Knowledge Center


Determining the size of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender population in the U.S. is, at best, difficult, and at worst, impossible, due to the indirect nature of the data collection. For example, Census 2000 asked about same-sex cohabitation, which was then used to estimate the number of lesbian or gay couples. Those not cohabitating with their partners or single lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals were thus not counted, a significant omission since the Urban Institute estimates that only 1/4 of gay men and 2/5 of lesbians are part of a couple at any given time.1

Because many people are not “out,” this provides additional counting difficulty. One survey of LGB employees found that 23.8% of lesbian and gay people were not out to anyone at work, and 48.8% of bisexual people were not out to anyone at work.2

  • A recent Gallup poll discovered that 3.4% of Americans identify as LGBT. This survey also found out that women are more likely to identify as LGBT than men.3
  • One 2011 study found an estimated 9 million, or approximately 4% of the U.S. population is lesbian, gay, or bisexual, and .3% is transgender.4
  • Based on approximately 150 surveys, the founder of Witeck-Combs Communications estimates that 6.7% of Americans are LGBT.5
  • The Canadian Community Health Survey found that 1.1% of Canadians 18-59 consider themselves gay or lesbian, and an additional .9% consider themselves to be bisexual.6
  • 1% of the UK’s population identified as gay or lesbian, with an additional.5% identifying as bisexual.7


  • 62% of Fortune 500 companies offer domestic partner health insurance benefits.8
  • 87% of Fortune 500 companies have non-discrimination policies based on sexual orientation; 94% of Fortune 100 companies have non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation.9
  • In 2010, 46% of Fortune 500 companied has nondiscrimination policies that included gender identity or gender expression, compared to 69% of the Fortune 100.10


  • The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy aggregated a number of surveys that examined discrimination experienced by gay and transgender employees, and determined that:
    • 15-43% of gay and transgender employees have experienced some form of either discrimination and harassment in the workplace;11
    • 8-17% were not hired or fired due to their sexual orientation;12
    • 10-28% were not promoted because they were gay or transgender;13
    • 7-41% were verbally or physically abused or had their workplaces vandalized.14
  • A 2011 survey of employment discrimination and how it impacts LGBT employees found:
    • 27.1% of all LGB employees experienced discrimination, compared to 37.7% of “out” LGB employees;15
    • 27.1% of LGB employees experience harassment, compared to 38.2% of “out” LGB employees.16
  • A 2009 study of transgender individuals found:
    • 97% of those surveyed experienced harassment or mistreatment in their workplace;17
    • 47% were either fired, not advanced, or not hired due to their gender identity.18
  • 58% of LGBT workers reported that a coworker makes a joke or derogatory comment about LGBT people “at least once in a while.”19
    • 67% of LGBT employees do not report anti-LGBT remarks to human resources or management.20
  • Some LGBT employees remain closeted at work because coworkers or managers will deem that as “unprofessional.”21
  • In one study, 9% of LGBT employees have heard a negative comment about LGBT people by their supervisor.22
  • In the United States, 21 states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation. Of those states, 15 and the District of Columbia have laws prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity/expression.23

Buying Power

  • The total buying power of adult LGBT individuals is projected to be $790 billion.24
  • 87% of LGBT adults and 75% of non-LGBT adults would consider a brand that has equal benefits for LGBT employees. In addition, 47% of LGBT adults are more likely to purchase a company’s products or services when an advertisement has been tailored to an LGBT audience.25
  • 23% of LGBT adults have switched products or services in the past year because a different company was supportive of the LGBT community.26
    • Even if a brand is costlier or less convenient, 71% of lesbian and gay people would remain loyal to that brand should they be supportive of and friendly to LGBT issues.27

Economic Insecurity

  • The poverty rate by race, is:
    • 21.1% for black lesbian couples;28
    • 4.3% for white lesbian couples;29
    • 14.4% poverty rate for black gay male couples.30
  • Lesbian couples who are aged 65 and over are twice as likely to be poor as heterosexual married couples aged 65 and over.31

How to cite this product: Catalyst. Quick Take: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Workplace Issues. New York: Catalyst, May 15, 2014.