A gathering to celebrate Pride at Volunteer Park in Seattle.

Proud and present in the Seattle metro area

One in six residents don’t identify as straight or heterosexual

PSRC is celebrating Pride Month by exploring data on this diverse community.

New data shows that about 17% of the population in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties does not identify as straight or heterosexual. That’s around 514,000 residents.

Among this population, around 42% identify as bisexual, 26% as gay or lesbian and 19% as something else.

PSRC uses the inclusive term Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and/or Questioning, Intersex, Asexual and Two-Spirit (LGBTQIA2S+).

The Seattle metro area—a Census designation that includes King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, but not Kitsap—has long been considered to have one of the highest concentrations of LGBTQIA2S+ residents in the U.S.

Data from the Household Pulse Survey bears this out and shows that diverse forms of sexual orientations and gender identities are more common here than for the nation as a whole. People here (and nationally) are also more likely to identify as bisexual than as gay or lesbian.

According to a Gallup poll from February 2022, the share of U.S. adults who identify as something other than heterosexual has doubled since 2012. The poll data showed that younger U.S. adults are much more likely to identify as LGBTQIA2S+ than older adults.

The Household Pulse Survey, which is sent to households around the country every few weeks, started including questions about sexual orientation and gender identity in July 2021.

This is the first time the Census Bureau has asked about these topics in any of its surveys. The Household Pulse Survey provides data for the 15 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S. The Seattle metro made the cut at number 15, and includes King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.

The Census Bureau limited their analysis to people who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. PSRC has chosen to include more gender and sexual identities in its data analysis to recognize that people have a wider variety of experiences that deserve representation.

All gender and sexual identities except straight/heterosexual and "did not report" are included in this analysis.

Pulse survey data shows that 17% of adults in the Seattle metro identify as LGBTQIA2S+. This is roughly the same as the San Francisco metro area and greater than the U.S. average of 13%.

The LGBTQIA2S+ communities are bigger in Los Angeles and New York because those metro areas have much larger populations, but their shares are in line with the U.S. average.

The Household Pulse Survey was initiated near the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to track the social and economic well-being of Americans.

The Census Bureau has found that the pandemic has disproportionately affected LGBTQIA2S+ adults in the U.S.

In August 2021, 13% of this population lived in households where there was sometimes or often not enough to eat in the past seven days, as compared to 7% of other adults. This population was more likely to live in a household that had difficulty paying expenses, lost employment income or was not confident in their ability to make a housing payment on time.

PSRC investigated disparities for LGBTQIA2S+ adults in the central Puget Sound region but found that the Census Pulse sample sizes were too small to draw conclusions.

Brian Lee on PSRC’s Data team participated last year in a panel discussion about collecting travel behavior data for LGBTQ2IA+ residents . The panel concluded that more data is needed to better understand these underserved populations.

Since 2017 more diverse gender identities have been included in the survey; in 2021, over 100 respondents chose gender identities other than male or female. PSRC is investigating how best to add a question about sexual orientation to its next household travel survey in 2023.