While the Bay Area as a whole is home to the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, there's a stark difference when regions are broken down. San Francisco, unsurprisingly, claims one of the largest LGBT populations of any metro area in the US, but San Jose has one of the smallest.
A new Gallup survey of the 50 biggest metropolitan areas in the country asked something never invoked by the U.S. Census Bureau: "Do you, personally, identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender?" Read the entire survey, with analysis, here.
The resulting answers indicate that San Jose's LGBT community (3.2 percent of its population) is about half the size of San Francisco's per capita (6.2 percent). That places the capital of Silicon Valley 47th on the list, just ahead of Memphis, Pittsburgh and Birmingham.
The Top 10 showed some surprising results as well, with famously conservative Salt Lake City hovering just above Los Angeles and barely trailing Boston and Seattle.
There is a caveat, however, that may change perspective on San Jose's results: Gallup used what it calls a "diffuse metropolitan area" instead of cities proper, lumping together Santa Clara and San Benito counties. If one counted the population in San Jose alone, that would probably tick up the percentage point. The same might hold true for San Francisco, which was pooled with parts of the East Bay, North Bay and Peninsula.
As with any survey of the LGBT population, there's some speculation about how the results were affected by nuances in the way pollsters phrased the inquiry or the average person's hesitancy to answer personal questions to a stranger over the phone.
California ranked 10th among states (4 percent), while the poll listed Washington D.C. at the top (10 percent) of its list. Generally, the results show that places with greater cultural, legal and political acceptance of the gay community have higher concentrations of LGBT residents. All but one state in the Top 10—South Dakota—has laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and taken steps toward recognizing same-sex marriages, domestic partnerships and civil unions.
Santa Clara County came ahead of the count with its own survey, which showed slightly higher regional numbers (4 percent) than identified in the Gallup poll. Ken Yeager, the county's first openly gay supervisor, called for the assessment as part of an initiative to create a dedicated office of LGBTQ affairs. He envisions the department as similar to those that meet the needs of women, veterans, racial and ethnic minorities and immigrants. Supervisors approved his proposal this afternoon, which means the county will now draft a funding and staffing plan as part of the 2015-16 budget hearings in May.
Yeager, who was among those surveyed by Gallup, took the local assessment of the LGBT community several steps further by examining inequities in health, housing and social services to make a case for establishing an office to serve those needs.
He listed several of those findings in a report heard by his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors today:
- LGBT adults are more likely to live below 200 percent of the federal poverty line than their heterosexual counterparts.
- LGBT residents comprise 29 percent of homeless youth and young adults under 25 and 10 percent of homeless adults aged 25 and older.
- More than 80 percent of school-aged LGBT youth report being verbally harassed because of real or perceived sexual orientation; 44 percent were physically bullied and 20 percent physically assaulted.
- A "disproportionate" number of kids in the Juvenile Justice System (13 percent) identify as LGBT.
- LGBT youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers, while just about half of transgender respondents in the county said they recently considered hurting themselves taking their own life.
- About 10 percent of those surveyed locally said they were physically attacked because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
- One in five reported being hit, slapped, kicked, pushed or otherwise assaulted by a partner. Most never reported it to the police.
- Though overall hate crimes have dropped nationwide from 1996 to 2011, the number of anti-gay hate crimes actually increased during that time.
- Gay seniors are 7 percent more likely to rely on public help in retirement. And 40 percent of LGBT people in their 60s and 70s say their health care providers don't know their sexual orientation.
- One in 10 respondents said they experienced discriminatory treatment by doctors and hospital staff because of their sexual orientation.
- Nearly half felt that they needed intervention because of mental health and substance use issues.
Together, the national survey and the local health assessment give Silicon Valley the most detailed look to date of its LGBT population.
"It's a helpful baseline to have," said Yeager's spokesman, Jim Weston.