Chapter 8 10% Homosexual Myth
A recent event in the development of the “modern homosexual” is significant, but may not yet be considered historical. In a legal brief filed in a June 2003 Supreme Court case, Lawrence vs. Texas, a coalition of 31 leading pro-homosexual activists groups did not use the 10% figure for the number of homosexuals in America. Included in this coalition are some of the leading national organizations the Human Rights Campaign; the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force; Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG); the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD); and the People for the American Way Foundation. They filed an amicus curiae brief (or ‘friend of the court’ brief) with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Lawrence vs. Texas. These groups cited in their legal brief, from a study that was published in 1994, the National Health and Social Life Survey (NHSLS). The results of this study are in a book by Laumann, et al., The Social Organization of Sex: Sexual Practices in the United States. This study reported that "2.8 percent of the male, and 1.4% of the female, population identify themselves as gay, lesbian, or bisexual." The admission of these figures by these groups in their legal brief is in stark contrast to what has been historically cited in the popular myth that 10% of the population is homosexual. It is this 10% myth that has been historically used to advocate for the acceptance of homosexuality and even for homosexual support groups in high schools across the country. “Project 10” in the Los Angeles, CA school district, founded in 1984, was one of the first of these groups, and note the name of the group. Many of these groups today are commonly known now as Gay and Straight Alliances.
“Although less than 5 percent of men and women enjoyed relatively permanent and lifelong adult sexual relationships with others of the same gender, this figure has been a political football ever since. The number 10 percent appeared later and was not the idea of Kinsey; perhaps it emerged from the subsequent political activism of gays or their critics (Michaels 1996). Kinsey himself never promoted this idea, but it has became established in the cultural imagination as a “magic number.” In fact, the percentage of Americans who are more or less gay/lesbian identified is probable smaller since the best scientific survey study has found that only 3 percent of men and less than 2 percent of women are exclusively homosexual (Laumann et al. 1994).” (Herdt, Same Sex, Different Cultures: Gays and Lesbians Across Cultures, p.52-53)
· Origins of the “10% Myth
The 10% myth for the number of homosexuals is connected to the Kinsey study and an individual, Bruce Voeller. Laumann,et al. in a footnote, on page 289, in their book, The Social Organization of Sex: Sexual Practices in the United States, links the two together. In a 1990 claim made by Bruce Voeller, who was in the late 1970s chair of the National Gay Task Force, takes credit for the origination of the 10% myth. Voeller writes in his article “Some Uses and Abuses of the Kinsey Scale” how he came up with the 10% number. This article is found in the book, Homosexuality/Heterosexuality Concepts of Sexual Orientation. The use of this myth beginning in the late 1970s by the modern gays rights movement’s campaign was to convince politicians and the public that “We [gays and lesbians] Are Everywhere.”
“I think it worth noting two major points about the quoted section from the men’s report. The first is that, as I’ve indicated, what Kinsey said and what we have come to believe Kinsey said are two different things, He did not say that 10 percent of the male population was homosexual. He was quite explicit on the subject.” (Archer, The End of Gay and the death of heterosexuality, p.123)
The book, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, by Alfred Kinsey, et al. published in 1948 is historically significant in the development of the concept of the “modern homosexual”. Kinsey’s study was once considered the "defining study of homosexuality" but which has now been shown to be otherwise. Kinsey in his study saw not a homosexual person, but homosexual acts.
“It would encourage clear thinking on these matters if persons were not characterized as heterosexual or homosexual, but as individuals who have had certain amounts of heterosexual experience and certain amounts of homosexual experience. Instead of using these terms as substantives which stand for persons, or even as adjectives to describe persons, they may better be used to describe the nature of the overt sexual relations, or of the stimuli to which an individual erotically responds.” (Kinsey, Pomeroy, & Martin, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, p. 617)
“Males do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual.” (Kinsey, Pomeroy, & Martin, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, p. 639)
“From all of this, it should be evident that one is not warranted in recognizing merely two types of individuals, heterosexual and homosexual, and that the characterization of the homosexual as a third sex fails to describe any actuality.” (Kinsey, Pomeroy, & Martin, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, p. 647)
“From all of this, it becomes obvious that any question as to the number of persons in the world who are homosexual and the number who are heterosexual is unanswerable.” (Kinsey, Pomeroy, & Martin, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, p. 650)
Kinsey wrote about the physical sexual acts a male did, and it was based on the orgasms he achieved. Kinsey measured “outlets,” that was an organism and listed six forms that one could measure. In order of their treatment by Kinsey in the Male volume were masturbation, nocturnal emissions, heterosexual petting, heterosexual intercourse, homosexual relations, and intercourse with animals of other species. It was from Kinsey’s study that the popular myth, 10% of the population is homosexual purposely originated from. Time has not served Kinsey and his study well. The criticism he initially received over the publication of his study has continued to grow over the years. Even in his day the study was questioned about its scientific value and the scientific standards he imposed in undertaking his study.
· Homosexual advocates acknowledge the “10% Myth”
Though this 10% number is no longer widely used, you may still hear or read about it. The 10% myth is widely used in older books and articles published advocating for homosexuality. Kirk and Madsen in their book published in 1989, After the Ball How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of the Gay’s in the 90s, wrote about this 10% figure. Marshall Kirk is a 1980 graduate of Harvard University. Co-author Hunter Madsen is a public-communications expert who has taught on the Harvard University faculty, designed commercial advertising on Madison Avenue and helped with the first national gay advertising effort, the Positive Images Campaign. It is a book advocating for homosexuality and a change in the strategy from a gay revolution to a public relations campaign for winning greater acceptance of homosexuality in America.
“Consequently, gays are assumed to be quite rare. Although when polled, the average American now estimates the proportion of gays in the general population at roughly 10 percent - which is quite correct - he is only parroting back a much-bandied-about and, to him, a meaningless statistic. He doesn’t understand its implications, and certainly doesn’t believe that that ‘10 percent’ lives anywhere near him, still less that it might include some of his friends and acquaintances. Rather his believe is, “Maybe 10 percent nationally, but not in my backyard.” (Kirk and Madsen, After the Ball How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of the Gay’s in the 90s, p. xvi-xvii)
“If we must draw the line somewhere and pick a specific percentage for propaganda purposes, we may as well stick with the solidly conservative figure suggested by Kinsey decades ago: taking men ad women together, at least 10% of the populace has demonstrated its homosexual proclivities so extensively that the proportion may reasonably be called ‘gay’.” (Kirk and Madsen, After the Ball How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of the Gay’s in the 90s, p. 15)
LeVay is a homosexual advocate and researcher who conducted the “gay brain” study in the early 1990s. In a book, City of Friends, published in 1995 he acknowledges that the 10% figure is a myth.
“In addition, Kinsey reported that 10 percent of men are more or less exclusively homosexual for at least three years between the ages of sixteen and fifty-five. This figure was later seized on by gay rights activitists and taken that one in ten men are gay. In fact, however, Kinsey stated that only 4 percent of the male population are exclusively homosexual throughout their lives.” (LeVay & Nonas, City of Friends, p.51)
“What fraction of the US population is gay or lesbian? The figure one hears most commonly in the gay community is 10 percent. Several gay and lesbian organizations, books and periodicals uses this figure in their names, an indication that it is seen as important to gay and lesbian esteem.
The 10 percent figure is derived from the Kinsey studies of forty to fifty years ago (see chapter 3). What Kinsey actually reported was that 10 percent of men were more or less exclusively homosexual for three years of their adult lives. In Kinsey’s data, only about 4 percent of men and 2 percent of women were exclusively homosexual throughout their adult lives. Furthermore, Kinsey’s sampling and interviewing procedures would not be considered scientifically valid today.
More recent studies have consistently produced figures lower than 10 percent.” (LeVay, & Nonas, City of Friends, p.101-102)
Paigila self-identifies as a libertian and a lesbian woman. She has both foes and critics among other gays and lesbians. Her quotes are from a book published in 1994.
“From the start of my media career, I attacked the much-touted activists claim that 10 percent of the population is gay - which always was a distortion of Kinsey’s findings that 10 percent had had some homosexual experience over their lifetime.” (Paigila, Vamps & Tramps, p. 73-74)
“The 10 percent figure, servilely repeated by the media, was pure propaganda, and it made me, as a scholar despise gay activists for their unscrupulous disregard for the truth. Their fibs and fabrications continue now about the still-fragmentary evidence for a genetic link to homosexuality and for homosexual behavior among animals.” (Paigila, Vamps & Tramps, p. 74)
· 10% Myth is stilled used
Now some of those advocating for homosexuality make reference to this 10% number in very carefully worded statements. According to some one in ten people are homosexual. Others say that up to 10% are homosexual. “According to estimates, at least 1 in 10 teenagers struggles with issues regarding sexual orientation.” (Garofalo, Wolf, Kessel, Palfrey, and DuRant, “The Association Between Health Risk Behaviors and Sexual Orientation Among a School-based Sample of Adolescents,” p. 899-890) This is a statement that was made in a 1998 article from Pediatrics. Four of the five article’s authors at the time of its publication were affiliated with the Harvard Medical School or the Harvard School of Public health. In the article this statement was referenced by a footnote to a 1992 article titled “Special health care needs of homosexual youth” in Adolescent Medicine
For over 30 years those advocating for the acceptance of homosexuality have repeatedly cited this 10% myth for the use of political gain and social acceptance of homosexuality. Although there have been a few of those advocating for homosexuality who acknowledge the 10% myth. Perhaps most importantly it was not used in a “friend of the court” legal brief filed by a coalition of pro-homosexual activists group in the 2003 Supreme Court case, Lawrence v. Texas; rather a much lower number was cited.
Archer, Bert. The End of Gay (and the death of heterosexuality). Thunder’s Mouth Press. New York, 2002.
Garofalo, MD Robert; Cameron Wolf, MS; Shari Kessel, ScB; Judith Palfrey, MD; and Robert H. DuRant, PhD. “The Association Between Health Risk Behaviors and Sexual Orientation Among a School-based Sample of Adolescents.” Pediatrics. May 1998, Vol. 101, No. 5, 895-902.
Herdt, Gilbert. Same Sex, Different Cultures: Gays and Lesbians Across Cultures. WestviewPress. 1997.
Kinsey, Alfred C., Warren B. Pomeroy, and Clyde E. Martin. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. W. B. Saunders Company. Philadelphia and London, 1968.
Kirk, Marshall and Hunter Madsen Ph.D., After the Ball How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of the Gay’s in the 90s. Doubleday . New York, 1989.
Laumann, Edward, O., John N. Gagnon, Robert T. Micheal, and Stuart Michaels. The Social Organization Of Sexuality Sexual Practices of the United States. The University of Chicago Press. Chicago & London, 1994.
LeVay, Simon & Elisabeth Nonas. City of Friends. The MIT Press. Cambridge, MA, 1995.
Paigila, Camille. Vamps & Tramps. Vintage Books. New York, 1994.
Voeller, Bruce. “Some Uses and Abuses of the Kinsey Scale.” p.32-38. in McWhirter, David P.M.D., Stephanie A. Sanders Ph.D., and June Machover Reinisch, Ph.D. Homosexuality/Heterosexuality Concepts of Sexual Orientation. Oxford University Press. New York and London, 1990.