Just How Gay Is West Hollywood?

gay west hollywood
West Hollywood has more gay men than many California cities have residents. That is according to a new report by WeHo by the Numbers, based on U.S. Census and city survey data.

Finding Census-like numbers about the city’s gay community is challenging. The Census survey that provides detailed West Hollywood data does not ask about sexual orientation, and the surveys that do ask do not focus on West Hollywood. There are limitations on the availability of some Census data for small cities. There are also same-sex marriage data-quality issues involving opposite-sex couples who accidentally mismark the sex of one spouse, putting themselves in the same-sex category.

The report suggests that between 30% and 40% of the city’s adults are gay men. The low end of the range is an approximation based on census and other public survey data.

The high end of the range comes from a 2013 city survey. The survey was designed to guide social services programming. It found that 39% of adults are gay men. That is 37% of the total population and over 13,000 men. It is more residents than 140 California cities have.

For comparison, surveys found that 4.9% of California adults identified as LGBT in 2015-2016. The nationwide number was 4.1% in 2016. For men specifically, the Williams Institute at UCLA estimated in 2011 that 2.2% of US men self-identified as gay.

The report argues that the 39% estimate may be a little high. Some of the numbers that follow logically from the estimate may be inconsistent with other Census data. That is why the report uses a range.
There are also numbers for unmarried and married gay male couples. Between 2012 and 2016, West Hollywood had an average of roughly 1,200 unmarried gay male couples. That was over 3% of the total for the state, even though the city has only 0.1% of the state’s population.

West Hollywood had more unmarried gay male couples by far than Santa Monica (which had over 150 of them), Beverly Hills (less than 50), and Culver City (less than 50). Los Angeles had five times more (about 5,500), but Los Angeles is 100 times bigger. Palm Springs, on the other hand, had more unmarried gay couples than West Hollywood, both in total and per household.

The available Census data on married gay male couples combines West Hollywood with Beverly Hills and Hollywood Hills West. The 2016 estimate is approximately 660 couples for this larger area. This estimate is based on only six actual couples, so the margin of error must be very large. West Hollywood’s share of the 660 might be 430 couples, if it were similar to unmarried couples.
Based on these rough estimates, only Palm Springs, San Francisco’s the Castro, and part of San Diego had more married gay couples than West Hollywood and the adjacent areas.

To find out more, see the full report, How many West Hollywood residents are gay men?


5 Comments
  1. i think the average gay WeHo resident skews older – younger people cant afford to live here. Not sure what the solution is. Plus, so many of the bars and restaurants – The Abbey, Sur, Pump etc all cater to a very hetero, mainstream audience. West Hollywood has become very mainstream and generic and has lost some of its eccentric appeal.

  2. I think the sad thing was West Hollywood was once a place for young gay men to come live and see that they are not different, And a community of safety. And now as your Zoning Laws remain unreformed. All that keeps getting built is luxury apartments and mega mansions. So what 20 something can move here anymore. The Urban Village dies a slow death of a LGBT city.

  3. David is always pretty good with the numbers but my recollection was that the last census reflected WeHo over all male population was about 55% and females 45%. If our gay population is 40% then our non-gay male population would be about 15%. That seems a bit low. On the other hand, we are still probably one of the gayest 1.9 square miles on earth so why focus on the numbers.

    What may be more relevant is the age spread of our gay male population. When I moved here in 1979 the gay population was overwhelmingly youthful, that is not as evident today.
    Back in the day the gay movement was viewed as primarily represented by GWM; today our LGBT etc etc community has far greater diversity. That diversity is not necessarily reflected in the West Hollywood of today.

    David, thanks again for your always thought provoking stats!

    Steve Martin

  4. I would think that technology and changing attitudes about sexual orientation have contributed to the change in the “Gayness” of West Hollywood. Back in the day one might very well go to a bar to hook up or the baths. Now, with apps that doesn’t seem to happen as much. Moreover, Gay restaurants and shops are seen to be “cool” and/or “hip”. And, West Hollywood has been a bit pricier in rents than Hollywood but I think that is a thing of the past. Just look at the rents for new apartments in Hollywood or areas just south. The days of a Gay Ghetto are a thing of the past. It’s a new era!

  5. It’s always been approximately 1/3 or so. What’s surprising is that despite the escalation of rents (thank you CA State Legislature) and turnover due to four decades of change that the percentage remains as high as it is. Due to development (over development?) changes in the stores, restaurants that many of us used to frequent, I had suspected that the “gay” population would go elsewhere. It would be interesting to see the demographics to speculate if the younger gay population have arrived or remain due to the still present gay customer attracting bars/clubs. When/if those businesses decline after the new non-lifestyle specific hotels, mixed use and other buildings in the Robertson/Santa Monica area and on Santa Monica/Laurel area “influence” the bars to go elsewhere, the gay population may indeed decline as well.

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