Gay families: Exploring gay families around the world


Have you heard the saying “10%” of the population is gay? I have. I’ve heard this many times throughout my life and sometimes it’s comforting to know that 1 out of 10 people might be gay. But how many children have two moms or two dads? How many gay families are out there in the world?

Gay families: Global trends

In recent years, the numbers of those who have said they are in a same-sex household have increased. This is probably due to better  reporting systems that allow people to report more openly about their gay families. Also, as it’s becoming more acceptable to have a gay family people are more likely to share information about their sexual orientation, their household and their families. With this openness, trends are beginning to emerge.

When looking at what’s happening in some countries, it’s clear that more female same-sex couples as compared to male same-sex couples have children in their homes. When gay families have children they, on average, have one child. Gay families also usually have fewer children than the national average and fewer than straight couples.

Similarities and differences become clearer when you look at what’s happening in a number of countries. For example, when you look at what’s happening in the US, the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

Gay families in the US

How many same-sex households are there?

Over the past ten years, US census data has shown an increase in 52% of those in same-sex households.

Since 2000 same-sex unmarried partner households increased by 62%. Same-sex spousal households (those that are married) increased by 38%.

The 2010 census showed that the total number of same-sex couple households in the US was 901,997. This was just under one percent (0.78%) of all US households.

Same-sex married couples were counted in the US census for the first time in 2010. Check out this video that encouraged LGBT communities to participate in this new opportunity to be counted. Set to a soundtrack by Good Asian Drivers, the black and white video, featuring English and Spanish-speaking community leaders, both informed and urged for action. The video was funded by the Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law, a 2010 census national partner.

How many same-sex parents are there?

115,000 same-sex households said they had children. Three out of every four had biologically related children in their home. One out of every five had stepchildren or adopted children. In the future the number of same-sex couples that have children may increase as in 2013 the US federal government officially recognized same-sex marriage.

Gay families in the UK

How many same-sex households are there?

Same-sex couples living together has increased by 345% since the mid 90s in the UK. Opposite-sex couples living together has increased by 90%.

69,000 same-sex couples were living together in 2012. This increased by 6,000 from 63,000 in 2011. This increase is probably due to more openness and better reporting options. Also, in 2008 barriers to fertility treatment for lesbians were reduced.

How many same-sex parents are there?

The number of same-sex parents in the UK has increased steadily over the years. In 2010, there were 4,000 same-sex parents. This doubled by 2011. There were 8,000 same-sex parents in 2011. According to the UK’s Office of National Statistics (ONS), there are now 12,000 same-sex parents in the UK. This increase has probably been aided by the fact that gay adoption is legal in the UK.

Gay families in Canada

How many same-sex households are there?

One year after same-sex marriage was legalized in 2005, 45,300 same-sex couples reported in the 2006 Canadian census that that they were living together. 16.5% of these were married. This means that there were 7,500 same-sex married Canadian couples during 2005-2006.

How many same-sex couples parents are there?

Nearly one in ten had children (9%). Many more female same-sex couples as compared to male same-sex couples had children (16% compared to 3%).

Gay families in New Zealand

How many same-sex households are there?

In New Zealand, information on same-sex couples and families started to be collected back in the 90s (in 1996). Civil unions became legal in New Zealand in 2004 and same-sex marriage was legalized in 2013. 5,100 males and 6,700 females reported being in same-sex partnerships in the 2006 census. Most of these couples lived in cities (80%).

How many same-sex parents are there?

Of those who said they were in a same-sex partnership, most said that they had one or more children (83%). Nearly half said they had one child (46%).

Gay families in Australia

How many same-sex households are there?

33,714 same-sex couples were counted in the Australia census in 2011. Most were described as being in a de facto relationship (96%). Even though same-sex marriage is illegal in Australia, 1,338 same-sex couples described their partner as their husband or wife.

How many same-sex parents are there?

Just over one in ten same-sex couples had children living with them in their family (12%). 6,120 children in Australia had same-sex parents. It was more common for female couples to have children living with them as compared to male couples (22% versus 3%). Over half of all male (59%) and female (52%) same-sex couples that had children had only one child in the family. One third had two children.

To tell or not to tell?

Over the years the 10% rule that everyone is gay has been questioned because reports, like census reports, don’t match this 10% estimate. However, there is still the issue of whether or not gay families feel safe enough to share information about who they really are in these types of questionnaires. These figures therefore may still be an underestimate of how many gay families there are around the world. Nevertheless, I find this information about how many gay families there are in the world quite comforting. This is because it’s clear that there are hundreds of thousands of gay families living and loving in all parts of the world.


National census data was used to write this article.

In the video below, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay talks about the human cost of homophobia and transphobia. Around the world, people are arrested, attacked, tortured and killed, just because of who they are or whom they love. Despite this, the numbers of same-sex families around the world continue to grow and the UN is one organization, out of many, working to protect their rights.

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