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What percent of the population is gay?


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Doug and I decided to have our DNA tested at 23andMe. To our complete non-surprise Doug is mostly Chinese and I'm mostly Irish. Yeah, there's other stuff mixed in, but that's how we turned out. Going through all of the reports we ran across a 23andMe research item. It's a pie chart broken down into five groups:

Solely heterosexual

Mostly heterosexual

Bisexual

Mostly homosexual

Solely homosexual

That makes sense; Masters and Johnson reported that sexuality is a continuum.

What's mostly interesting about the chart is the title at the top:

Sexual orientation of 23andMe users.

Not males only. Not females only. 23,000 23andMe users, 51% male and 49% female, who self-identified their sexuality.

"Self-identified?" you say. "Isn't there a better way to figure out how many in each of the five groups?"

Well, no. That's because something else 23andMe listed is this:

No genetic markers found associated with sexual orientation.

So self-identifying is the only way they could collect the information.

This is no surprise. Geneticists have reported this conclusion for years.

There's no known genetic basis for being homosexual.

I'm not going to tell you what the percentages are; the 23andMe data and reports are copyrighted.

Doug and I weren't surprised or disappointed in the sum of the solely plus the mostly homosexual percentages.

Colin

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What they want for enough DNA is for you to spit in a container and send it to them. Your saliva contains enough DNA for the analysis. They have a good introduction at www.23andme.com.

Colin :icon_geek:

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I've seen reports of between 2% and 10% for the gay population. I suspect the lower number is for solely homosexual and the upper number is for solely and mostly homosexual. It may also depend on the question being asked (activity vs attraction).

Interestingly, some major organisations have had to publicly list a figure for one reason or another. The UK government, for example, included a number (I can't remember what it was, but I think it was around 3%) as part of an impact assessment for some proposed legislation. The AFL here in Australia lists 8.6% of males and 15.1% of females reporting some same-sex attraction as part of their vilification and discrimination policy.

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I've done the 23andme test. I'm as white as mayo :)

The sexual orientation information is collected from users through the use of surveys they conduct as part of signing up users, and as part of the "experience". The surveys ask any number of widely varied questions - one of today's questions is "When you were a child, did you ever have febrile seizures?"

There's also a full "cholesterol" survey running. It would take about a half hour to take it, I don't have time.

23andme used to market their test as a way for you to predict your health and future illnesses based on genetic markers, which is something they were not certified to do - they never ran it by the FDA and consequently the FDA banned them from marketing their tests as a health service. They are attempting to get the FDA to let them do that, but it's going to take years, if it ever is actually proven that you can use gene markers to predict future health, which isn't at all clear is even possible. The FDA keeps a close eye on how they market their service and on how they report results.

The DNA tests at 23andme now focus on genetic heritage and on relative matching. My results, for example, highlight a period of about 23,000 years ago and report that I have genetic markers that suggest my ancestors lived in a now-submerged area of Europe called "Doggerland", and at the same time has matched my DNA to several known relatives who also took their test.

It's pretty cool, but anything they report outside of genetic results should be treated as self-reported, and carefully curated to not step outside the guidelines set down by the FDA. Since sexual orientation isn't something the FDA cares about, you see a lot of those types of surveys and results.

I've done a fair bit of research on 23andme because there have been concerns among privacy advocates that 23andme would sell information about users, and surveys, and DNA tests to third parties, and the future of privacy is something I care about very much. The company has a reputation for being pretty free about selling email addresses of users, and they've been kind of under the microscope lately.

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One of the associated concerns about the people who work with DNA is the potential for deliberately entering the wrong readings into national security and law enforcement data systems - hackers who might insert data rather than steal it. So if an axe murderer leaves behind a sample of DNA, but has a hacker friend who can access the evidence data system and swap yours in, you might find it tough to prove your innocence. After all, DNA is never wrong, right?

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I've seen reports of between 2% and 10% for the gay population. I suspect the lower number is for solely homosexual and the upper number is for solely and mostly homosexual. It may also depend on the question being asked (activity vs attraction).

Interestingly, some major organisations have had to publicly list a figure for one reason or another. The UK government, for example, included a number (I can't remember what it was, but I think it was around 3%) as part of an impact assessment for some proposed legislation. The AFL here in Australia lists 8.6% of males and 15.1% of females reporting some same-sex attraction as part of their vilification and discrimination policy.

The numbers also depend on the format of the question and the view of what constitutes homosexuality in the society from which the sample group comes. For example do a survey on homosexuality in a mostly Muslim social group you will tend to get quite a low figure. Do the same survey in a tolerant liberal society you will get a higher figure. A survey done amongst 16 to 18 year old boys showed a lower figure for homosexuality. However, when the same group was surveyed about their sexual activities without any mention of homosexuality nearly 30% indicated that they had been involved in some sexual activity that could be defined as homosexual.

In some social groups homosexuality is only defined as being involved in same sex anal intercourse. In other social groups hugging a friend of the same sex is classed as being homosexual.

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I've seen reports of between 2% and 10% for the gay population. I suspect the lower number is for solely homosexual and the upper number is for solely and mostly homosexual. It may also depend on the question being asked (activity vs attraction).

Interestingly, some major organisations have had to publicly list a figure for one reason or another. The UK government, for example, included a number (I can't remember what it was, but I think it was around 3%) as part of an impact assessment for some proposed legislation. The AFL here in Australia lists 8.6% of males and 15.1% of females reporting some same-sex attraction as part of their vilification and discrimination policy.

Since the AFL reported "some" attraction, I assume these numbers include bisexual.

For the chart I was referencing, since I can't give the number, I've reverted to some elementary set theory working against three sets of numbers:

Given three sets:

set A = {1,2,4,8}

set B = {3,5,11,21,43}

set C = {1,2,3,5,8,13}

Solve for X:

X = Σ(AՈB) - |A| + Σ(AՈC) - |C| + Σ(BՈC)

where X is the sum of the percentages of those self-reported as solely gay plus mostly gay of a total of 23,000 participants.

As usual, there will be a quiz on this material on Monday.

Colin :icon_geek:

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  • 5 weeks later...

I'm much more comfortable with Nigel's number of 30%. I went to an elitist boys school that selected its kids from a catchment area of about 1000 sq miles. That's 90 boys a year, or in a village our size, one every few years. The other village children wore a uniform of a different colour, and these things mattered. It was difficult to have close village friends! Why did that matter? Well all sexual development happened at school from 9 till 4. What happened at school stayed at school and there was very little input from outside school.

The result was that what today would be thought of as gay actvity, essentially mutual masturbation, was widespread at school... and was simply fun.

It carried no overtones of sexual orientation, no-one commented adversely. It was simply what we did to find the release that if we had gone to the village co-ed school would have been found in the back row of the cinema with a girl.

In my class (and it happened class by class, a little within a year and in my experience virtually never across years) about 50% of us played amongst ourselves (it completely trashed my study of Latin). That was from an onset at 11 until the summer we turned 15. That summer it suddenly became known that what we were doing was "homo", and the penalties if caught would be dire. Those destined to be hetero ran for the hills. The number of boys I could play with dropped to half. In my case I still had three mates who I played with regularly until they left school at 17. Two were in my class, thats 3 out of 30. There were other groupings in the class but we had each other.

So were we "gay"? Well, according to Friends ReUnited, The three of us in my class have ten children between us. The fourth (Rico in my story "Shades of Gray") I'm pretty sure would today be thought of as gay, his chances of surviving the 80s would not have been good... take it from me!

So, what I take from my own childhood, is that if boys dont know that "gay" exists then homosexual activity is simply play. It's the moment that they realise that "gay" exists that the numbers drop, and that is to avoid trouble and for no other reason.

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I've seen reports of between 2% and 10% for the gay population. I suspect the lower number is for solely homosexual and the upper number is for solely and mostly homosexual. It may also depend on the question being asked (activity vs attraction).

Interestingly, some major organisations have had to publicly list a figure for one reason or another. The UK government, for example, included a number (I can't remember what it was, but I think it was around 3%) as part of an impact assessment for some proposed legislation. The AFL here in Australia lists 8.6% of males and 15.1% of females reporting some same-sex attraction as part of their vilification and discrimination policy.

Solely: 6%

Mostly: 3%

Bi: 2%

Colin :icon_geek:

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Just our of curiosity, have any of you ever read the Kinsey Report. It was a study done in the 50's. It's long and very dry, but I was really, Really, REALLY bored one year. There were actually two of them, one in 1948 and another in '53. Anyway, interesting stats. Very detailed. All these later studies could have been compiled from Kinsey's report because the numbers are pretty much the same. LOL.

Anyway, just thought you'd like to know.

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Just our of curiosity, have any of you ever read the Kinsey Report. It was a study done in the 50's. It's long and very dry, but I was really, Really, REALLY bored one year. There were actually two of them, one in 1948 and another in '53. Anyway, interesting stats. Very detailed. All these later studies could have been compiled from Kinsey's report because the numbers are pretty much the same. LOL.

Anyway, just thought you'd like to know.

I have read both and still have copies - though have not looked at them for ages. Have just finished a peer review of a paper on sexual behaviour in religious minorities. Had to recommend rejection as their were a number of statistical errors in the piece and some of the methodology was questionable. What was interesting though was looking at the high level of homosexual activity that was reported amongst those religious minorities that had a condemning attitude to it.

​The latest figures I saw for the general European population indicated that:

  1. 30% of males over the age of 16 have had at least one homosexual encounter in the last 12 months.
  2. ​10% of males over the age of 16 have the majority of their sexual activity with persons of the same sex.
  3. 6% of males over the age of 16 are exclusively engaged in same sex activity.
  4. ​40% of males in the age range 16 to 25 had engaged in sexual activity with a person of the opposite sex in the company of a person of the same sex. 25% of these identified that they had problems with sexual activity with the opposite sex when a person of the same sex was not present.

The study that these figures are derived from is still ongoing and has another five years to run. I believe they hope to publish an intermediate report at the end of next year - which will be the half-way point of an eight year project.

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