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Gay statistics

In JEB's piece "The self defence society" from last month, he references an interesting Daily Telegraph article from 2013 called "David Cameron is trashing his own party, and it’s not a pretty sight".


The specific incident where the Conservative party was being trashed was over the introduction of gay marriage (gay marriage effectively already existed, but it used the terminology "civil partnership" rather than marriage), and it was handled in a Metropolitan liberal grandstanding-type way which aimed to make Cameron look wise and virtuous whilst party activists were portrayed as homophobes standing in the way of progress. The general issue of the advancement in gay rights is I think quite an interesting one from a numberwatching point of view, because in my view it all started off on the back of dodgy statistics in the 1970s, and has been subsequently much helped along by poor judgement of numbers.

When I went to university in the 1970s I came into contact with an embryonic version of the political correctness which holds sway today. The favourite cause of university students at the time was campaigning against the apartheid regime in South Africa, a cause started up I believe by the Liberal party leader of the time, Jeremy Thorpe. The second favourite cause seemed to be promotion of gay rights and generally raising awareness of there supposedly being lots of gay people present in society. I can actually think of one advantage to this 1970s version of political correctness - if you were a fan of Benny Hill as I was, you could easily get a seat in a hall of residence TV room to watch the show, and you might even get a row of seats to yourself (by contrast when I wanted to watch a programme that was more popular with students like say "The Old Grey Whistle Test", I would usually have to stand at the back of the TV room).

Gay rights activists in the 1970s were very keen on a statistic that 10% of the general population was gay and frequently used it in their literature. This figure came from a scientific researcher called Alfred Kinsey in a book he wrote in the late 1940s, and the figure was often quoted by the news media of the 1970s. To me the figure looked implausibly high, and my guess was that it was more likely to be something like 1% for the general population based on personal experience and just from looking at the size of the university's gay society. I also thought that the percentage of gays might be several times higher in certain occupations like the entertainment industry. If you regard politics as being another branch of the entertainment industry, as summarised in the observation that "politics is show business for ugly people", then that would suggest that the percentage of gays in the Westminster bubble is likely to be several times higher than for the general population.

There was some criticism of Kinsey's sexual behaviour statistics from an early opponent of junkscience, William Tukey, who is most famous for inventing the "Fast Fourier Transform" computational technique.


Tukey pointed out that Kinsey did not use proper scientific random samples and just formed his sample from a collection of people who knew each other.

Last year the UK's Office of National Statistics (ONS) did a survey of about 180 thousand people and found the percentage of gay people in the UK is 1.1% (1.5% male homosexuals and 0.7% female homosexuals), pretty close to my own estimate back in the 1970s, as reported in this Guardian article:


The Guardian article also quotes a survey where a sample of people in the USA was asked to estimate what it thought was the percentage of gay people in society, and they tended to estimate figures even higher than Kinsey, 28% by Democrat voters, 20% by Republican voters, suggesting to me that a lot of people have poor judgement with numbers.

So I think the gay community in Western countries has done very well because the size of their community has been substantially overestimated by politicians, the news media and the public for decades. Their group is one of the biggest beneficiaries of poor judgement of numbers I can think of.

If I had to guess, I would have said that there were substantially more paedophiles than gays back in the 1970s, if you include the most common type of paedophile, the type who is interested in underage teenagers of the opposite sex like Jimmy Savile. But nowadays it would be impossible to obtain meaningful statistics about their numbers because of the massive crackdown on them starting from the 1980s. Paedophiles have gone from maybe having a similar social standing to gays in the 1970s (as I remember it there was a group called the "Paedophile Information Exchange" in the 1970s which mainly campaigned for the age of consent to be lowered) to now probably having a lower social standing than terrorists (they are probably bigger 'victims' of internet surveillance than potential terrorists, but unlike terrorists they don't have the Guardian and Edward Snowden speaking up for them).

Re: Gay statistics

IIRC, Kinsey's number included everyone who'd once had a drunken fumble or session of "self exploration" with someone of the same sex. From my own circle (industrial R&D, not entertainment or politics), the known, dedicated homosexuals (i.e. those that sleep mostly or exclusively with the same sex, excluding those that might on occasion) are around 1 in 30, so closer to but still rather higher than, 1%.

Really, in terms of the arrangements society makes, it doesn't matter if homosexuals are 10%, 1%, or 0.0001% of the population. Society supplies a legal framework for a contractual arrangement known as "marriage" and there isn't any obvious reason why your freedom to enter in to such a contract should be restricted by the sex of the other contracting party. Judgment of numbers has nothing to do with it - it's just that there is no good reason, in a liberal society, to not let consenting adults have fun with each other.

The paedo frequency issue is clouded by the fact that men interested in postpubertal girls below the age of consent are counted as paedophiles. This definition of course includes almost all of the male population (less the homosexuals).

Re: Gay statistics

'Bloke in Germany' sounds like JamesV under a new name. In response to a couple of your points:

"IIRC, Kinsey's number included everyone who'd once had a drunken fumble or session of "self exploration" with someone of the same sex."

I'm pretty sure the 10% figure is a long-term practitioner figure, otherwise I can't see it having been been so extensively quoted. After some checking I found that Kinsey's 'Sex Research Institute' that he founded in the 1940s is still going, but it is now known as the 'Kinsey Institute'. On the Kinsey Institute website there is a webpage which conveniently summarises the main findings reported in Kinsey's books.


The 10% figure relates to "10% of males in the sample were predominantly homosexual between the ages of 16 and 55". Kinsey did give a single homosexual experience figure, but that was 37% for males.

"Really, in terms of the arrangements society makes, it doesn't matter if homosexuals are 10%, 1%, or 0.0001% of the population."

I'd say that assertion is only valid if you regard gay marriage as being a 'human right', which most of us wouldn't. The European Court of Human Rights was asked to give a ruling on whether gay marriage was a human right back in 2012, and even they didn't think it was.


When you take out the human rights aspect, the size of a group that is on the receiving end of some favourable legislation is a pretty important consideration. If the group is too small in size, then it just looks like politicians are helping out some arbitrarily favoured group. In the case of gay marriage, politicians would I say definitely be having to take account of the numbers - they must be making a calculation that there are more gays in the UK than devout religious people who would be offended by gay marriage. If I was asked to guess, I would say there are more devout religious people around in society than gays, but it's probably the other way round inside the Westminster bubble.

I've also got my own theory as to why people might tend to overestimate the size of the gay population in the UK - in my view it's to do with a much reduced awareness of a type of person that used to be known as the 'mummy's boy' in British society. The 'mummy's boy' was a standard character that appeared in British comedy in the 1960s and 1970s - examples would be Private Pike in "Dad's Army", Frank Spencer in "Some mothers do 'ave 'em", and the various parts that Kenneth Williams and Charles Hawtrey used to play in the Carry On films. But then in the mid-70s the mummy's boy character seemed to be discarded from British TV comedy, with non-macho male roles being taken over by gay characters instead (the Mr Humphries character in "Are you being served" was apparently written as being a mummy's boy, but to the annoyance of the writers, the BBC arranged that he was played as a gay character). The mummy's boy character used to appear in British comics as well, the most well-known example occurring in the Beano's "Dennis the Menace" (not to be confused with a US comic character of the same name), where Dennis had a next door neighbour called Walter, also known as 'Walter the Softy', that he used to torment. One of the images of the grammar schools in the old British state school education system was that they were full of people like Walter, and that was actually true to quite an extent. The Beano apparently got into a bit of trouble with the Walter character in the 1980s, because the generally reduced awareness of the previously well-known mummy's boy character led to accusations that Walter was gay and Dennis was homophobic, as mentioned in this news story:


Back in the 1970s the idea that there could be lots of non-macho males in British society who weren't actually gay was well understood, but I think it is less well understood today. The 'mummy's boy community' is probably now seen as being part of the overall gay community.

Re: Gay statistics

"From my own circle (industrial R&D, not entertainment or politics), the known, dedicated homosexuals (i.e. those that sleep mostly or exclusively with the same sex, excluding those that might on occasion) are around 1 in 30, so closer to but still rather higher than, 1%."

If your estimating is accurate, it means that your own industry, at 3.3% gay, is gayer than the UK's right-on Channel 4 TV organisation currently is. There was a news story a few weeks ago about Channel 4 announcing new diversity targets for its workforce by the year 2020:


The current LGBT figure for Channel 4 is 2.4%, with a target set for 2020 of 6%. LGBT stands for "Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender". The general public tends to use 'gay' as a non-gender specific word, but in media and government circles they often use the word 'gay' to refer specifically to male homosexuals. The recent Office of National Statistics figure for LGB is a 1.5% average for the UK. (It is 1.1% just for LG, and they don't give a figure for the transgenders, but I would think it is reasonable to assume that the LGBT figure is dominated by LGB) So Channel 4 is already meeting the UK average by some margin as far as I can see. The 6% target Channel 4 is adopting seems to correspond to what the UK Treasury and the gay charity Stonewall think the UK gay (or it might be the LGBT) population is.

Channel 4 also intends to increase the BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) percentage in its workforce from the current value of 15% to 20% by 2020. I checked what the current BAME figure is for the UK, and it was 14% in the 2011 Census, so Channel 4 is already meeting the UK average, but they appear to be increasing the figure to 20% to reflect the greater BAME presence in London.

Re: Gay statistics

All of which suggests that in fact they will now be discriminating against "straight" people and against white anglo saxons?
Oh dear.

Re: Gay statistics

In reply to JMW, the Coalition government introduced some legislation a few years ago related to making it easier for employers to implement this diversity quota stuff, as explained in this news story:


The Coalition government have invented something called 'positive action', which is supposedly distinct from 'positive discrimination', where it is now legal for an employer to favour a minority group candidate over a candidate from the majority group provided that they have the same qualifications for the job.

But this positive action concept will depend on accurate statistics. I reckon the 6% LGBT figure is a factor of four too high for the UK.

The person pushing the 6% LGBT figure for Channel 4 staff seems to be its 'Head of Diversity', the former Labour MP Oona King (who lost her seat to George Galloway in 2005 as I remember it). The figure also seems to be endorsed by the Communications Minister, Conservative MP Ed Vaizey. The 6% LGBT figure probably looks entirely reasonable to people like King and Vaizey, as they come from the world of British politics, where that figure is probably easy to meet.

To estimate an LGBT figure for British politics, there are a couple of sources I could find. One is from a newspaper interview with the former Conservative MP Matthew Parris in 2006:


"There are probably "50 or 60 gay or bisexual MPs", Parris estimates. "When I was in parliament none of them were out. Now I suppose 10 of them are out, which leaves the remaining three-quarters still not talking about it. Most gay men marry and it then becomes difficult for reasons other than questions of conscience to talk about things." Was he ever tempted to get married? "No, I wasn't.""

In the above quote from the 2006 article, "marry" means marry to the opposite sex. Using the Parris figure of 50 to 60 MPs out of a full total of 650 MPs, that would make the LGBT (actually it's going to be LGB as I can't see a transgender MP getting elected) percentage as 7.7% to 9.2% in the House of Commons.

There is some supporting evidence for the Parris estimate available from the Lib Dem party website regarding the diversity of their candidates for the forthcoming 2015 General Election:


LGBT people make up 7% of the prospective Lib Dem candidates standing in the forthcoming General Election. I suspect you won't see too many of this lot actually declaring themselves as being LGBT in the campaigning literature.

So my view is that British politics is an industry that is quite a bit gayer than average, and politicians assume that the rest of us are just as gay as their industry is.

Re: Gay statistics

Hmm, Martin the fact you found that modern statistic for LGB by self identifying is so low 1.1% is very INTERESTING being way way lower that what we might expect.
(although the topic title might put people off as "none of my business" or "not PC to discuss" )
- I should say that I found it is backed up by a large 33,500 survey by US authority CDC also finding 1.6% gay, 0.7% Bi, 1.1% no answer, put in the WP headline as less than 3% identify as LGB

- That no answer statistic is irritating as it takes for a massive error bar.

IMO It is not healthy for society to force people into living a lie. So it is outrageous for there to be no openly gay league footballers; there need to be role models.
@10% society there would be dozens of gay footballers guaranteeing a player in every game.
But a society level @1.5% and another 1.5% in the closet added to a choice not to enter football could possibly mean a tiny overall percentage say 0.4% : saying that there might be 1 gay in the 220 players in 10 games.

be interesting to find out how "Stonewall recommends working towards a target zone of 5 – 7%"
Cos they seem to be saying that significant number of people in anonymous surveys are liars.
Where do some of those who tick the wrong box come from ?
1) Those under immense social pressure due to their religion/culture
2) Those who became parents and convinced themselves they are not gay.

A target of 6% when you'll maybe never get more than 2%. Wow

But anyway I see quotas as fighting racism with racism when you just need to treat people as individuals and have laws that protect them from discrimination. You can't guarantee that any particular group given a perfect market would choose to any workfield at the same percentage aa the overall population.

A particular note for BME (Black/Minority/Ethnic) is that for work quotas you should consider the specific age group, you can't go by overall society percentage. I suspect BMEs are heavily skewed towards the school age so they won't be hitting the top of their profession until almost retirement so of course they seem under represented now.

Re: Gay statistics

On the subject of there being no openly gay premier league football players, or football league players in general (I understand that there is actually only one semi-professional non-league player who is openly gay), the starting point for that is I would say is that the football industry is about as homophobic as you can get. To give some evidence for that assertion, consider the case of Graeme Le Saux, one of the top English footballers in the 1990s. Le Saux suffered from allegations about being gay, despite not actually being gay, from other players throughout his career. This news story from 1999 gives an example:


Le Saux's main 'problem' seemed to be that he just wasn't seen as 'one of the lads' - he was university-educated, a Guardian reader and was interested in things like antiques. A few weeks ago, I noticed he was the 'Dictionary Corner' guest on 'Countdown', probably the only footballer to have appeared on that programme.

To get into the football industry, you don't just turn up for an interview like in other jobs, there is something like a five year or more 'induction period'. You would have to start off as a talented schoolboy player, then you get signed up by a football club and rise up through their youth system. A gay teenager would have to put up with a homophobic atmosphere for several years, where fellow players would be suspicious of someone who didn't appear to be 'one of the lads'. I would expect the number of gay footballers to be significantly lower than the average percentage for gays in society, and any that do make it would be very good at 'acting straight'.

The football industry might underperform on the LGBT quota, but on the other hand, it has to be said that they do massively overperform when it comes to the BAME quota. According to this link, on the opening day of the 2012-13 premier league season, black players represented 32.2% of the total, and of the English players, 34.5% of the total. So about a third of the players in the premier league are black. In this particular case, the BAME representation is dominated by B with hardly any contribution from AME.