Living Among the Blowfish

by P.M.

The LGBTQ population of the United States is … a) 8.8%, b) 23.6%, c) 4.5%, d) way too annoying? The correct answer is “c,” yet according to a 2017 Gallup poll, most adults in this country would have answered “b,” owing to the fact that most American adults grossly overestimate the percentage of their fellow citizens that bats from the underside of the plate. “Grossly,” as in, by a factor of five: 23.6% to 4.5%.

Television, movies, and the media–the usual suspects–have conspired to inflate the estimates of the LGBTQ population, much as a blowfish inflates itself to intimidate its rivals. On television the LGBTQ characters parading about last season made up 8.8% of all persons on screen, nearly twice the percentage in real life. At the movies, according to GLAAD, a media advocacy group, 18.6% of the 118 films released from major studios in 2019 included characters that were lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer. That’s four times the percentage in real life. The national media, a/k/a, “the enemy of the people,” adds to this puffery to an extent beyond counting. That isn’t surprising as the media, 90% liberal by some reports, has earned the distrust of 44% of our adult population, so it must be doing something wrong.

Thanks to the tireless efforts of television, movies, and the media, U.S. women estimate that 29.7% of our population is LGBTQ. Men peg that figure at 17.4%. Estimates of the LGBTQ population also vary by age. “Adults” between 18 and 29 report the highest estimate (28.5%), and persons aged 65 and older, the lowest (17.5%). Democrats and independents guess that roughly 25% of Americans are LGBTQ, while the average guess among Republicans is (18.3%). All are well beyond the standard error of deviations.

Our tendency to see LGBTQ people everywhere is matched by our tendency to see blacks and Hispanics everywhere. On average, Americans say that 33% of the U.S. population is black, and as many as 17% of Americans say the percentage of blacks is 50% or greater. Only 7% accurately report that the percentage of blacks falls between 10% and 14% of the population.

Between 2010 and 2019, the Latino slice of the population pie increased from 16% to 18%. Yet today, 65% of Americans think Hispanics represent at least 20% of the population, and 14% who think Hispanics constitute 50% or more of the population.

If you’re looking for a lesson in the preceding litany, it’s this: Chill the hell out, my Caucasian friends. We are not the feckless minority that blowfish want us to think we are (or want us to be); and if you’ll pardon a sudden metaphor switch, we are still of a size (a legitimate 60% of the population) to stop the tail wagging the dog in human affairs if we want to. Besides, the next time someone stops you on the street and says, “your money or your life or the LGBTQ population of the United States,” you’ll know the correct answer.