New survey looks at attitudes, behaviors and challenges of LGBTQ singles

A new survey by and Justin Garcia, a Ruth Halls assistant professor of gender studies in the College of Arts and Sciences and research scientist at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, looks at the evolving attitudes, behaviors and challenges of the single LGBTQ population.

Justin Garcia

Justin Garcia, research scientist at the Kinsey Institute at IU

The new LGBTQ in America study is an expansion of Match’s annual Singles in America study, which is also co-authored by Garcia. Topics include when gay men or lesbians “come out” and tell others about their sexual orientation; when transgender people “come out”; marriage and having children; dating; and identity and labels.

“Today’s society is full of rich gender and sexual diversity, yet relatively little is known about the dating experiences of LGBTQ people,” said Garcia, who serves as scientific advisor to Match. “Nearly half of the LGBTQ population in America identifies as single, and a vast majority of these singles, some 80 percent, are seeking a committed relationship.

“By expanding our annual Singles in America study to include more people of diverse identities, including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans, we are beginning to address these knowledge gaps to better understand singles today.”

The study surveyed more than 1,000 LGBTQ singles who are between the ages of 18 and 70, live in the United States and are not currently in a committed romantic relationship.

When it comes to realizing and coming to terms with one’s sexual orientation, 25 percent of gay men realized they were gay before 10 years of age, 50 percent before the age of 13 and 75 percent by the age of 18, according to the survey.

Of lesbian women surveyed, 25 percent realized they were lesbian by 12 years of age, 50 percent by the age of 15 and 75 percent by the age of 20 or 21, according to the survey.

In regard to gender identity, 50 percent of both transgender men and transgender women realized their gender didn’t match their bodies before their 13th birthday; 75 percent of transgender men realized by the age of 16, while 75 percent of transgender women realized before the age of 20.

“These data are extremely interesting, but also sobering,” Garcia said. “Sexual orientation and gender identity development can occur relatively early in adolescence and continue into emerging adulthood, as we begin to define the borders of who we are as individual people. But for many sexual and gender minorities, a variety of social and political factors prevent them from realizing who they are and who they want to be.”

In terms of when LGBTQ singles reveal their sexuality and gender to others, 25 percent of those surveyed came out the same year they “realized” their sexual orientation or gender identity. Those who realized before the age of 18 went an average of seven years before telling someone they identified as LGBTQ, and those who realized during adulthood took an average of 2.9 years to come out.

Marriage and children

The issue of same-sex marriage and adoption by gay couples continues to make headlines and cause heated debate throughout the country. Match’s LGBTQ in America survey addressed the issue, asking LGBTQ singles how important marriage equality is to them and what effect it has on their desire to expand their families.

When it comes to marriage, 53 percent of gay and lesbian singles surveyed have always wanted to get married, while 25 percent say they never wanted to marry.

The survey also addressed last year’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that declared same-sex marriage a constitutional right, asking singles how the decision affected their attitude toward marriage. A majority of those surveyed — 61 percent — said the decision had no effect on their attitude toward marriage, while 17 percent said it changed their mind.

A majority of those surveyed — 74 percent — also said their families would support their getting married.

As for having children, 48 percent of younger LGBTQ singles said having children is important, with lesbian women being more likely to want kids (52 percent) than gay men (36 percent).

“Until recently, many gay and lesbian Americans were unable to legally formalize their relationships through a marital union,” Garcia said. “This made attitudes toward marriage among the LGBTQ community a complex issue, simultaneously about equality and about rejecting heteronormative conventions.

“But, from a biological perspective, the desire to love and be loved runs much deeper than social traditions. This study reminds us that LGBTQ singles face many obstacles and in some ways have different attitudes and experiences, but in many other ways single Americans of diverse backgrounds share a great deal in common.”

More detailed study findings on LGBTQ singles can be found on the Singles In America website. You can also follow the conversation on Twitter at #SinglesinAmerica.

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