One in four, maybe six

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No caption. Photo by Danny Serna.

It turns out “one-in-four” is a bit high.

The common adage — coined by a Yale alum in 1987 to describe the surprisingly high proportion of homosexuals she encountered during a campus reunion — is not too far off, according to a News poll, sent last week to 5,186 undergraduates, of which 1,770 students responded. A total of 17.7 percent of Yale men — about one in six — said they are attracted only to men, compared to 8.1 percent of Yale women who said they are attracted only to women. Additionally, 12.2 percent of Yale women said they were bisexual, roughly three times the rate of men who said they are attracted to both men and women.

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The survey indicated that gay men and bisexual women engage in oral sex more frequently than their straight peers, but they are also slightly more likely to use barrier protection and to get tested for sexually transmitted infections.

But even though sexual activity was higher among some segments of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population polled, there is no sexual health organization specifically geared toward LGBT students on campus, said the student leaders of the LGBT Co-Op and Maria Trumpler, director of the Office of LGBTQ Resources.

“We could certainly do better,” Trumpler said, referring to the sexual health resources available to LGBT Yalies.


Yale has long been a mecca for the gay community, gaining national attention in the 1980s for its vibrant and sizable LGBT community when it was referred to in a Wall Street Journal article by Julie Iovine ’77.

Today, as survey results indicate, Yale’s gay male population is much higher than the national average. Some students interviewed even said that, when they were choosing between comparable Ivy League schools, Yale’s gay population tilted their decision.

“It’s filled with gays,” Amalia Skilton ’13 said. “Yale was the school with the most open, active gay community.”

Former LGBT Co-Op co-coordinator Yoshi Shapiro ’11 said Yale has long been known as a popular place for gay men, but the same is not necessarily true for lesbians.

The News survey showed that the proportion of homosexual students is fairly constant across class years, but the number of students who identified as bisexual rose from year to year. And as the bright college years pass, fewer male students identify as straight, dropping from 81 percent for the class of 2013 to 74 percent for the class of 2010, while the rate of women identifying as bisexual jumps from 8 percent for 2013 to 16 percent for 2010.

Hannah Bruckner, the director of undergraduate studies for sociology, has conducted extensive research on homosexuality. She speculated that there could be a discrepancy between gay men and women at Yale because homosexual and questioning youth have a more difficult time in high school; queer women were twice as likely as their queer male peers to be sanctioned by a government institution, such as the juvenile justice system, according to the senior paper of a student with whom she worked last year.

Yet while some queer students interviewed said that one in six seems an accurate estimate for the number of homosexual men on campus, Trumpler said such surveys are generally unreliable because they reflect what response the person surveyed feels like choosing at that one moment.

“It’s not a fixed thing you can count,” Trumpler said. “My working estimate is that people who are not exclusively heterosexual are probably more than 3 percent and probably less than 90 percent of the population.”

Kiki Fehling ’11, treasurer of the LGBT Co-op, expressed doubt about the poll’s accuracy, as well, because she said gay students would be more eager to complete such a survey. For this reason, she said she thinks the figures could be slightly inflated.


Even if they are not as numerous as survey results indicate, Yale’s LGBT students engage in sexual activity just as often as their straight peers, if not more.

Slightly more than 40 percent of bisexual men and women surveyed said they had performed or received oral sex in the past week, according to the survey. About 39 percent of male homosexuals said they engaged in oral sex in the past week. By comparison, 33 percent of straight men, 30 percent of lesbians and 27 percent of straight women said they engaged in oral sex within the past week.

About one in four gay and bisexual men who answered the News’ poll said they had used the Internet to “find a hookup,” making them about eight times more likely than their straight male peers to engage in this practice.

Heterosexual and homosexual men have had roughly the same amount of sexual intercourse in the past week, and bisexual men and women are the most sexually active group, the poll indicated.

Shapiro, the former LGBT Co-op co-coordinator, said this discrepancy could arise from the fact that Yale’s overall sex culture does not necessarily apply to queer women.

“This random go-to-Toad’s hookup culture is not the same for women who sleep with women,” Shapiro said. “There’s less anonymity in the queer scenes in general at Yale but particularly in the queer women scene.”

Nationwide, rates of sexually transmitted infections are higher among men who have sex with men than among straight men and women, said Dana Dunne, an assistant professor at the School of Medicine who specializes in STIs. Chief of Student Medicine and Athletic Medicine James Perlotto ’78 noted that at Yale, there has been rise in cases of syphilis of late, particularly among men who have sex with men.

Dunne attributed this rise in part to a lack of awareness about the consequences of STIs in comparison to the aftermath of the AIDS epidemic of the ’80s.

“The young gay man may not have the immediate message and image of this still deadly disease in his head, and the motivation for condom use subsequently decreases,” she said.

Still, at Yale, gay men get tested for STIs at higher rates than their peers, according to the poll. Trumpler said such levels of testing suggest that gay Yale students are well aware of the history of the spread of HIV among gay men. She added, however, that not all sex education is tailored to include LGBT people.

Even today, members of the LGBT Co-op said, the ripples of the HIV epidemic are still being felt. During Co-op reunions, for instance, an entire generation of gay men is missing from the ranks of alumni, members of the Co-op said.

University Health Services offers informed doctors, pamphlets and counselors to help LGBT students with sexual health issues, Perlotto said.

Yet as of today, there is not a specific organization on campus dedicated to promoting LGBT sexual health — a problem Alberto Navarro ’13, co-coordinator of Queer Peers, said he hopes to fix. Today, Navarro and other Queer Peer leaders are meeting to discuss the possibility of creating an organization that would encourage gay Yalies to practice safe sex.

“Some people are kind of lulled into a false sense of security in that they believe that just because they are at Yale, they are safe,” Navarro said. “There’s not adequate information that targets the queer population.”

Sex Week will target the queer population with a Master’s Tea with female-to-male porn star Buck Angel on Saturday in Pierson College.

Previously in the News’ “Sex at Yale” series:

Monday: Yalies, under the Covers

Tuesday: Despite resources, STI testing rates a concern


  • Recent Alum

    So I have been following YDN coverage these past few weeks, and I really wonder why it is that Yale’s yield is declining. Is it the high crime rate in New Haven, as some commenters suggested? Or is it that Yale’s financial aid doesn’t match Princeton’s, as others have said? Geez, I really can’t think of any other reasons why many (shall we say “three in four, maybe more”?) normal high school seniors may find Yale less appealing these days.

  • higher

    The percent of gay at Yale is as high as forty percent. One gay freshman chose Yale because he could feel the “vibration” at Yale and not at Harvard. The president of high school LGBT club usually is admitted to Yale. All high school seniors know about the Gay Ivy’s preferential treatment. The applicant rate will go down more after the sex week with the porn star…

  • Alum ’71

    As pointed out within the article by one of the students, the proportion of gays reported by the survey is likely to be inflated by a healthy does of selection bias: male gays in particular being eager to make sure “their voices are counted” and therefore being more likely to respond to the survey than hetero’s who aren’t as focused on sexual identity issues. I’m guessing that Yale’s undergraduate population skews slightly more gay than the general U.S. population. So what? Congrats to Yale for being an open, accepting, inclusive and comfortable environment for all. Looking forward personally to the day when sexual identity recedes to being a big, fat non-issue. There are more infinitely more important things happening in the world, including what makes for lasting love.


    Stop posting stories based on your survey! it could be the worst “survey” ever conducted!

  • y11

    Well, well, well, well. WELL. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, you arrogant champions of the 1-in-4. We’re no gayer than the other Ivies, and no more open than Brown, Harvard and Columbia. We were “the gay Ivy” in the 80s… a lot has changed since then. There’s nothing wrong with having a welcoming environment for gay students, but can we please stop making admissions videos that attempt to perpetuate the stereotype now?

  • mirror mirror

    I don’t know if comments 1-4 are actually from alumni, but if so its seriously embarrassing (the grammar of comment 2 not withstanding).

  • surprise

    I don’t really think I believe the survey because of the selection bias as well as personal experience. I think that I know probably 5-8 gay people and no lesbians–and that is knowing, not even being friends with. These stats are pretty inflated, I feel, or all the gays segregate themselves, as I know a variety of people at Yale.

    That being said, I think the author has a point about the yield. I, for one, would rather go to a school representative of the population as a whole and not one that attracts a minority. And for girls, it is probably a turnoff to go somewhere where there are a lot of gays guys as then there are less men to choose from. The NY times had an article about this on Sunday (not with gay men, but simply a lower percentage of men than women, and in this sense, gay men are not eligible to date). See

    That being, I’ve never felt a big gay presence except for all the horrible commotion the COOP causes. They need to learn to pick their fights.

  • JackNH

    Take it from an old alum: Yale has always been gay, always will be. Get over it.

  • chill please

    You’re here, you’re queer, and we’re used to it. Really. Seriously. Stop making such a big deal out of it. Or is that half the fun of being gay, pretending that you are really oppressed?

    (Note to gayboys: you don’t need to flame 24/7. At the club, good; in the seminar, weird. Watch the women. The ones who are trying to vamp for the professors are just idiots. Not a good role model.)

  • @6

    You are SO right I am not a Yale alumna, but I am paying Yale tuition. I deeply regret.

  • Current Yalie

    Oy. Guys, Yale is still one of the most competitive schools in the country – our selectivity is only declining inasmuch as the class of 2012 represents the highest number of students applying to college ever, and every year after there are slightly fewer people in the overall applicant pool (i.e., the children of the baby boom, who flooded colleges especially in the latter half of this past decade, are now college-aged or older). Alums, get a grip. It’s definitely currently (in the age of the gays!) way more competitive than when you attended :)

  • Are you serious?

    “It’s not a fixed thing you can count,” Trumpler said.

    So, you can be gay sometimes and sometimes not? You can choose to be gay or not depending on your mood? That sounds surprisingly like the viewpoint of people who want to “pray away the gay” or “cure” homosexuality as if it were a disease, and I think it’s a really bizarre sentiment coming from the office of LGBTQ resources.

  • @7

    Even though Yale has long had the reputation as “the gay Ivy” it does not appear that potential female applicants have been put off by this fact. Most recently, Yale’s applicant group has been more heavily skewed female than any other Ivy save Brown. Yale applicants have been 56-44% female most recently, with Brown at 60-40% female. Princeton, Stanford and Harvard are about 50-50. If the “gay Ivy” image is repelling any potential applicants, then, it is males rather than females.

  • @#11

    Not that I think the gay population here is the problem, but just for the record, applications at Princeton, Brown and UChicago all went up by +20% this year, so the 2012 bubble argument doesn’t really hold.

  • @12

    Trumpler was by no means condoning that “the gay can be prayed away”. Seriously? What Trumpler meant was that it is quite difficult to categorize people’s sexual orientation into definitive boxes like gay, bi, or straight. Many bi men or women fluctuate throughout their life to being more attracted to one sex or the other, while perhaps never changing their preferred label. In addition, a lot of labels have negative connotations for many queer people and they may choose an identity word that is more vague (ie queer). “Bi” can connote for some people “greedy”, “hypersexual”, and “threesome”–not exactly what most people would like to portray–so they might choose a different identity word.

    So yeah…the percentage of “gay men”, “gay women”, “bi men”, and “bi women” is not as easy to count as you think. Trumpler was by NO means saying that you can vacillate between exclusively heterosexual and homosexual depending on what you feel like being on this particular day. That’s absurd.

    She was just saying that given the complexity of identity labels in the queer community, the ambiguity of some identity labels, the fluctuation of people’s sexual identity throughout their lifetime across the spectrum, and how many people are probably still figuring things out….it’s not a fixed number that you can count.

  • @Are you serious?

    But it’s the truth… Like the good Reverend Ted Haggard who cured himself…

    It’s not natural and it’s not God’s will, but alas – more women for me!

  • saybrook997

    YDN Note: When journalists make the news rather than report it–that is, create a poll/survey, they are outside their job, and need to use extreme care.

    This survey was not tested or adjusted for extreme selection bias. Two-thirds of the undergraduates, who go to library/labs more that Toad’s/mixers and who do not want to report their sexual non-exploits or non-gay orientation, did not reply. That changes all the results by almost 2 times the reported activities.

    Except masturbation–the 5% of males who answered that they have not for the past year prove the 1950’s concern that masturbation causes blindness or cognitive problems in some males. When did parents of the summer of love, sexual revolution, free love and communes become “Puritanical parents” of the Naked Yale op-ed?

    Older alums tell me that they could not now be acepted to Yale, and if accepted, could not pay the tuition (up about 10 times from about $5,000 in the early 1970’s). Gays don’t get special consideration in admissions. If their applications are better, they number a little higher than the general population. Whether they segregate themselves by choice or appearance on campus is not the issue of YDN’s manufactured news/survey. Excessive tenured faculty salaries and tuition for ridulous majors (often 2-4 students) is also another issue for budget cuts in the new order replacing the old post-WWII disorder.

  • saybrook997

    Sorry, I forgot. Why is the admissions musical video gay? It’s high schoolish as in High School Musical, but isnt’t that the audience?

  • at #12

    Sexual identity is fluid, and can certainly change as someone attempts to discover more about their sexual preferences and about who they are in general. Many people are unsure of not only whether or not they are homosexual, but also to what extent they prefer men or women. Labels can absolutely help certain people in their quests to find their true identities, but oftentimes giving a final label to something such as this is actually what creates problems. So actually, yes, I’d say people can be gay or not depending on their mood if that’s how they view themselves. Some people feel very fixed in their orientation, others do not.

  • at #1

    You said 3 in 4 maybe more “normal” high school seniors?

    Ok, so if I am a senior in high school who thinks that chocolate ice cream is better than vanilla ice cream, but 90% of the population prefers vanilla ice cream to chocolate ice cream, am I not “normal”?

    Just a thought for you.

  • who is paying

    Sex Week will target the queer population with a Master’s Tea with female-to-male porn star Buck Angel on Saturday in Pierson College.

    I am sure she/he is a good role model. The ratio of female to male at Yale may change significantly. I would like to know who is paying for her/his visit.

  • ’11

    ^That’s not what she’s saying. I’m not sure how much this discourse filters into non-lgbt academics, but she’s coming from a not so staunchly identitarian place that assigns people to permanent and discrete categories of sexual behavior.

  • @ #22

    Can you translate that into English for those of us who do not spend our time learning the new language of Humanitiescrap?

  • Discussing

    People in Haiti are in desperate need and Yale students are holding sex week with porn star. It is so clear that LGBT Co-op is in charge of Yale with its hidden agenda.

  • You are wrong about the Co-op

    It does not have a “hidden agenda” – rather, it is in a “staunchly identitarian place.”

  • 22

    Rofl… the only potentially confusing word was identitarian… and i think the meaning is pretty obvious – focused on defining and assigning discrete sexual identities.

  • @ Recent Alum

    Seriously? First of all, Yale’s *yield* isn’t declining; in fact, last year it was significantly higher than expected. The class of 2013 was oversubscribed. Second of all, while I’m sure a few bigots like you are slipped into the applicant pool, most students applying to Yale are intelligent enough not to be turned off by the fact that there may be a slightly higher percentage of gay students than at state universities. Those who are afraid of being around people that are different than them shouldn’t come to Yale in the first place.

  • To #27

    Yield rate for classes currently at Yale:

    2013: 66.8%
    2012: 67.6%
    2011: 69.1%
    2010: 70.0%

    Bear in mind that the yield rate is boosted by filling upwards of half the class from the early pool.

    Of greater concern is that the applicant pool is increasingly skewed female to a greater degree than is true at our peer schools. The yield rate is also higher on female admits. Nothing wrong with this necessarily; but the situation bears watching.

  • 87alum

    If anyone, at all, has lost sight of what STDs can do, they should consult the memory of the extraordinary John Boswell, who taught while I was at Yale and mentored many of my friends.

  • Annie

    I don’t get why students go in debt to attend Yale…seems like a waste of money for political indoctrination. There are sooo-ooo-oo many good, solid universities without the high tuition and without the political correctness getting in the way of true learning. What is with Sex Week? This is just one of the crazy examples of Yale’s indoctrination. When I run into a Yale student or grad, I am not impressed by their school affiliation.

  • Mo

    Take a page out of the NYT’s book, YDN: stop using the fake-scientific, kind-of-offensive word “homosexual”

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