A new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds about 5% of cisgender and transgender women in the U.S.—nearly 7 million adults—identify as lesbian, bisexual, or queer (LBQ). In addition, 22% of girls—approximately 3 million high school students—identify as lesbian, bisexual, queer, or questioning (LBQQ).
The study aimed to provide a comprehensive overview of the demographics, health, and socioeconomic status of LBQ women and girls in the U.S. Results showed that an estimated 46% of LBQ women report being physically or sexually assaulted since they were 18 years old. In addition, one-quarter of LBQQ girls have experienced sexual violence in the last year, compared to 15% of both straight girls and gay, bisexual, queer, and questioning (GBQQ) boys.
Results showed that LBQ women and girls, in particular LBQ women of color, experience disparities in many areas of life, including poverty, depression, criminalization, discrimination, and violence. Fewer LBQ women (60%) felt social support in their lives compared with heterosexual women (76%).
“It is important to note that these data were collected before the COVID-19 pandemic. In many areas, such as economic insecurity, mental health, and victimization, LBQ women and girls may be faring even worse today,” said lead author Bianca D.M. Wilson, Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “There is an urgent need for public policies that consider the significance of sexual orientation in the lives of all women, but also ones that address their multiple marginalized characteristics, including race and gender identity.”
- LBQ women make up 55% of the LGBTQ adult population and LBQQ girls make up 66% of the LGBTQ youth population.
- 72% of LBQ women identify as bisexual. Among LBQQ girls, 62% identify as bisexual and 25% as questioning.
- Approximately 39% of LBQ women and 57% of LBQQ girls are Latinx, Black, API, American Indian, or another ethnic minority identity.
- About 75% of all LBQ women experienced at least one everyday discriminatory event in the past year.
- Bisexual and queer women were more likely to report everyday discrimination compared with lesbian women; however, lesbians were significantly more likely to attribute the discrimination to their sexual orientation than bisexual and queer women (57% v. 31%).
- About 48% of LBQ women live in a lower-income household (i.e., income less than 200% of the federal poverty level), compared with 42% of straight women, 38% of GBQ men, and 34% of straight men.
- When looking at incomes at the higher end of the spectrum, we also see that only 25% of LBQ women have household incomes over $75,000 compared to 33% of straight women, 40% of straight men, and 32% of GBQ men.
- Fewer LBQ women (46%) were employed than straight women (52%) and straight (64%) or GBQ (55%) men.
- More LBQ women (46%) have been diagnosed with depression than straight women (23%), straight men (13%), and GBQ men (31%).
- Over half of American Indian and White LBQ women reported having been diagnosed with depression in their lifetime.
- 44% of LBQQ girls reported having considered suicide in the last year, compared to 18% of straight girls, 13% of straight boys, and 32% of GBQQ boys.
Criminalization and System-Involvement
- 39% of cisgender girls in juvenile detention are LBQQ. The majority of LBQQ girls (64%) who were incarcerated are girls of color, particularly Black and Latinx.
- LBQ cisgender women make up 33% of women in prison and the majority (61%) are women of color.
- Almost 8% of LBQ women of color report experiencing serious trouble with the police or the law, compared to 3% of White LBQ women.
- About 4% of cisgender adult LBQ women (ages 18–41) reported having lived in foster homes as a child. Lesbians (9%) were slightly more likely than bisexual (1%) and queer (7%) women to report a history of foster care.
- About 68% of transgender LBQ women and 66% of cisgender LBQ women felt connected to the LGBT community.
- Bisexual women (59%) were less likely to feel connected to LGB communities compared with lesbians (81%).
- Fewer LBQ women (60%) felt social support in their lives compared with straight women (76%).