Dr. Gary J. Gates, a demographic researcher at UCLA specializing in the demographic and economic characteristics of the LGBT population, has released a report estimating that there are 700,000 people in the United States who identify as transgender. Published estimates (including work by Lynn Conway) suggest prevalence between 1 in 1000 and 1 in 200 Americans. Based on this estimate, trans people have a larger population than many major cities, including Baltimore, Boston, Seattle, and our nation’s capital, Washington D.C. If we all lived in the same city, it would be one of the 20 largest in the country.
The Massachusetts Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey represents one of the few population-based surveys that include a question designed to identify the transgender population. Analyses of the 2007 and 2009 surveys suggest that 0.5% of adults aged 18-64 identified as transgender (Conron 2011).
The 2003 California LGBT Tobacco Survey found that 3.2% of LGBT individuals identified as transgender. Recall that the 2009 California Health Interview Survey estimates that 3.2% of adults in the state are LGB. If both of these estimates are true, it implies that approximately 0.1% of adults in California are transgender.
Several studies have reviewed multiple sources to construct estimates of a variety of dimensions of gender identity. Conway (2002) suggests that between 0.5% and 2% of the population have strong feelings of being transgender and between 0.1% and 0.5% actually take steps to transition from one gender to another. Olyslager and Conway (2007) refine Conway’s original estimates and posit that at least 0.5% of the population has taken some steps toward transition. Researchers in the United Kingdom (Reed, et al., 2009) suggest that perhaps 0.1% of adults are transgender (defined again as those who have transitioned in some capacity).
Notably, the estimates of those who have transitioned are consistent with the survey- based estimates from California and Massachusetts. Those surveys both used questions that implied a transition or at least discordance between sex at birth and current gender presentation.
How many people are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender?
The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy at UCLA School of Law