Professor Lectures on The Data Behind LGB Identification

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

On Tuesday, October 20, NYU Associate Professor of Political Science Patrick Egan ’92 presented a lecture entitled “LGBT Politics After Marriage Equality.”

The talk consisted of a data driven appraisal of the LGB community and yielded three conclusions: LGB identity is rising in prevalence, becoming less attached to sexual behavior, and persistently coincides with Democratic affiliation.

After a brief introduction by Professor of Political Science Rick Valelly ’75, Egan paid homage to Swarthmore College, commenting that he was “back home,” and briefly chronicled his work heretofore, which includes degrees from Princeton and Berkeley, stints in the office of former Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell and the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, and success in a raft of significant publications, before diving into his lecture.

Egan started off his lecture in Massachusetts, where LGB have full legal equality, including in the housing and occupational sphere, not just marital.

“In my lifetime, I think it’s going to be the case” countrywide, he predicted for full LGB de jure equality.

He did distinguish between LGB rights and transgender rights, saying that legal equality for the latter group would be a more extensive journey.

Egan’s first series of data, on the increase in LGB self-identification, showed that rates have tracked sharply upwards in the past few years; government sponsored public health surveys, for example, show identification rising from 3% in 2001 to 5% in 2012, with a particularly pronounced increase among the youngest generational cohort, in which 6.5% identified as LGB.

“We’re talking about a potential doubling of American’s identifying as LGB,” Egan said.

He believes the only sensible explanation is lessening stigma.

Egan showed that LGB identification is less tied to sexual behavior: the fraction of women in particular who do not have female sex partners but identify as LGB has statistically significantly increased. He also showed that LGB identity is durable, noting that 80% of people who identified as LGB in one 2008 survey identified the same in 2012, making it more persistent than ethnicity, class, and political ideology, and indicated that LGBs are durably Democratic voters, regardless of the candidate’s record on gay rights.

Romeo Luevano ’19 said that he found the talk informative, but wanted more of a roadmap as to how the LGBT community could attain equality faster.

“Going into the talk, I thought it was actually going to answer the question of, “Well, what’s next?” he said.

Keton Kakkar ‘19 voiced similar criticism with the breadth of the talk.

“It was just a statistical analysis of how gay people vote in politics,” he said, where he was looking to be informed on how to accelerate the drive for LGBT to equality.

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