"Gay-the New Straight" — I Don't Think So!
by Don Kilhefner, Ph.D., Keynot Speaker for the 14th Annual LGBT Conference on June 1, 2008 at Antioch University
The title certainly got my attention: “Gay—the new straight.” It was on an Op-Ed article written by columnist Gregory Rodriguez in the Los Angeles Times (11/5/07). Rodriguez goes on to make all kinds of melodramatic, but largely unfounded, claims about gay people. His conclusions were drawn from an important new research study done by the Williams Institute at the UCLA Law School titled Geographic Trends Among Same-Sex Couples In The U.S. Census and the
American Community Survey written by UCLA research demographer Gary Gates. While the rest of you were watching Project Runway, I sat down and studied the UCLA report page by page of statistics. I recommend it only to the masochists
First Flaw. Rodriguez/Gates make several major generalizations about gay people—for example, the devolution of the gay community, the declining need for gay identity, the heteroization of gay culture—based solely on one study of same sex couples. Let’s do a bit of simple math.
The number of gay couples on which the study was made was about 800,000. If there were two people in each couple (with you gay people one can never be sure), approximately 1.6 million gay people were included in the study. Generally, gay people are estimated to be somewhere between 8% and 10% of the population. The population of the U.S. is 300 million, and let’s say 9% are gay people. This means there
are approximately 27 million of your kind in the U.S. Thus gay couples in the study represent approximately 6% of the gay population.
It’s a great statistical sample. The only problem is that one cannot make sweeping generalizations about gay people and gay identity and gay community based on the study. One simply cannot make statements about gay people—both coupled and not coupled—based solely on a single study of same-sex couples. No way! Not to mention the lack of differentiation between lesbian and gay male couples—they are not the same. Also missing was critically important stratified demographic information such as the age, race, and socio-economic status of the subjects.
Based on my more than four decades of working in the Los Angeles gay community, I would speculate that the majority of gay men are not in coupled relationships, albeit many are desperately trying either to get into one or out of one. And I would
speculate further that those who are in coupled relationships tend to be generally more conventional, bourgeois and conservative—gay assimilationist—than those who are not. Thus, generalizing about the gay community based on same-sex couples, as Rodriguez/Gates do, is fraught with gross oversimplification, error and, in their case, the spinning of a sociopolitical agenda. Rodriguez was foaming at the mouth in his stereotyped denunciation of gay liberationists. Rodriguez/Gates are gay assimilationists.•