by Leah Waldron
In 2011, the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law reported that a mere 3.5 percent of America’s 18- to 44-year-old population was gay, lesbian, or bisexual. If we compare this to the total population of the United States for the same year (311 million, per the 2011 census), there were approximately 10.8 million of us walking around in 2011, gay as you please.
But “10.8 million” is a hard number to get one’s gay, lesbian or bisexual ahead around. To put this in perspective, I decided to look at the population estimates for other groups in the U.S., and what I found was surprising. Not only do we outnumber other subsets of the population, our entire identity as a negligible minority—a political mirage—can be called into question.
First: lawyers. You might assume (I did) that the U.S. was filthy with lawyers, but as it turns out, we outnumber them more than 8 to 1. In the same year as the Williams Institute report, the American Bar Association projected that there were only 1.25 million licensed lawyers in America. And Jewish people? According to the North American Jewish Data Bank, we outnumber them by a little less than 2 to 1 (total number of Jews in the U.S. in 2011: 6.5 mil). And the military? As of 2012, there were approximately 1.8 million service members in the U.S. active and reserve forces, including all five branches. In other words, we outnumber the U.S. military 6 to 1 (I’m not suggesting that we should have an uprising or anything, though).
The total number of gays, lesbians and bisexuals living in America is also higher than the population in 43 U.S. states. The U.S. Census reports that only seven states have populations greater than 10.8 million residents. In the four states where gay marriage is on the ballot this November, we outnumber the population in each state: Maine (1.3 mil); Washington state (6.7 mil); Minnesota (5.3); and Maryland (5.7 mil).
So what kind of power do 10.8 million people “really” have? Apart from all of us relocating to a state the size of Ohio (Can you imagine? The population number is the closest match to 10.8 million, and we’d get a whopping 18 electoral votes), we must harness both our financial and political power if we want to make change. Gay Wonder Twin powers, activate!
For starters, 10.8 million of us could stop buying our gasoline and 64-ounce soda from Exxon-Mobile, a corporation that the HRC has deemed worst in America for LGBT rights. Or, I suppose, we could keep buying the gas from across the street because it’s a few cents cheaper per gallon. Conversely, we could all decide to buy a package of Oreos and send Kraft/Nabisco’s margins through the roof. Or, we could shop at Target instead of Wal-Mart. Or, we could shop at JCPenney’s instead of…I don’t know. I don’t shop at the mall. But you get my point.
But for some reason, maybe because we’re not as organized (or as combative) as groups like “One Million Moms,” the “American Family Association” and “National Organization for Marriage,” we don’t use our numbers consistently enough to make change. We belong to a handful of pro-gay organizations, we donate to pro-gay political parties, and most of us vote once every four years, but we don’t officially boycott the companies that not only deny their LGBT workers rights and benefits, but actively campaign against gay marriage and gay rights initiatives.
It’s time we do.
The easiest thing for us to do is vote (if you recall, 10.8 million of us are over 18 years of age). It sounds really simple, but it’s the least we can do. After all, Obama put his own election on the line this year to give us a shout-out, so we owe him a solid. When you hear that a corporation has contributed to an anti-gay rights campaign, here’s one absolutely no-complications-attached thing you can do: stop buying their products or services. If you’re not sure which corporation to support or boycott, consult the HRC’s “Buyer’s Guide,” which is easy to navigate and uses a 1-to-100 scale of super corporate LGBT awesomeness.
There’s a lot that 10.8 million people can do, but we need to start doing it, or we’ll only have 10.8 million of ourselves to blame.
With our numbers, we can totally take them.
American Bar Association:
Jewish Data Bank: