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More Americans Than Ever Identify as LGBTQ+ — Lawmakers Must Make Sure They Aren't Left Behind


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Members of the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to experience homelessness and poverty due to discrimination and violence. The United Nations’ Global Goals call for an end to poverty and for reduced inequalities. Join us in taking action on this issue here.

A Gallup poll released Wednesday found that more adult Americans identify as LGBTQ+ than ever before, a rise of 1.1% from its previous survey taken in 2017.

The results are based on interviews conducted throughout 2020 with Americans across the 50 states and Washington, DC, who were 18 or older, according to the New York Times. The poll also offers more precise data than found in previous reports, due to a change in how Gallup asked respondents about their sexual orientation and gender identity.

When tracking LGBTQ+ identification in the United States from 2012 to 2017, Gallup asked respondents to answer "yes" or "no" to the question, “Do you, personally, identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender?" 

While collecting data in 2020, Gallup asked respondents: “Which of the following do you consider yourself to be? You can select as many as apply: straight or heterosexual; lesbian; gay; bisexual; transgender.”

Of the 5.6% of respondents who identify as LGBTQ+, 3.3% offered other terms to describe their identity, such as queer or same-gender-loving.

“With younger generations far more likely than older generations to consider themselves LGBT, that growth should continue,” wrote Gallup Senior Editor Jeffrey M. Jones.

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This data comes along with the knowledge that LGBTQ+ youth in the United States are 120% more likely to experience homelessness than their non-LGBTQ+ peers, according to the organization True Colors United. The link between the LGBTQ+ community and poverty is clear in other parts of the world, too.

LGBTQ+ individuals are routinely barred from participating in the global economy as homeless shelters across Europe are not equipped to support queer youth, prejudiced administrations threaten LGBTQ+ people with violence, and discriminatory laws lead to low access to medical treatment.

While the United States has seen increased support for queer individuals — through the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that guaranteed marriage equality for same-sex couples and the recent overturning of a policy that barred transgender persons from joining the armed forces and transitioning while serving — there is still work to be done to ensure equity for the LGBTQ+ community in the United States.

The data collected from the Gallup poll is necessary to understand how Americans identify, but advocates say there are steps that need to be taken to make the estimates more inclusive. One example is recognizing the limitations of a poll that asks people to choose from a list of four terms to explain their identity, grouping alternate responses into a non-specific “Other” category.

“You’re not just erasing their identity, but you’re missing an opportunity to understand the complexity of lived experiences,” Amit Paley, CEO and executive director of the Trevor Project, told the New York Times.

The poll also exposes a gap in reporting on sexual orientation and gender identity in general.

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“We don’t actually know how many LGBTQ people in this country die by suicide because death records don’t include data on gender identity or sexual orientation, which is erasing LGBTQ people in important ways,” said Paley.

The House of Representatives voted on Thursday to pass the Equality Act, which would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to protect people from being discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. As more Americans than ever identify as LGBTQ+, supporters of the act say this piece of legislation is long overdue, according to CNN, but that it is a great step toward ensuring that all LGBTQ+ Americans experience equity under the law. The bill must now pass a Senate vote.  

"We are really excited to have the incredible support of President Biden and his commitment to make the Equality Act the law of the land," said Rep. David Cicilline, a cosponsor of the Equality Act. "Every American deserves respect and dignity and it's important that the Equality Act become law because it will once and for all ensure that LGBTQ Americans can live lives free of discrimination."