Next challenge in our series with Alan Shlemon: "Since 10% of the U.S. population is gay, we need to just learn to get
along and be more tolerant."
It’s often said that if you repeat something loud enough and
long enough, people will begin to believe it. Such is the case with the claim
that 10% of the population is gay. Though it’s commonly believed, the figure is
The media only contributes to the problem. It seems like every
movie and television show includes the obligatory gay character(s). It’s no
surprise, then, that American perception of the prevalence of homosexuality is
skewed. A Gallup poll in 2002 found that Americans estimated the percentage of
homosexuals to be 21.5% of the population, a startling number that would even
shock pro-gay advocates!
The origin of the 10% statistic is from a 1948 book by Alfred
Kinsey called Sexual Behavior in the
Human Male. Kinsey concluded from his research that “10 percent of the
males are more or less exclusively homosexual for at least three years between
the ages of 16 and 55.”[i]
But just who are “the males” in Kinsey’s research? It turns
out that his sample population contained a high percentage of convicted
criminals, sex offenders, and male prostitutes. To no one’s surprise, many
researchers were critical of his conclusions since his test subjects didn’t
represent the broader population. The American Statistical Association blasted his
sampling procedure the same year his book was published. One of their committee
members, Princeton mathematician John Tukey, wrote, “A random selection of
three people would have been better than a group of 300 chosen by Mr. Kinsey.”
Clearly the 10% figure isn’t credible, but accurately
estimating the homosexual population can be elusive. One problem is how you determine
who is “gay.” Do only lifelong homosexuals fit the definition? Should people
who have had a single homosexual encounter be included? Does someone who experiences
homoerotic dreams count? How one defines “gay” affects the prevalence estimate.
But even with this problem, many studies give a lower
estimate than the touted 10% Kinsey figure. The Alan Guttmacher Institute, a
group that’s affirmative of homosexuality, found only 2.3% of 3,321 males reported
homosexual contact in the previous 10 years.[ii]
A later study of 93,311 women in the Archives
of Family Medicine found only 1.4% ever had sex with another woman as an
Most recently, however, was a UCLA study by the Williams
Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity that incorporated and
analyzed data from previous prevalence studies. Gary J. Gates, the author of
the study and a Distinguished Scholar at the UCLA School of Law, found 1.7% of
the adult population identified as either gay or lesbian.[iv]
You’d think that now that the 10% figure has been debunked,
pro-gay groups would apologize for the misrepresentation and offer
scientifically defensible estimates. But they don’t. Instead, they admit they
knew the figure was inaccurate, but used it to advance their cause anyway. Tom
Stoddard, former member of the Lambda Legal Defense Fund, said, “We used the
figure…to create an impression of our numerousness.”[v]
Jill Harris, of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, said “I
think people probably always did know that it was inflated. But it’s a really nice number that you
could say, ‘one-in-ten,’ and it’s a really good way to get people to visualize
that we are here.”[vi]
In an Oxford University Press publication, Bruce Voeller
admitted that he “campaigned with gay groups and in the media across the
country for the Kinsey-based finding that ‘We are everywhere.’ And after years
of our educating those who inform the public and make its laws, the concept
that 10 percent of the population is gay has become generally accepted ‘fact’…As
with so many pieces of knowledge and myth, repeated telling made it so.”[vii]
Regardless of the actual percentage of homosexuals in the
population, it’s not relevant to our obligation to “get along and be more
tolerant.” Even if there were only ten homosexuals in the country, it would
still be virtuous for Christians to tolerate (in the accurate sense of the
word) them. The number is irrelevant for that purpose.
But tolerance shouldn’t be
our goal. Christians shouldn’t aspire to treat homosexuals the way the secular
culture treats them. We fail if we do. Instead, we should treat them better. That doesn’t mean we advocate
for gay rights or pitch their agenda. It just means we
love them better than they’re loved by the world. That’s the first step in
transforming our relationship with them for the sake of transforming their
relationship with God.
Kinsey et al., Sexual Behavior in the
Human Male (Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company, 1948), 651.
[ii] John O.G.
Billy, et al., “The Sexual Behavior of Men in the United States,” Family Planning Perspectives, Alan
Guttmacher Institute, March/April 1993.
[iii] Barbara G.
Valanis, et al., “Sexual Orientation and Health: Comparisons in the Women’s
Health Initiative Sample,” Archives of
Family Medicine, 9:843-853, September/October 2000, pp. 844.
[iv] Gary J.
Gates, “How many people are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender?” The
Williams Institute, April 2011.
[v] “How Many
Gays Are There?” in Newsweek,
February 14, 1993.
Rights, Special Rights,” Jeremiah Films, Inc. 1993; quoted in Mike Haley, 101 Frequently Asked Questions about
Homosexuality, (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2004), 178.
Voeller, “Some Uses and Abuses of the Kinsey Scale,” Homosexuality,
Heterosexuality: Concepts of Sexual Orientation, (Oxford University Press,
1990), pp. 35-36.
*If you are finding this series informative and helpful, please share on twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms by using the buttons below this post.
Labels: Alan Shlemon, Bible, Christianity, Homosexuality, same sex marriage, Tough Questions - Homosexuality