John M. Becker

The Closet Is Still A 'Major Factor in American Life'

Filed By John M. Becker | December 08, 2013 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: American life, analysis, closets, data, search engine, social networks

Closet-Door.jpgThe New York Times has released a fascinating article exploring the question of how many American men identify as gay. Analyzing data from the U.S. Census, Gallup, Facebook, Craigslist,, and Google, contributor Seth Stephens-Davidowitz uncovered several key patterns:

At least 5 percent of American men, I estimate, are predominantly attracted to men, and millions of gay men still live, to some degree, in the closet. Gay men are half as likely as straight men to acknowledge their sexuality on social networks. More than one quarter of gay men hide their sexuality from anonymous surveys. The evidence also suggests that a large number of gay men are married to women.

Things get even more interesting when Stephens-David breaks things down by state. While anonymous Google searches for gay porn indicate that there's very little statistical difference between the number of gay men in more tolerant states like California and in less tolerant states like Mississippi, Facebook data suggests that men in homophobic areas are far less likely to openly identify as gay. He writes, "My preliminary research indicates that for every 20 percentage points of support for gay marriage about one-and-a-half times as many men from that state will identify openly as gay on Facebook."

He also found that the percentage of Craigslist personal ads placed by men seeking casual encounters with other men is larger in states where tolerance of the LGBT community is lower, and that women in homophobic states are far more likely to suspect their husbands of being gay than in more progressive areas of the country:

Searches questioning a husband's sexuality are far more common in the least tolerant states. The states with the highest percentage of women asking this question are South Carolina and Louisiana. In fact, in 21 of the 25 states where this question is most frequently asked, support for gay marriage is lower than the national average.

The author concludes that, despite the landmark progress being made on LGBT rights and acceptance, anti-gay bigotry and stigma still causes a "huge amount of secret suffering" in America.

Head over to the New York Times website for the rest of the article. It's worth reading in full.

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