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LGB population estimates: Most national estimates of lesbian, gay and bisexual people, notably those drawn by The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, use data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey ("same-sex unmarried partner households") along with an estimate calculated by the National Survey of Family Growth (which has found that 4.1 percent of men and women ages 18-45 identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual).

On transgender population estimates: Unfortunately, none of these sources count transgender and gender non-conforming people. (Though recent studies, such as the Transgender Law Center's recent report on transgender people in California, are illuminating these communities.) Similarly, due to small sample sizes and/or the disinterest of institutional leaders, national estimates of Native American/Two Spirit and LGBTQ Arab and Iranian people are also missing.

On immigrant population estimates: While some research has explored the realities of LGBTQ immigrants in broader-themed studies, an expansive review that measures and describes LGBTQ immigrants in the U.S. remains largely unavailable. This void in research is complicated by a few factors. First, many agencies do not track data on sexuality, gender identity or immigration status—and many researchers overlook these concerns. Second, studying immigrant populations, as with other vulnerable populations, carries with it a number of ethical concerns, such as navigating cultural differences and notions of scientific rigor, as well as methodological concerns, such as sample size requirements or underreporting. (For example, undocumented immigrants and refugees might shy away from participating in research studies for fear of being identified. Thus, figures on these groups are often presented as estimates and vary widely from source to source.) And because sampling methods prefer larger samples, most research on immigrants homogenizes these communities, ignoring their many differences such as country of origin, language, customs, circumstance and—for the purposes of this toolkit—lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. Ultimately, this means that policy makers and grantmakers are unable to fully assess how immigration and resettlement issues are uniquely experienced across LGBTQ immigrants in our country.

Based on estimates from The William Institute:

  • 12.2 million adults in the U.S. are gay, lesbian or bisexual
  • 254,000 Asian/Pacific Islander adults in the U.S. are gay, lesbian or bisexual
  • 1.2 million Latina/o adults in the U.S. are gay, lesbian or bisexual
  • 550,000 Black/African American adults in the U.S. are gay, lesbian or bisexual


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