How Many Homosexuals Are There in the World?
In December of 2009, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, citizens of the African country of Malawi, became engaged to be married and when they celebrated this decision, the men were promptly arrested, charged with gross indecency and unnatural acts, and sentenced to fourteen years in prison. International outrage followed, and after a visit from Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations, last May, Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika unwillingly pardoned the pair, commenting as he did so, "In all aspects of reasoning, in all aspects of human understanding, these two gay boys were wrong—totally wrong.”
This is all of a piece with the rampant homophobia currently sweeping Africa, outrageously fanned and financed by American religious fanatics, who, having lost this battle back home, have found a new outlet for their hatred. With the applause and support of these American groups, Uganda is about to institute the death penalty for homosexuality. Sodomy is a crime, though not a capital one, in most African countries. Even where it’s legal, as in South Africa, homosexuality is culturally unacceptable to the vast majority of citizens, being equated with demonic possession. South Africa is currently battling an epidemic of “corrective rape,” in which lesbians (including famous local sports figures) are raped, often gang raped, to show them the superiority of heterosex, and thus turn them into “real” women.
In much of Africa homosexuality is conclusively believed to be a Western product, outrageously exported into African countries that were free of it before this imperialistic cultural plague spread across the land. That this ignores the clear history of each African country claiming this nonsense, all of which had dealt with homosexual conduct (often, but not always, brutally) long before the white race returned to Africa, is either unknown or undiscussed. When it comes to the topic of homosexuality (and, sadly, this is true all over the world), history, biology, demographics, morality, medicine, fairness, empathy, etc.—truth itself—are pitched out the window. If a society deems homosexuality evil, no other message gets through. Malawi didn’t change its mind about Monjeza and Chimbalanga’s behavior because of a new understanding of homosexuality; it did so because of international pressure and threatened sanctions of all kinds, especially economic and political ones. What this all does to efforts to combat HIV-AIDS on a continent where it’s endemic is tragic, tragic, tragic.
But the real subject of this post is not to detail the homosexual horrors of Africa, but to comment on an amazing statistic I read in an article about the Malawi gay couple. Written by someone sympathetic to their plight, it commented in passing that “LGBTs are a minority group in Malawi. Studies suggest that the country’s LGBT population stands at about ten thousand.” What? Ten thousand? That’s a ludicrously low figure! The population of Malawi is 13.1 million. I believe that the true number of gays in Malawi is at least 1.5 million, and if I’m right in that conclusion, no one in Malawi is dealing in reality on the subject of homosexuality.
In a prior post [“Homosexuality: The Iceberg Theory,” April 25, 2010; http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2010/04/homosexuality-iceberg-theory.html ] I explained why I believe that (1) homosexuality is genetic and therefore uniform across the world, and (2) homosexuals make up at least ten percent of all human beings. I won’t repeat those arguments here, and suggest you read that post before proceeding with the elaboration I am about to make on those two conclusions.
To people who don’t want to believe either or both of these conclusions, what can I say? I’m a professor of law at a major university, a homosexual, and a person to whom the truth is important above all other things. Read my blog and you’ll discover that I harp on getting things right. Any opinion I have, including those about homosexuality, God, politics, or whatever, I will change instantly if evidence proves me wrong. In my classroom, as in all other parts of my life, I have a horror of teaching things that are untrue. When I first realized I was a homosexual I was terrified by that conclusion, since I was as homophobic as anyone else in the 1960s and 70s. Once I got over my initial shock and depression, I set about gathering the facts about homosexuality, but found very little that looked reliable. Society either said gays were sick, immoral, and/or criminal, or, conversely, perfectly normal. There was little in the way of accurate studies or hard facts to back up these contradictory conclusions. So I read, and I read, and I read some more, and made what sense of the data that I could. Time will prove my conclusions right or wrong, but they are as fact-based as I can possibly make them.
Homosexuality is genetic:
A genetic characteristic has many attributes, but a chief one is that it’s prevalent throughout the species, no matter the circumstances. Is this true of homosexuality? Yes. Every society that ever existed in the world for which we have records, from the dawn of time until the moment you are reading this, has had homosexuals—sometimes treating them well, sometimes making them hide or die. In the 1980s, during my gay rights activism days, I was annoyed to read a statement in The Advocate, the leading gay news magazine both then and now, that there was little or no homosexuality in China. Hmm. There certainly was homosexuality in ancient China. I remember concluding that due to governmental pressure (it was a crime until 1997—strange to make something that doesn’t exist a crime, don’t you think?) and societal disapproval, Chinese gays were well hidden. A year later The Advocate published an article by an American visiting China about the gay underworld he discovered there (“I very much fear,” one Chinese man told the American as he took him to a gay gathering). A 2005 Chinese news agency confessed that no one had any idea how many homosexuals there are in China, but guessed the number to be over 30 million. So much for the “no gays in China claim.” Some African countries have made similar statements, to which I have the same reaction—the ostrich, with its head in the sand, is, after all, an African bird.
If homosexuality were a societal construct it would vary widely according to the society. Religious communities that condoned it would have many homosexuals because it helped create them, but religious communities that forbade it would have few or none. But that’s simply not the case, not anywhere on the globe. Mormons, though they treat them horribly, have as many homosexual children to deal with as do free thinkers. Sex is a powerful urge, be it gay or straight, and it will find an outlet no matter what the punishment (as one of his English male friends took Lord Byron to his bed, he remarked, “We do this at the penalty of our heads, but still we do it!”).
Finally, let it be noted that study after study shows homosexuality to be genetic, as, indeed, are most things humans.
At least ten percent of the population is gay:
Getting accurate statistics about homosexual desire is an almost impossible task. The reasons are obvious: in most countries homosexuality is so buried that people will not answer questions truthfully about it, or, even if they do, they may not know the truth. I lied to myself until age 32 about whether I was a homosexual, and during that period I would certainly have answered “no” to a questionnaire on point, even though in reality I was always a homosexual. In a 1993 study questionnaires were mailed to thousands of American men asking about their sexual orientation. There was a large no-response rate, and those responding proudly declared they were very heterosexual. As a follow-up to the no-response questionnaires, the study leaders sent women with clipboards to ring doorbells and ask men the questions orally. Of the men willing to talk to the women, almost none said they were gay. So the study’s ultimate conclusion was that homosexuals made up only 1% of the population of the United States. This ridiculous nonsense was much derided by experts in statistical analysis and by gay people themselves (“1% MY ASS!” read a button handed out at the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation).
For reasons I’ve explained in the “Iceberg Theory” post, the 10% figure produced by the Kinsey Institute is the most trustworthy number (though the actual number is likely to be higher than that for the reasons I also explore in that post). As it becomes easier in a society to be gay without incurring significant penalties, more people will self-identify as gay, and the statistical studies will gain an accuracy that currently eludes them. In “The Homosexual Matrix,” the remarkable 1975 study of homosexuality by psychologist C. A. Tripp, the author famously commented that “a society that accepts its homosexuals is going to see a lot more of them.”
This is true of Malawi, of course. In 2010 it's thought to have only ten thousand gay citizens because the rest are terrified (who wouldn’t be?). But in another decade or so, assuming Malawi progresses as most countries are doing, it will have millions.
Malawi is one of 290 or so countries in the world. Every one of them has ten percent of its population struggling with this same societal difficulty. In 2011 there will be roughly 7 billion people on our planet, and according to the simple math above 700,000,000 will be gay. Many of the readers of this blog are from countries other than the United States (over 146 countries have visited and read various posts). By far the most visited post is “Homosexuality: The Iceberg Theory.” I would guess that many visitors reading it, looking for answers, are dealing with their own homosexuality, sometimes in hostile environments, and my heart goes out to them. What it’s like to be gay in a country like Malawi is unimaginable to me. I can only hope my musings offer some comfort and guidance.
But surely not all blog readers are supportive of homosexual issues, and for them my posts must be infuriating. What can I say to these well-intentioned people? Let me try this: if you deplore homosexuality, what would you have homosexual people do? If your answer is “convert to heterosexuality,” that’s no answer at all, since it can’t be done (see “How To Change Gay People Into Straight People,” September 20, 2010), and no one who has studied the issue objectively thinks so. Further, even if it could, would that be a good thing? If homosexuality is, root and branch, part of all human development (and therefore, for believers, created by God), it must have some purpose in the grand scheme of things. Dr. C. A. Tripp concluded “The Homosexual Matrix” by answering various questions put to him, and the final one was “If you could wave a magic wand that would affect nobody now alive, but which would eliminate homosexuality in future generations, would you do so?” He replied:
“Certainly not. For while it is always tempting to opt for any kind of uniformity which would automatically reduce human conflict, only a fool would reach into some giant computer that nobody understands and start yanking out transistors.”
[Update: On May 13, 2011, Uganda's Parliment, bowing to international pressure, let its anti-homosexual bill die without enactment.]
"Choose To Be Gay, Choose To Be Straight," January 25, 2011;
"Coming Out: How To Tell People You're Gay," March 27, 2011;
“Are Gays Really Just 1.6% of the U.S. Population?” July 22, 2014;
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013 at http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2013/04/a-guide-to-best-of-my-blog.html