‘Straight people don’t know they’re straight’ — and that can be a problem for the gays


The Washington Post
By Jonathan Capehart
May 29, 2015

Sitting with Jody Herman and Adam Romero before moderating them in a panel discussion on the importance of expanding data collection about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, Herman said something that was at once disturbing and hilarious. “Straight people don’t know they are straight,” she said.

The look on my face was full “dramatic squirrel.” After all, it is kinda funny. But the laugh will be on the gays in ways that affect the policies that touch their lives if the federal government, with its countless demographic surveys and deep resources, continues to fail to include the LGBT community in its data collection efforts. Herman and Romero, both scholars at the Williams Institute, a LGBT think tank based at the University of California at Los Angeles and the premier data collector on the LGBT community, explained.

“Research regarding survey questions about sexual orientation identity show that not everyone understands the terms presented, sometimes because of differing language/cultural terms and norms about sexual identity,” Herman told me later via e-mail. “Ilan Meyer, our colleague at Williams, tested a sexual orientation question to identify LGB people in the general population and he stated that most heterosexual people selected the heterosexual or straight option, but for those that didn’t, the most common response was to write in ‘Normal.’ ”

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