Medved: Does It Matter if only 1.4% of People are Gay?

Source: USA Today | Michael Medved

The nation’s increasingly visible and influential gay community embraces the notion of sexual orientation as an innate, immutable characteristic, like left-handedness or eye color. But a major federal sex survey suggests a far more fluid, varied life experience for those who acknowledge same-sex attraction.

The results of this scientific research shouldn’t undermine the hard-won respect recently achieved by gay Americans, but they do suggest that choice and change play larger roles in sexual identity than commonly assumed. The prestigious study in question (released in March by the National Center for Health Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) discovered a much smaller number of “gays, lesbians and homosexuals” than generally reported by the news media. While pop-culture frequently cites the figure of one in 10 (based on 60-year-old, widely discredited conclusions from pioneering sex researcher Alfred Kinsey) the new study finds only 1.4% of the population identifying with same-sex orientation.

Moreover, even among those who describe themselves as homosexual or bisexual (a grand total of 3.7% of the 18-44 age group), overwhelming majorities (81%) say they’ve experienced sex with partners of the opposite gender. Among those who call themselves heterosexual, on the other hand, only a tiny minority (6%) ever engaged in physical intimacy of any kind with a member of the same sex These figure indicate that 94% of those living heterosexual lives felt no physical attraction to members of the same sex, but the great bulk of self-identified homosexuals and bisexuals feel enough intimate interest in the opposite gender to engage in erotic contact at some stage in their development.

A One-Way Street

Gay pride advocates applaud the courage of those who “come out,” discovering their true nature as homosexual after many years of heterosexual experience. But enlightened opinion denies a similar possibility of change in the other direction, deriding anyone who claims straight orientation after even the briefest interlude of homosexual behavior and insisting they are phony and self-deluding. By this logic, heterosexual orientation among those with past gay relationships is always the product of repression and denial, but homosexual commitment after a straight background is invariably natural and healthy. In fact, numbers show huge majorities of those who “ever had same sex sexual contact” do not identify long-term as gay. Among women 18-44, for instance, 12.5% report some form of same sex contact at some point in their lives, but among the older segment of that group (35-44), only 0.7% identify as homosexual and 1.1% as bisexual.

In other words, for the minority who may have experimented with gay relationships at some juncture in their lives, well over 80% explicitly renounced homosexual (or even bisexual) self-identification by age of 35. For the clear majority of males (as well as women) who report gay encounters, homosexual activity appears to represent a passing phase, or even a fleeting episode, rather than an unshakable, genetically pre-determined orientation.

The once popular phrase “sexual preference” has been indignantly replaced with the term “sexual orientation” because political correctness now insists there is no factor of willfulness or volition in the development of erotic identity. This may well be the case for the 94% of males and 87% of females (ages 18-44) who have never experienced same-sex contact of any kind and may never have questioned their unwavering straight outlook — an outlook deemed “normal” in an earlier age.

‘Let Go’ of One in 10

For the less than 2% of men and women who see themselves as gay, however, the issue of sexual orientation remains vastly more complicated. Within a month of the release of the CDC/NCHS report, one of the world’s most respected think tanks on gay life confirmed some of its most surprising findings, without specifically referencing the recent government study. UCLA’s Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy offered a new estimate of homosexual identification: concluding that 1.7% of Americans say they’re gay, and a slightly larger group (1.8%) identified as bisexual — by definition attracted to both genders and shaping their sexual behavior through some mixture of inclination and preference.

Brad Sears of the Williams Institute defended the accuracy of these numbers, suggesting gay leaders “let go” of previous, unrealistic estimates of homosexual orientation. He told the Associated Press that “with other populations of a similar size of 2% to 4%, we don’t question whether there are too many or too few.” For instance, no one suggests Jewish Americans should be treated with contempt or dismissed as irrelevant to the Christian majority because they number below 2% of the U.S. population. Nor would the news media shy away from reporting that in an age of religious conversion, choice plays a role in adding to and subtracting from the Jewish community.

Religious identity arises from birth, upbringing, instinct, even destiny, but the fact that it almost always includes some element of choice doesn’t entitle the believer to less respect. By the same token, it’s no sign of hostility or homophobia to point to recent data suggesting that life experience and personal decisions play roles alongside inborn inclination in the complex, sometimes inconclusive, emergence of the gay and lesbian identity.

Michael Medved, author of The 5 Big Lies About American Business, hosts a daily, nationally syndicated radio talk show.


  1. George Patsourakos says

    It is interesting to learn that a new study shows that only 1.4 percent of Americans identify themselves as being gay. Previously, most Americans believed that about 10 percent of the population was gay.

    Perhaps there appear to be more gays in the U.S. because gays tend to be very vocal in often expressing their rights to be gay.

    • There’s also a certain amount of disposable income in the homosexual community that allows this community to be vocal.

      • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

        Very true Jerry. When you don’t have a family to support, there’s a lot of extra discretionary cash lying around.

  2. While I certainly don’t subscribe to Queer Theory, there is an element of flexibility or plasticity inherent to this framework that at least accounts more for how real people behave vs. the myth of a sharp line of demarcation of straight and gay which is considered nearly immutable, and which has certainly seeped into the popular consciousness through the propaganda of Hollywood (what else would you call it?). This explains why many males will engage in homosexual acts while incarcerated (call it a social pressure if you like) but will “return” to heterosexuality (actually, most of them would insist they never left it despite their acts) upon their release. The biblical emphasis on acts over orientations seems vindicated here. Even so, I don’t think it would be wise for any Orthodox clergy member to try to push a gay person to identify as straight. A life of celibacy seems preferential to the forced attempts of many fundagelicals to utilize therapies to lead gay people into straight relationships.

    • I think it’s up to the person to decide if they will take a therapy and engage in one of the programs that try to heal the homossexual behaviour or if they will go for a life of celibacy. I don’t see anything particular fundamentalist about this.

      In my opinion, there are several conditions, of which homosexuality is but one, that are like alcoholism or cleptomania: a sinful action, for whatever reason, genetic, biological, social, psychological or spiritual, has collapsed into a compulsion. In fact, I understand the Fathers of the Church do note this level of seriousness in the development of sin.

      Like a missing arm, these conditions can arise for several reasons, natural and accidental, while the healthy state comes only under very strict limits: you can get a disease for many causes, while the healthy state needs healthy genetics, nutrition, environment, etc etc.

      Therefore, in some cases it may be true that the person could get healed with willpower and support (like some alcoholics can live a healthy life under certain restrictions). But it may also be true that in some cases the issue may be more serious and cannot be reverted at all. Of course that God can heal everything, but still there are millions of people with a number of conditions that are not healed. It’s not up to us to put God against the wall on that. What we can and should do is treat well and with understanding all those how are not healed of their bodily, mental or spiritual conditions, which does not mean giving support to them in indulging in their condition just because it is not being healed.

  3. I don’t really disagree with you Fabio. My issue is with those traditions that heavily push heterosexual marriage as the only normative condition for all but the very old and very young. A gay person should be able to approach the Orthodox faith without feeling like he will have to pretend to be not gay because celibacy is a legitimate path to take and not considered abnormal. The fundagelicals don’t really present this as a viable option and tend to ignore the whole “eunuchs for the kingdom” ethic practiced by St. Paul. And of course there are plenty of gay clergy already who have no business trying to make a relationship with a woman work because they aren’t healed completely of a attraction to the same sex. It is probably somewhat akin to being told that the Church has no room for alcoholics. Now an alcoholic is certainly called to be sober, but if he can’t be in the Church as an alcoholic then he can’t be in the Church.

    • That’s very true and an excellente comparison. People shun the compulsion to visible sins in others and many times indulge in their own not-so-visible sins. Also, it seems that there are some sins that are acceptable, while others are not. Gossip, crankiness, acedia, coldness of faith, pride, vanity, gluttony, sometimes even anger,sexual misbehaviour that is kept under the carpet, love of wealth and comfort all seem to be sins we can “live with”, while the more explicit sins, or those that weaken the victim socially instead of making them social predators, these are to be severely excluded. Pusilanimous subservience to the strong, arrogant spite to the weak. Are we not falling into the parable of the two debtors?

      • which reminds of this poem:

        Poem in Straight Line
        by Alvaro de Campos

        I never met someone who has been beaten.
        All my acquaintances have been champions in everything.

        And I, so many times a scum, so many times a pig, so many times vile,
        I, so many times unjustifiably a parasite,
        Inexcusably filthy,
        I, who so many times have not had the patience to take a bath,
        I, who so many times have been ridiculous, absurd,
        Who have tangled my feet publically in the carpets of etiquette,
        Who have been grotesque, petty, submissive and arrogant,
        Who have suffered humiliations silently,
        Who, when I have not been silent, have been even more ridicule,
        I, who have been comical to hotel maids,
        I, who have felt the blinking of bellboys,
        I, who have suffered financial shame, borrowed without paying,
        I, who when the punch came, ducked
        Away from the possibility of the punch;
        I, who have suffered the anguish of the small ridiculous things,
        I realize that in this I have no peer in the world.

        None who I know and who talk to me
        None of them had a ridiculous act, never a humiliation,
        They have never been but princes – all of them princes – in life…

        I wish I could hear from someone a human voice
        Who confessed not a sin, but an infamy;
        Who told not about a violence, but a cowardice!
        No, they are nothing less than Ideal, if I hear them and if they speak to me.
        Who in this wide world can confess to me they have been vile?

        O princes, my brethren,
        Geez, I am fed up of demigods!
        Where are there people in this world?

        Perchance am I alone in being vile and in error on this Earth?

        They may have been not loved by women,
        They could have been betrayed – but ridiculous? Never!
        I, who have been ridiculous without having been betrayed,
        How can I speak to my superiors without hesitating?
        I, who have been vile, literally vile,
        Vile in the petty and despicable sense of vileness.

  4. Isa Almisry says

    The nation’s increasingly visible and influential gay community embraces the notion of sexual orientation as an innate, immutable characteristic, like left-handedness or eye color

    Many of my left handed elders were forced to change into right handers, and us lefties still have to learn to live in a right handed world, and there are contact lens, so their notion of comparison is rather strange.

  5. cynthia curran says

    True, in the old Byzantine empire some emperors use the Justinian code to punished homosexauls in the upper classes. Actually, castration didn’t work either some castrated males of the time period placed the passive role in a homosexual relationship. I think that evangelicals that try to pushed threapy are trying at a modern verison of this. Its true that some homosexauls try the celbate path, actually it seems that Lesbians can make the change easier than homosexaul men.

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