbian/gay/bisexual (LGB) civil rights movement has permeated our national consciousness. Activists have raised awareness, successfully advocated to change discriminatory policies (the military and the Boy Scouts are two examples,) and continue to make headway securing equal protection under the law in marriage, adoption and end-of life matters. While societal acceptance has broadened over time, homophobia is still a painful reality, and the stigma of “being gay” still harms people, particularly youth.

Some Statistics:

  • 3.5% of the US population, or more than 8 million adults, identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual.[1]
  • The Pew Research Center profiled the LGB population by gender[2]:
    • 19% are lesbian
    • 36% are gay male
    • 40% are bisexual.

Of those identifying as bisexual:

        • 73% are female
        • 27% are male


A 2013 Pew Research Center study[3] finds that stigmatization and secrecy are challenges faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender* (LGBT) adults. While people feel more accepted now than a decade ago, the fear of stigma (even from family members) is still profound. Less than half of the respondents had revealed their sexual orientation to their parents, and one-third were rejected by friends or family members after “coming out.”

Despite the notable civil rights accomplishments over the past decade, discrimination faced by the LGB population remains problematic.

  • As of June 27, 2014, same-sex couples may legally wed in 19 states, and 31 states still prohibit same-sex marriage
  • As of June 10, 2014, 23 states and Washington DC permit same-sex couples to apply for a joint adoption. Eight states have laws prohibiting this.[4]
  • The Affordable Care Act prohibits employers from discriminating against legally married same-sex couples when providing health care coverage to their employees.
  • Qualification for government benefits is slowly improving. President Obama extended Veteran’s Affairs benefits, Social Security benefits and leave for government employees of same-sex couples.[5]

Ninety-two percent of this country’s LBGT adults believe that society is more accepting than the previous ten years, and they think this trend will continue. But there is still work to be done: The Pew study revealed that less than 20% of LGBT adults see “a lot” of social acceptance today.


The effects of stigma and discrimination are especially difficult for adolescents and young adults. LGB youth fear rejection by family and friends, and they face a higher risk of homelessness. A 2009 study published in Pediatrics[6] revealed that LGB young adults were:

  • 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide
  • 5.9 times more likely to experience depression
  • 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs and controlled substances
  • 3.4 times more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior

A comprehensive survey of school climate and culture conducted by the Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network[7] (GLSEN) reveals that LGBT youth find school to be a judgmental and rejecting environment. (Check out GLSEN’s guest blog about their 2011 survey here.) The majority of LGBT students described feeling “unsafe” at school. Over a twelve-month period:

  • more than 80% of LGBT students report experiencing verbal harassment
  • nearly 40% report physical harassment
  • 18% of LGBT youth report being physically assaulted at school


* B Stigma-Free will Spotlight gender identity in November 2014.


[1] How many people are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender? The Williams Institute, April 2011., accessed June 26, 2014.

[2] Pew Research Center. A Survey of LGBT Americans: attitudes, experiences and values in changing times., accessed June 26, 2014.

[3]Pew Research Center. A Survey of LGBT Americans: attitudes, experiences and values in changing times., accessed June 26, 2014.

[4] Human Rights Campaign, Updated June 10, 2014.

[5] Shear, Michael, D. New York Times, June 20, 2014.

[6] Ryan C, Huebner D, Diaz RM, Sanchez J. Family rejection as a predictor of negative health outcomes in White and Latino lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults. Pediatrics. 2009; 123(1): 346–352.

[7] Kosciw, J. G., Greytak, E. A., Bartkiewicz, M. J., Boesen, M. J., & Palmer, N. A. (2012). The 2011 National School Climate Survey: The experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth in our nation’s schools. New York: GLSEN.

Spotlight Calendar

Each month B Stigma-Free will spotlight a different area for attention. Blog articles, fact sheets and social media emphasis will call attention to the issue of stigma and the identified topic. Do you have suggestions for us to include? Tell us your ideas here.

February 2014 – Language

March 2014 – Traumatic Brain Injuries

April 2014 – Autism

May 2014 – Mental Illness

June 2014 – Sexual Orientation

July 2014 – Disabilities

August 2014 – Weight Bias

September 2014 – Suicide

October 2014 – Labels

November 2014 – Gender Identity

December 2014 – HIV/AIDS

January 2015 – Socio-Economic Status

February 2015 – Depression

March 2015 – Self-Injury

April 2015 – Sexual Assault

May 2015 – Food Restrictions

June 2015 – Skin Conditions

November 2015 – PTSD

December 2015 – Pay it Forward

January 2016 – Race

February 2016 – Eating Disorders

March 2016 – Learning Disabilities

April 2016 – Substance Abuse

May 2016 – Older People