Understandings of sexual orientation, gender identity, and intersex status—and the terms used to describe them—continue to evolve. This report uses the term sexual and gender diverse to acknowledge the broad spectrum of natural human variation in sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex development.
HOVER OVER A TERM BELOW
There are over 11 million lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in the U.S. Available data show substantial increases in LGBT identification over the last decade—a 2021 Gallup report found that 5.6% of U.S. adults identify as LGBT, up from 4.5% in 2017. An estimated 1.4 million people (0.6% of the U.S. population) identified as transgender in a 2016 analysis, and approximately 1.7% of people are born with an intersex trait. The demographics of sexual and gender diverse populations are dynamic and rapidly evolving: these communities are becoming younger and more racially and ethnically diverse, and they include growing proportions of women, non-binary people, and people who identify as bisexual. Increasing numbers of people, particularly women, also report same-sex sexual attraction or behavior. Data remain scarce on many characteristics of LGBTQI+ populations, however, particularly about transgender and intersex people and LGBTQI+ people of color.
Most data collection efforts—population surveys, medical records, administrative forms, and clinical trials and other research studies—do not routinely collect data on sexual orientation, gender identity, and intersex status.
Nearly all sexual and gender diverse population research has focused on sexual orientation or same-sex sexual behavior or relationships, with limited data on transgender populations and almost no demographic data on people with differences of sex development (DSD) or people who identify as intersex.
Evolving societal and political contexts have created new possibilities for growing numbers of people to understand and claim diverse sexual and gender identities. However, the climate around social acceptance and legal protections across the U.S. is still fluctuating.
In the absence of affirming and protective environments, policies, and practices, some who consider themselves to be LGBTQI+ may decide not to disclose details of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex status. This has a direct effect on how much we are able to learn about their lives and experiences.
Recomendation 1: Entities throughout the federal statistical system; other federal agencies; state, local, and tribal departments and agencies; private entities; and other relevant stakeholders should consider adding measures of sexual orientation, gender identity, and intersex status to all data collection efforts and instruments, such as population-based surveys, administrative records, clinical records, and forms used to collect demographic data.
Recomendation 2: Federal statistical agencies, state, local, and tribal departments and agencies; private entities; and other relevant stakeholders should fund and conduct methodological research to develop, improve, and expand measures that capture the full range of sexual and gender diversity in the population—including but not limited to intersex status and emerging sexual and gender identities, sexual behaviors, and intersecting identities—as well as determinants of well-being for sexual and gender diverse populations.
Recomendation 3: Public and private funders should support and researchers should conduct studies using a variety of methods and sampling techniques—driven by the questions under study—in order to examine family and other social relationships, community, health, education, economic, and legal issues that will enhance understanding of sexual and gender diverse populations.
Recomendation 4: The U.S. Office of Management and Budget should convene federal, state, and private funders, as well as other relevant stakeholders, to address significant problems in linking data from different datasets to facilitate research on the health status and well-being of sexual and gender diverse people. These stakeholders will differ by content area but could include researchers, legal advocacy groups, research institutions and centers, think tanks, policy-tracking groups, health, and surveillance organizations.
Recomendation 5: Public and private research funders, together with federal statistical agencies, should prioritize research into the development, implementation, and evaluation of evidence-based services, programs, and interventions that promote the well-being of sexual and gender diverse populations.