Social Scientists Discover that Single Gays and Lesbians Exist

Bella DePaulo
3 min readOct 16, 2020

Most LGBT Americans have never married or lived with a romantic partner

It shouldn’t be a revelation. Not all gays or lesbians are in romantic relationships, or even trying to find romantic partners. Neither are all bisexuals or people who are transgender or people of other sexual or gender minorities. But if you were to read the scholarly research on sexual and gender minorities (SGM), that might come as a surprise. Social scientists are obsessed with the romantic relationships, marriages, and families of SGM people who are partnered.

Maybe that should not be so unexpected, since popular writings and conversations also seem to be dominated by the concerns of only one subset of SGM people — those who are partnered. Matrimania, it seems, is hardly the exclusive domain of heterosexuals and the people who write about them.

And yet, as of 2017, more than half — 56% — of LGBT Americans had always been single. They had never been married to a partner of any gender, and had never lived with a partner, either.

In what I consider to be a breakthrough moment, an important article in the prestigious Journal of Marriage and Family acknowledged that single SGM people exist and that their family ties have been almost entirely ignored. Every 10 years, the journal publishes decade-in-review articles, which are often highly influential. The February 2020 issue featured “Sexual- and Gender-Minority Families: A 2010 to 2020 Decade in Review,” by sociology professor Corinne Reczek of the Ohio State University.

Although I am not going to focus on this here, Reczek also included asexuals in her review and noted that they have been neglected, too. (Even my Word program is clueless about the existence of asexuals — it insists on inserting that little squiggly red underline, its way of scolding me for misspelling a word or using a word that doesn’t exist.)

The article briefly reviewed the very few relevant studies that included single SGM people. As was true of most of the early work on single people more generally (those whose sexual or gender identity was unspecified and who were discussed as if they were all hetero), single people were of no interest in their own right. They were just comparison groups included to…

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Bella DePaulo

“America’s foremost thinker and writer on the single experience,” according to the Atlantic. SINGLE AT HEART book coming on Dec 5, 2023. www.belladepaulo.com