This report is an overview of what we know about the demographic indicators of the LGBT community in Massachusetts. Our analysis is based on publicly available data from surveys, peer-reviewed academic publications, reports from state and federal government agencies,
and gray literature—i.e. reports from nongovernmental research and advocacy organizations. We present a snapshot of what these data tell us about LGBT youth, LGBT people in their late 20s to 50s, and older LGBT people; about transgender people; about differences between female same-sex couples and male same-sex couples; about racial/ ethnic diversity within our community; about geographic distribution; and about income, education, and other economic factors.
We use publicly available data from the U.S. Census Bureau (2010 U.S. Census state-level preferred estimates; American Community Survey data from 2011, 2012, and 2013). We also use data from the Gallup Daily Tracking Survey, which asks about LGBT identity and provides state- level data. These data are publicly available at LGBTStat, an interactive data tool that can be found on the website of the Williams Institute at UCLA Law School.

We also provide data from the Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded survey conducted biannually with high school students by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH). We also use Massachusetts Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey data. Both the YRBS and BRFSS surveys provide population-based estimates of basic demographics and risk behaviors, including substance use and violence victimization. We cite data that these agencies have published in reports, data cited in peer-reviewed academic journal articles and data shared with us by the staff of these agencies. Detail on the methodologies behind these surveys are available in official reports from DPH and DESE:


While the Massachusetts YRBS and BRFSS ask about transgender status, the percentage of people who identify as transgender is relatively small compared to the percentage who identify as LGB or, in the case of YRBS, report same-sex behavior. For this reason, at some points in this report, we present data on racial/ethnic, age and sex differences for LGB survey respondents, but not for transgender respondents.

Other surveys, like the American Community Survey, capture data on same-sex cohabiting households. This gives us data on partnered LGB people. Some transgender people are in these same-sex couple households, but we do not know more about them because the U.S. Census and the American Community Survey do not ask about gender identity or transgender status. Small sample sizes for Asian Pacific Islander, Native American and multiracial respondents mean that we often describe differences among White, Black and Hispanic LGB respondents but not other racial/ethnic groups.

In order to better understand the experiences of transgender people and other people of color in Massachusetts, we complement the population-based data of YRBS and BRFSS with other published data on LGBT people in the region. Two examples of such data are:

Conron K, Wilson J, Cahill S, Flaherty J, Tamanaha M, Bradford J (2015). Our health matters: Mental health, risk, and resilience among LGBTQ youth of color who live, work, or play in Boston. Fenway Institute. (n=294, Boston and inner suburbs like Cambridge, Lynn, Quincy)

Reisner S, White J, Dunham E, Heflin K, Begenyi J, Cahill S (2014). Discrimination and health in Massachusetts: A statewide survey of transgender and gender nonconforming adults. Boston: The Fenway Institute and the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. (n=452, 26% from Boston, additional 28% from Greater Boston outside of the City of Boston)

The LGBTQ youth of color information in this report is based on a survey funded by the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities of LGBTQ youth of color in Greater Boston. The survey was conducted by The Fenway Institute, the Boston Alliance of GLBTQ Youth (BAGLY) and Justice Resource Institute/Boston GLASS. We oversampled Asian Pacific Islander LGBTQ youth and transgender youth. We documented resiliency factors, such as parental acceptance and faith/spirituality, as well as risk factors, such as not feeling safe in one’s neighborhood, being victimized by violence and exchanging sex for money or a place to stay.

The transgender discrimination report, conducted by The Fenway Institute and the Massachusetts Transgender Political Caucus, documented widespread discrimination in public accommodations settings such as the bus or subway, stores and restaurants, parks and health centers. It also describes negative mental and physical correlates of experiencing discrimination and its role in reducing access to preventive and emergency health care.

We also examined data from several other sources on victimization and discrimination against LGBT people. These sources include the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office and Fenway Health’s Violence Recovery Program, which collects data on hate violence against LGBT people and intimate partner violence within same-sex relationships, as well as interactions with law enforcement.

Finally, we describe and map some of the myriad resources available to LGBT people in the Commonwealth. These resources include Gay-Straight Alliances in high schools and middle schools, congregate senior meal programs for LGBT older adults and their friends and many first-in- the-nation, or close-to-first, laws and policies that provide legal equality to LGBT people at the city and state level.

In some cases, the sources of the data we present in the figures throughout the report analyzed the data for statistical significance (95% confidence interval, p < 0.05). If the original data source included information about whether or not the data is statistically significant, we have listed it below:

  • Figure 2: Differences between the proportion of 18-24 year olds who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or something else and the proportion identifying as such of all other presented age cohorts age 35 and older are statistically significant.
  • Figure 3: Differences between most counties are not statistically significant.
  • Figure 5: This difference is not statistically significant.
  • Figure 6: This difference is statistically significant
  • Figure 7: All differences are statistically significant
  • Figure 10: Differences are not statistically significant.
  • Figure 13: All differences are statistically significant.
  • Figure 15: All differences are statistically significant.
  • Figure 22: This difference is statistically significant.


Glossary of LGBT Terms

In this glossary, you will find some of the terms most relevant to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) people. When reading this glossary, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Definitions vary across communities; not all LGBT people will agree with all of these definitions, so please defer to the terms individuals use to describe themselves; 2) There are many terms not included on this list; we tried to keep the list as concise and relevant as possible;
  2. Terms and definitions change frequently.

Assigned sex at birth (noun) – The sex (male or female) assigned to a child at birth, most often based on the child’s external anatomy.
Also referred to as birth sex, natal sex, biological sex, or sex.

Bisexual (adjective) – A sexual orientation that describes a person who is emotionally and sexually attracted to people of the same sex and people of a different sex.
Cisgender (adj.) – A person whose gender identity and assigned sex  at birth correspond (i.e., a person who is not transgender).

Coming out (noun) – The process by which one accepts and/or comes to identify one’s own sexual orientation or gender identity (to come out to oneself). Also the process by which one shares one’s sexual orientation or gender identity with others (to come out to friends, etc.).

Gay (adj.) – A sexual orientation that describes a person who is emotionally and sexually attracted to people of the same sex. It can describe men or women, but is more commonly used to describe men.

Gender (noun) – see gender identity.

Gender expression (noun) – This term describes the ways (e.g., feminine, masculine, androgynous) in which a person communicates their gender to the world through their clothing, speech, behavior, etc.

Gender identity (noun) – A person’s inner sense of being a boy/man/ male, girl/woman/female, another gender, or no gender.

Gender queer (adj.) – Describes a person whose gender identity falls outside of the traditional gender binary structure. Other terms for people whose gender identity falls outside the traditional gender binary include gender nonconforming, gender variant, gender expansive, non-binary, etc. Sometimes written as one word (genderqueer).

Heterosexual (straight) (adj.) – A sexual orientation that describes women who are emotionally and sexually attracted to men, and men who are emotionally and sexually attracted to women.

Homophobia (noun) – The fear of, discrimination against, or hatred of lesbian or gay people or those who are perceived as such.

Lesbian (adj., noun) – A sexual orientation that describes a woman who is emotionally and sexually attracted to other women.

Men who have sex with men/Women who have sex with women (MSM/WSW) (noun) – Categories that are often used in research and public health settings to collectively describe those who engage in same-sex sexual behavior, regardless of their sexual orientation. However, people rarely use the terms MSM or WSW to describe themselves.

Non-binary (adj.) – See gender queer.

Queer (adj.) – An umbrella term used by some to describe people who think of their sexual orientation or gender identity as outside of societal norms. Some people view the term queer as more fluid and inclusive than traditional categories for sexual orientation and gender identity. Due to its history as a derogatory term, the term queer is not embraced or used by all members of the LGBT community, especially older people.

Sexual orientation (noun) – How a person characterizes their emotional and sexual attraction to others. Includes identity, behavior and attraction.

Transgender (adj.) – Describes a person whose gender identity and assigned sex at birth do not correspond. Also used as an umbrella term to include gender identities outside of male and female. Sometimes abbreviated as trans.

Transgender man/trans man/female-to-male (FTM) (noun) – A transgender person whose gender identity is male may use these terms to describe themselves. Some will just use the term man.

Transgender  woman/trans  woman/male-to-female  (MTF)  (noun)  – A transgender person whose gender identity is female may use these terms to describe themselves. Some will just use the term  woman.

Transphobia (noun) – The fear of, discrimination against, or hatred of transgender or gender non-conforming people or those who are perceived as such.

Go to Acknowledgments


Definitions for this glossary were developed and reviewed by the National LGBT Health Education Center and other experts in the field of LGBT health, as well as adapted from glossaries published by the Safe Zone Project and the UCLA LGBT Resource Center.