Silicon Valley LGBT Population among Nation’s Smallest: Poll

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.

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.

Gallup Lowest

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.

Gallup Highest

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.

Gallup States

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.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. I’m a white gay male and believe Yeager’s proposal is a waste of time and money.

    Have I been called names, assaulted, feared for job loss, etc? Yes and worse – 40 years ago, but not now. Do kids still get bullied? Yes, kids have been bullying each other for any number of reasons since the dawn of time.

    Parents kick their gay kids out too. But what’s not mentioned in Yeager’s report (courtesy of a gay staffer at Bill Wilson) is that many of these kids have behavioral issues that lead to straight kids being kicked out too. Suicide is the leading cause of teen suicide – and coming to grips with one’s sexual orientation and being different isn’t easy.

    There will inevitably be incidents where one is treated unfairly due to gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, etc. But the degree and frequency is so small in our county that its tough to imagine such incidents can be reduced.

    Read carefully and you’ll see that Yeager cites nationwide statistics – some of dubious validity – not County or SJ data.

    I remember when SF’s gay bashing got so bad that whistles were being given out in the Castro and the Halloween street party was halted due to violence. But we haven’t had anywhere near that level of intolerance here.

    And no, I don’t live in a pink bubble. The majority of my friends are straight, probably about a third know I’m gay, and nobody cares.

    What I’ve seen is the consequence of acceptance. Many/most of us no longer feel we need to maintain a gay apartheid. Thus:
    * The gay pride parade down Market street has disappeared as support dwindled.
    * Gay pride weekend at Discovery Park is now 1 day, no longer two as attendance has declined. Drag queens aren’t novel or interesting to most of us.
    * The monthly south bay free magazine has ceased publication (as have many printed publications).
    * The DeFrank Center continues to struggle financially. Without SJ’s subsidy, it would have closed long ago. Many of us question it’s relevancy. Gay bingo, gay seniors lunch, etc. can easily be hosted elsewhere. Only 1 gay AA meeting is held per week at DeFrank versus daily AA meetings at other facilities.

    If a LGBT office, then why not one for every other minority? And it’s not clear what they will accomplish that’s already being done elsewhere. If, say gay teen suicides don’t decline, will the LGBT office then be shuttered or do end up with a another useless bureaucracy?

    Gay related matters simply aren’t on my radar, nor of *any* of my gay & lesbian friends (I asked). And I think that’s what equality is all about.

    I’m concerned about my how neighbors can afford to remain here, how their children will become good citizens and prosper, how we can tackle SJ’s daunting public safety, financial and leadership challenges.

    Yeager’s proposal redirects resources away from our urgent problems. Bad idea.

    • Gay Resident:

      I applaud your eloquent writing, and your comments and analysis are spot on.


      Michael Patrick O’Connor

    • i’m someone in their mid-20s who falls under the ‘lgbt’ label and has lived in SJ my whole life. i think many advances have been made for certain parts of the ‘lgbt community’, while others are still being left behind. there are so many who still do not feel accepted nor safe out in public, who are still vulnerable. for just one to act as a spokesperson, basically saying, ‘what gay issues?’ erases all of those people.

      this is a big reason why i take so much issue with the ‘lgbt’ label. it lumps so many of us together when we are different ppl with different lives. it is a tool the more privileged of us can use to speak over those of us who are not as well-off, accepted, nor respected. and outsiders do not even think to question it. “Gay Inc” and its products seem to dominate exposure to ‘our’ issues so much that the general public gets a very filtered and simplistic view of our worlds, and are still ignorant to so many of our issues.

      if we really are doing that well for ourselves, then maybe we should put more effort into this supposed community and make sure absolutely NONE of its members are going hungry, homeless, being abused, etc. because i know for a fact many still are.

      • Kaki, Agree with many of your points. The LGBT population is as diverse as the general population. But unclear to the extent that sexual orientation is a causal factor in the areas you mention such as poverty and homelessness.

        It’s important to remember that correlation is not causality.

        Would a County LGBT office make a difference? Is it the best way to address such problems? I’d strenuously lobby for one if so.

        My viewpoint may be distorted because I’ve seen such enormous change in such a relatively short time: In separate discussions this weekend, spoke with an out lesbian in her 20s that just left the Air Force. They really wanted her to remain, she said. And a previously homeless, out gay guy getting sober & rebuilding his life at the Salvation Army. Both institutions were notoriously homophobic back in the day. Disclosure: I do some volunteer work at Salvation Army & Elmwood – see lots of social ills.

        Both conversations were in separate venues that had nothing to do with sexual orientation. Neither knew that I’m gay. Startling when I think that this type of openness happens today and how far we’ve come as a society.

        The last time I demonstrated was around 1992 at Moffett. An Air Force enlisted man was going to be dishonorably discharged just because he was gay. Ultimately he remained, was honorably discharged several years later, and our military no longer discriminates.

        At this point, the only institutional discrimination that affects me is blood donation. I’ve given blood overseas, but the Red Cross won’t accept mine despite good health. Every gay male is assumed to have HIV. My gay friends in the medical and public safety professions ruefully joke that: ‘We save lives, but our blood is taboo’.

        If disenfranchised or troubled by inequity, then do something about it. That’s how progress happens.

    • Sorry, typo – causes detailed here:

      CDC says suicide is 11% for all teens & per , there aren’t reliable figures on gay teen suicide, but “Numerous studies have shown that lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth have a higher rate of suicide attempts than do heterosexual youth. ”

      Again, thanks for the ping. I was guilty of buying into the narrative about gay youth suicide without checking. All in all, it seems yet another reason to question Ken Yeager’s claims.

      • Heh It’s cool GR. Don’t mind if I call you GR do you?

        BTW I think what Ken’s doing is the norm when in office. Every elected official compiles numbers on their constituents and communicates it to the rest of the board, which is all Ken really did today. Maybe he got some numbers wrong, maybe some numbers didn’t really need to be in there, but he educated the board on some correct facts.

  2. 99.999999999% of everyone who read that, knew it was a typo and knew what it meat, but ONE person just had to make note of it.

  3. Yet, I must question the Gallup numbers. They seem too low to me, among the top six at least. The survey was over the phone. Surely many people who have not come out as LGBT would be hesitant to admit over the phone that they were either LGBorT, since if someone has your telephone number, they probably could easily identify you, and thus out you. Even “Gay Resident” admitted that only one-third of his friends know he is gay. There must be a reason for that.

    Supervisor Yeager lists a number of problems experienced by the LGBT community. The implication seems to be that these problems are somehow the fault of the non-LGBT community. If that is his implication, I have not seen proof of it. He also seems to believe that government should step in to solve those problems. If that is his proposal, I disagree.

    • JMO, Always tough to decide what level of detail is appropriate. I SWAGed 1/3 because ‘we’ve had the conversation’. If asked, I’m truthful. I suspect most would say ‘maybe or probably’ if asked if they thought I’m gay. I’ve brought my partner to work events. He was included as a spouse after I was awarded work-related performance awards (separate trips to Hawaii and Spain).

      Less so now, but occasionally some stereotype surprise. Example: getting a neighbor’s lawnmower working that’s been unused for several years: He: “Are you gay?” Me: “Yeah, hand me the Phillips so I can pop off the carburetor.” He: “Really?” Me: “Really. This gasket is shot. Go get it replaced at Kragins.” But he seems doubtful and suspect he’s wondering if I’m *really* gay. He’d probably doubt a close friend too. MMA fighter that will probably earn his first belt this year to join his awards in judo and wrestling.

      Will I then be then be ‘the gay neighbor’ and get a wave as he drives by or do I get invited to watch a Niners game on his big screen [already established I like football and don’t have cable]? Often get invites, but don’t feel slighted if not. That’s why most of my friends are straight. They judge me for who I am, not sexual orientation.

      Separately, decided to post due to concerns about the BOS being ‘pink mailed’. I imagine every Supervisor was thinking, “Will I appear homophobic if I don’t support this?”

      Failing to legitimately criticize something for fear of mis-interpretation is capitulating when the rainbow / race card is played. Hope my posts provide some air-cover to legitimately oppose Yeager’s proposal.

  4. Mr. Yeager’s findings (at least the eleven posted) mirror what might be expected had he investigated the plight of other dysfunctional groups (the mentally ill, alcoholics, drug addicts) — not exactly the point I expect he wanted to make. Yet make it he did. Subtract from his list of “findings” the circumstances/conditions not already singled out for government attention and you are left with little more than the personal perceptions of a community disproportionately unstable emotionally. Rather than justifying the creation of a new, specialized office, with his findings Mr. Yeager did just the opposite by revealing that the serious problems facing the LGBT community are those already being addressed by government and charitable agencies.

    Try as he and other homosexual politicians might, the government is not the answer to the emotional challenges that come with being different, no matter the cause of that difference. And, as has been proved with LBJ’s Great Society and the creation of the welfare state, as well as the now four decades long effort to produce equal results in education, exploiting those differences to forcibly extract cash and concessions from the majority does not solve problems, it widens divides.

  5. Being a gay man and being in a committed gay relationship is still in this day and age, difficult. It is even more so here where we live in San Jose. We have had incredibly difficult odds trying to find housing and because of this and other circumstances we are now homeless. Please take a look at our campaign for raising a small amount of money in order to secure temporary shelter. Thank you so much.

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