6% of sexual minority adults in the US identify as queer

For Immediate Release
January 22, 2020

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The Williams Institute
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The first study to examine queer identity in a U.S. nationally representative sample

An estimated 6% of sexual minority adults in the U.S. identify as queer, according to a new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. Those who identify as queer are overwhelmingly cisgender women or genderqueer/nonbinary (GQNB); they are also younger and more highly educated than other sexual minorities.

Researchers examined a representative sample of sexual minorities in the United States from three age groups—young (18-25), middle (34-41), and older (52-59)—to determine the demographics and sexuality of people who identify as queer, compared to those who identify as lesbian/gay, bisexual, or as other sexual minority identities.

In terms of sexuality, queer individuals are more likely than other sexual minorities to report attraction to, and sexual relationships with, transgender and GQNB people, though differences emerge by gender identity.

“We find in this study that queer individuals make up a sizeable proportion of sexual minorities, who are distinct in a number of important ways from other sexual minority people, both in terms of demographic characteristics and sexuality, and across gender identity. Additional research is needed to fully understand this population,” said lead author Shoshana K. Goldberg, a Research Consultant at the Williams Institute.

FINDINGS

  • Among sexual minorities, 6% identify as queer, 47% identify as lesbian/gay, 41% identify as bisexual, and 7% use another sexual minority identity (e.g., pansexual).
  • The majority (83%) of queer individuals were assigned female at birth.
  • An estimated 56% of queer people are cisgender women and 10% are cisgender males.
  • Over one-third of queer people identify as GQNB (34%), including 27% who were assigned female at birth and 7% assigned male at birth.
  • The majority of queer individuals (76%) are young, aged 18-25. An additional fifth (22%) are aged 34-41, with the remaining 2% from the oldest age group (age 52-59).
  • 39% of queer individuals have graduated from college or obtained a postgraduate degree compared with 32% of lesbians and gay men, 17% of bisexual people, and 25% of other sexual minorities.
  • 85% of queer cisgender women report attraction to both men and women. Almost two-thirds (62%) were attracted to both cisgender and transgender women, substantially more than the rate at which lesbians (20%) and bisexual women (38%) are attracted to both. Queer cisgender women were substantially more likely than women of all other sexual minority groups to have had transgender sexual partners (either transgender men or transgender women).
  • 47% of queer cisgender men report attraction to both men and women. 72% were attracted to both cisgender and transgender men. Queer cisgender men were substantially more likely than men of other sexual minority groups to have had sexual partners who are transgender men (reported by approximately 30% of queer cisgender men, versus 11% of bisexual men, and 2% of gay men).

“The term ‘queer’ has a long history with different connotations for sexual minorities,” said study author Ilan H. Meyer, Distinguished Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “Some older people learned it as a derogatory term, but later it was claimed by academics as a critical term and field of study, and some young people may perceive it as an identity that is more fluid than ‘lesbian’ and ‘gay.’ Queer identity seems to represent greater openness to partners of all gender identities.”

ABOUT THE STUDY
The report, “Exploring the Q in LGBTQ: Demographic characteristic and sexuality of queer people in a U.S. representative sample of sexual minorities” appears in Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity and is co-authored by Shoshana K. Goldberg, Ph.D., Research Consultant at Williams Institute, Esther D. Rothblum, Ph.D., Professor of Women’s Studies at San Diego State University, Stephen T. Russell, Ph.D., Professor in Child Development at the University of Texas, Austin, and Ilan H. Meyer, Ph.D., Distinguished Senior Public Policy Scholar at the Williams Institute.

Research reported in this report is part of the Generations study, supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) of the National Institutes of Health, under award number R01HD078526. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. The Generations investigators are Ilan H. Meyer, Ph.D., (PI, UCLA); David M. Frost, Ph.D., (University College London); Phillip L. Hammack, Ph.D., (UCSC); Marguerita Lightfoot, Ph.D., (UCSF); Stephen T. Russell, Ph.D. (University of Texas, Austin) and Bianca D.M. Wilson, Ph.D., (UCLA) Co-Investigators are listed alphabetically.

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