(Post 9 in a series)
(I posted these data in January, but I thought that I would repost them here as part of this series on Christians sexual behavior.)
The question: how many people, including Christians, are gay? (For discussion of terminology).
As background, in the 1940s, Alfred Kinsey and colleagues published a report claiming that about 10% of men are or had been exclusively gay. Though still cited, this statistic has been discredited. (For a discussion, see Joel Best, Damned Lies and Statistics, pp. 88-93). The most reliable estimates place the rate of same-sex orientation (depending on how it is measured) in the general population at from 1-4% (higher rates for any same-sex experience). See here and here. So, if there are about 200 million adults in the U.S., this means that from 2 - 8 million are gay.
To look at rates of sexual orientation among Christians, I used data from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS), 1995-1996. It sampled several thousand Americans aged 25-76, and it asked the following question:
How would you describe your sexual orientation? Would you say you are heterosexual (sexually attracted only to the opposite sex), homosexual (sexually attracted only to your own sex), or bisexual (sexually attracted to both men and women)?
Here are the rates by religious affiliation and activity. As per previous analyses in my divorce series, I define "frequent" as attending church about once a week or more often.
- Frequent black protestant (n=90) 100.0% hetero-, 0% homo-, 0% bisexual
- Frequent protestant (670) 99.1, 0.3, 0.6
- Infrequent black protestant (88) 98.9, 0.0, 1.1
- Frequent Catholic (413) 98.8, 0.7, 0.5
- All respondents (3552) 97.3, 1.4, 1.3
- Frequent other religion (73) 97.2, 1.4, 1.4
- Infrequent Catholic (558) 97.1, 1.1, 1.8
- Infrequent protestant (993) 96.9, 1.8, 1.3
- Infrequent other religion (216) 95.8, 1.4, 2.8
- No religion (363) 93.4, 4.1, 2.5
These data suggest the possibility that most Christians have relatively infrequent contact with gay people. I wonder if, and how, the controversy in the church about sexual orientation would change if Christians had regular, personal contact with gays, especially those who profess Christianity.