Study Offers "Snapshot" of Sacramento-Area Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Community
A 1997 research study of nearly 2300 gay men, lesbians, and
bisexuals from Sacramento (CA) and surrounding areas
provides a social snapshot of the community, according to Dr. Gregory Herek, a UCD research psychologist and principal investigator for the study.
The data were collected in order to understand the problems and challenges faced by lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults, as well as the strategies that people use to respond effectively to prejudice and discrimination.
The findings are particularly interesting, noted Dr. Herek, because they reflect the experiences of lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals who live outside a major urban gay center like San Francisco or New York. Consequently, they may better describe the lives of people living in smaller cities and suburban areas.
Dr. Herek warned that the sample although it is fairly large may not represent the entire Sacramento-area gay and bisexual population. This is because the methods used for recruiting participants to the study were not the sort used by public opinion pollsters to obtain a truly representative sample. Because sexual orientation is stigmatized and can be hidden, many gay and bisexual people pass as heterosexual. Consequently, obtaining a representative sample would be tremendously difficult and expensive, said Dr. Herek
The findings include the following:
|Choice in sexual orientation||
majority of respondents felt that they did not
choose their sexual orientation. Women were more likely
than men, and bisexuals more likely than homosexuals, to
report at least some choice.
Most respondents women and
men alike labeled themselves as "gay" at
least some of the time. In addition, most women labeled
themselves as "lesbian." The term
"queer," however, was used by less than
one-fourth of the respondents. Nearly half of the gay men
and lesbians and even more of the bisexuals said that
they never use "queer" to describe themselves.
|Being out of the closet||
Nearly everyone in
the sample had told someone else about their sexual
orientation. On average, respondents first came out at
age 20. Two-thirds of respondents were out to most of
their close heterosexual friends, while only one-third
were out to most other heterosexual acquaintances.
Fewer than half were out to most people in their
workplace or school. Compared to bisexuals, gay men and
lesbians were more likely to have disclosed their sexual
orientation to others.
|Coming out to relatives||
Among members of their immediate family, respondents said that their mothers were most likely to know that they are gay, lesbian, or bisexual (79% of mothers knew). Siblings were the next most likely to know 74% of respondents said that one or more sisters knew, and 69% said one or more brothers knew. 62% of respondents reported that their father knew about their sexual orientation.
respondents had discussed their sexual orientation with
their mother than with their father. 65% had talked
directly to their mothers about being gay or
bisexual, while only 39% had talked to their father about
|Relationships and family||
Women were more
likely than men and homosexuals were more likely than
bisexuals to report that they were currently in a
long-term relationship. Only about one-tenth of those in
a relationship had registered formally as domestic
partners, with lesbians the most likely to be registered.
Overall nearly one-fifth of respondents reported that
they were the parent of at least one child. Respondents
in this group had an average of two children.
|Methods and Background||
Respondents completed a lengthy survey that included questions about their experiences with crime, their health and social activities, and a variety of psychological measures. In addition, approximately one-fifth of them were interviewed at length about their experiences.
The sample included nearly equal numbers of men and women. 83% of the respondents were gay or lesbian, while 17% described themselves as bisexual. The median age of respondents was 34 years.
The research was directed by Dr. Herek, Dr. J. Roy Gillis, and Dr. Jeanine Cogan. More details about the study's sample and methods (but not these specific findings) are reported in the research group's 1999 paper published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.
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