Feature image photograph by Elijah Henderson.
The Lesbian Stereotypes Survey was conducted in September of 2018 by soliciting volunteer participants via Autostraddle.com. You can see an infographic displaying the demographics of our 12.3k survey respondents here. Not all of our survey-takers identify as women, but headlines can only be a certain length. More accurate language exists within the post.
Last week’s edition of The Lesbian Stereotypes Survey created a holy space to discuss your religious affiliations, and this week we’re talking about a somewhat related topic: astrology.
Queers and Astrology
It’s considered an established fact that queer women and non-binary are obsessed with astrology — and browsing instagram, lesbian memes or any number of dating apps will likely confirm this assumption. Furthermore, there’s been a certified surge in astrological interest in general since the 2016 election, especially amongst millennials, and millennials are a very gay generation.
According to writer Sascha Cohen, the connection between queers and astrology goes back to the 1960s, “when the emerging women’s and gay liberation movements overlapped with a growing interest in New Age spirituality,” and many feminists left their patriarchal, monotheistic religions for various ideations of Paganism. Gay astrologer Christopher Renstorm says it goes back even further than that: to Ptolemy, whose work centered on the relationship between planetary behavior and sexual behavior, thus eternally optimizing astrology as “non-prescriptive and inclusive.” Famed queer astrologer Chani Nichols, in a post on Why Queers Love Astrology, presents several theories, including “maybe it’s because we understand that our identities come in as many variations as there are stars in the night sky.” At a Queer Astrology Conference in New Orleans, Broadly talked to a witch/astrologer who argued, “For me, astrology has always been a tool of liberation, and queer theory likewise seeks to liberate people from the language of oppression.” In The New York Times, Krista Burton (of Effing Dykes Fame) asks if astrology is religion for those of us without religion (and as we learned two weeks ago, a lot of queers are without religion), but concludes it’s really just a reflection of “millennials… acknowledging that the current system isn’t working.” We’re also just, you know, people — and this Smithsonian article offers a good overview of why people, in general, believe in astrology.
Anyhow, here’s a surprise to everybody: lesbian, bisexual and queer women and non-binary people don’t believe in astrology at significantly higher rates than the population-at-large!
Weird, right? And that’s comparing our data — LGBTQ+ people in the year 2018 who are overwhelmingly not members of organized monotheistic religions of whom 79% are between the ages of 18-34 — to a mixed-age group of people surveyed by Pew on this topic in 2009. Furthermore, Pew noted in their survey discussion that “these beliefs are more common among Democrats and independents than Republicans and are more widely held by liberals and moderates than conservatives,” and our group is 98% Democrats and Independents. FURTHERMORE FURTHERMORE, our group is mostly women, and women are more likely than men to be into astrology.
However — we do not NOT believe in astrology less than the population-at-large. We have way less outright non-believers than the entire country — because 20% of y’all don’t know if astrology is real or not, compared to 4% of all Americans. Our survey also asked for your Zodiac sign, and I found that all signs had approximately equal interest in astrology, except Saggitarians, who are a bit less likely than other signs to believe or to check their horoscopes.
Although I believe in magic, psychic abilities, ghosts and all kinds of wacky universal forces, astrology’s never been my thing. Due to immense amounts of 1) peer pressure and 2) people talking about “Gemini Season,” I recently caved and have developed a minor affection for it, although I’m aware a lot of queers who aren’t into it are profoundly annoyed by those who are, and many scientists feel belief in astrology is genuinely damaging.
So, come my friends, and let’s take a look at why people believe or don’t, according to insights garnered form the 949 “comments” left in the comment box below the question.
Yes: The Believers
The comments for the YES group contained a lot of “kinda”s or variants on “but I’m skeptical” or “but just for fun” — but it’s likely that there’s a very strong overlap between “people who only kinda believe” and “people who left comments,” so their prevalence don’t necessarily represent the entire Yes group.
Others cited a general belief in various physical realities that suggested metaphysical possibilities — ideas like “all living things have energy,” “the moon affects the water on earth and our bodies are 70% water,” “the moon has been scientifically proven to have effects on a person’s state of mind” and “if the moon’s magnetic pull influences the tides, why wouldn’t it influence walking bags of water, metal and dust?”
Another said, “I mean, I believe that astrology is an ancient knowledge system, like tarot or numerology, that has its own validity & usefulness as a lens for understanding psychology and human interactions.”
Then there were comments like these, from those who believe because astrology just consistently checks out:
- “Let me tell you, it explains a lot about all the drama in my life because every queer I know has a Capricorn moon, me included and it is A LOT.”
- “The shit that chani says about my life is just TOO on point most of the time to not believe it a little and like cmon the moon is so wow she affects us.”
- “Scorpio here. My life has deeply been impacted/affected by Feb Pisces men and early July Cancer women. I can’t ignore the pattern and def doesn’t seem coincidental to me.”
- “My wife and many of her family members are nurses with advanced degrees. But they all insist that the labor and delivery wards are extra busy at the full moon.”
Others mentioned different types of astrology that they believed in rather than the Western system. Jyotisha, the traditional Hindu system of astrology, came up, which is sometimes also referred to as Vedic astrology, described by you as having “a very in-depth scientific process.” Chinese astrology was cited as being “surprisingly accurate for me” whereas “Western is bullshit.”
“I Don’t Know”: The Skeptics
In comments, the “don’t know” group mostly expressed affection for astrology despite not being sure of its veracity. They enjoyed the social aspect and its related memes, or valued it “like any system of personality typing” or as “an interesting lens into self-analysis.”
“Even if it were completely true or completely untrue, it doesn’t really matter to me,” wrote another skeptic. “I think there are a lot of takeaways from astrology, and I do use my horoscope as a way to move about my day mindfully, also I find it to be a fun way to connect with others.”
“I use astrology as a guide to help center and check in with myself,” wrote one. “I do believe it has merit but only as a vehicle to trick your mind into doing self care/ healing work. It’s not “true” or “science” and should be looked at with skepticism but that doesn’t mean it is invaluable.”
The Nos split into two basic camps:
1. I don’t believe in it, but I enjoy it regardless / still feel it has some purpose / find it interesting
2. I HATE IT MAKE IT STOP
Highlights from Group 2 include:
- “No, I spend time studying astronomy, an actual science involving actual things.”
- “I find the idea that the conditions of our birth determine our destiny much too close to biological gender essentialism for comfort.”
- “…I get it means things to people but, ugh, just admit it’s an attempt to understand/control the world OUTSIDE of science like every other religion or belief system out there and stop trying to pretend it’s scientific or rational.”
- “Astrology does not “affect” anything, it is a mirror and shows the quality of time by reflecting it. (Like reading the clock shows how late it is, but it is not influencing anything.)”
- “I kind of think it’s creepy when people act like People-Whisperers or Super-Perceptive Social Chessmasters based on signs or reading people’s birth charts? It feels vaguely paternalistic and maybe even manipulative.”
- “This is absolutely my least favourite aspect of queer girl culture to the point that if someone mentions their star sign in their tinder profile I automatically swipe left.”
Other interesting perspectives included astrology being “like taking a Bible as Literature Class,” the only possible implications of one’s birth month being “the sociological implications of how people celebrate birthdays by month” (which is an interesting thing to think about!) or a more anthropological take that made room for believers: “people’s relationship to culture/family/history is often tied up in ritual and symbolism that is at least partially outside their control, and their actions/views are inexorably linked to those intangible values and systems of understanding.”
Other Demographic Qualities of Believers
Religion: Atheists were, predictably, least likely to believe in astrology — only 12% do. Between 20-22% of Protestants, Jews, Muslims and Hindus believe. On the high end, we’ve got 69% of Wiccans, 40% of Buddhists and 28.5% of Unitarian Universalists and 28% of Catholics feeling strongly about the movement of the stars and planets. Pew found similar numbers — 21% of Protestants believing in astrology and 29% of Catholics.
Race: Pew found Black people and Latinx & Hispanic people believing in astrology at higher rates than white people — 29% and 35%, respectively, compared to 22% of white people. A 2003 Harris Poll found 47% of black Americans believing in astrology. On our survey, 45.4% of Black people, 42% of Latinx & Hispanic folks, 39% of American Indian or Alaskan Native respondents and 31% of mixed-race humans voted Yes for Astrology, compared to 27% of white people and 26% of Asian & Pacific Islanders.
Gender: Here’s an interesting one — transgender women were WAY less likely to believe in astrology — only 13% do, and 77% don’t. Non-binary women and non-binary and agender people were slightly more likely to believe in astrology (32%-33%) than cis women (27.5%).
Sexual Orientation: 38% of those who identified as “sexually fluid” believe in astrology, compared to 31% of queers, 28% of lesbians, 28% of pansexuals, 24% of bisexuals and 17.5% of homo/bi/panromantic folks.
Age: There was no statistically significant difference in belief by age.
- The likelihood that you believe in astrology apparently increases with every tattoo you get, starting at 20% for people without tattoos, and 45% for those with five or more. Maybe there’s a rule that your fourth tattoo has to relate to your astrological sign.
- Vegans were more likely than all other dietary lifestyles to believe in astrology.
- Cities who had a statistically significant higher rate of believers than at least five other cities: Nashville, New Orleans, Denver, Atlanta, Portland and Los Angeles. Boston and Houston have the most “I don’t knows” and Washington DC and Houston have the lowest number of believers.
- People in cities were more likely to check their horoscopes than people in the suburbs or rural areas.
- Those who attended Arts Colleges/Conservatories and Historically Black Colleges/Universities were most likely to believe in astrology, those who attended Ivy League and Public/State Universities were least likely to.
- People who’ve read Zami: A New Spelling of My Name and Stone Butch Blues were more likely to believe in astrology than the group as a whole.
- Gender presentations most likely to believe in astrology: Stud/AG, Hard Femme, Femme. People who picked “none of the above” for their gender presentation were least likely to believe in astrology — only 17% do.
So, Why Does It Seem Like Everybody Is Into Astrology If They Aren’t?
A few things are going on here — most notably, “being into astrology” and “believing in Astrology” turn out to be very different things. 27.8% of non-believers and 64% of “I don’t know”s check their horoscopes at least once a month. (I offered the “once a month or less” option ’cause I imagined many of you, like me, read the Autostraddle Horoscopes but nothing else, and comments suggested this was true — that was the most popular comment.)
Only 33% of survey respondents said that they don’t believe in astrology AND they never read horoscopes. But possibly that group would be much smaller if the Autostraddle Horoscopes did not exist.
Some of it might just be that we are more likely to notice the presence of something (astrological conversation) than an absence of it. Herstory Personals are often described as being astrology-heavy, so out of curiosity, I looked at all 336 ads they’ve posted within the past month — 39% include astrological references. That feels about right to me, but I’m curious if it surprises any of you.
It might be that artists, writers and other media-makers, who are often broadcasting their thoughts and feelings in public forums like twitter or this website, are more likely to be astrology fans, thus creating the concept that it’s prevalent in popular discourse.
In conclusion: Stars are really pretty!
28% is so many!! ?
is it?? i feel like it’s a tiny sliver! i guess because also that’s like, only a little bit more than the amount of queers who are members of organized monotheisitc religions (re: last week’s data), and it definitely doesn’t feel like tons of queers believe in g-d
Maybe people are more likely to identify as a member of an organized religion they grew up with even if they’re not practicing, whereas people are only likely to identify as astrology believers if they actively engage with it regularly?
Given that the survey was done with Autostraddle readers I expected the number to be much higher than less than a third. Astrology is relatively popular here and at A-Camp; I would expect the numbers would be even lower if they polled other LGBTQ+ organizations.
Maybe this speaks to the way queer culture is often shaped by the most vocal people and not necessarily representative of everyone? That’s a good reminder for people who worry about not fitting in.
“Maybe this speaks to the way queer culture is often shaped by the most vocal people and not necessarily representative of everyone? That’s a good reminder for people who worry about not fitting in.”
YES YES YES YES! Exactly!
I know, right? I was hoping more of us would be scientifically literate.
I just want to read analysis of Autostraddle survey results forever.
A thousand times this. It just scratches my gay data nerd itch so hard!
Ah this is really interesting. It don’t believe in astrology. I feel like it increased in popularity really quickly.
This is sooo interesting. I’m trying to remember what I answered – probably “no” with a note about not completely ruling it out but maybe I said “I don’t know.” Really needed more than 3 options for this question.
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 = no f@kg way and 10 = abso-freaking-lutely, I’m like a 3.
I don’t believe in astrology, but think it can be fun and interesting. I’m a little frustrated with how cis heteronormative it can be, although I’m not surprised. I have a hard time believing in something doesn’t make me feel welcome because I’m genderfluid, queer, and probably polyamorous.
But what if I agree with comments from each of the three camps?
(Who said “no” on the survey)
maybe each of the three camps are not so different after all
Glad I’m not the only one who finds it mildly annoying. Reading horoscopes used to involve finding your sign and that was that. Now I have to know about rising moons, suns and planets and retrogrades? And how the heck do people memorize all their friends signs (and moons, etc) and memorize all the compatabilities? Exhausting. You do you but like can we stop making this a queer requirement? I left religion for a reason.
My non-believing Sagittarius ass is DYING
I’m untatooed but vegan… what is the truth?
« A few things are going on here — most notably, “being into astrology” and “believing in Astrology” turn out to be very different things. »
Yes! I know this part focused on how “non-believers” actually can be “into” astrology, but as someone who “believes” in astrology but would never in a million years read horoscopes, I’m here for it.
Clarification: I don’t abide by the notion that one’s sun sign (or, technically, the planet that rules the full-sign house in which your natal sun resides—the signs didn’t traditionally have any qualities assigned to them) says much about one’s personality, much less the idea that you could get any useful predictive astrology out of only a sun sign.
Plus, I’ve seen a LOT of job ads for “horoscope writers” and know what qualifications are sought … and astrological qualifications are on that list.
Oops! Something happened to my capitalised “NOT” in “are NOT on that list” in the editing between writing and posting.
By the way the idea that full moon induces labor has been debunked by research.
This is just the top result on google, but it has plenty of sources:
You’re right about all the research debunking this belief but having worked in several areas of “hands on” clinical health care over a fourty five year career, I’m still a believer.
Labour Suits, Emergency Depts and especially Mental Health Admission Units all go off with a bang during the full moon in my experience. The Police, Ambulance Service and Fire Service people often say the same.
I’m not pushing this idea as gospel but it’s still odd to say the least.
I work at a preschool and my kids are always more bonkers around the full moon.
Not entirely unrelated cool fact: It is considered plausible an increase in barometric pressure can in later stages of pregnancy induce labor.
It’s suggested higher pressure can influence the membranes that make up the amniotic sac to rupture.
The concept of air breaking water amuses me.
I love how in-depth these analyses are! Thank you for putting so much work into them, they are truly fascinating.
I am not into astrology at all, but I love sorting people into Hogwarts houses, so I’m not going to start throwing stones from my glass house. It would be bad for the mandrakes.
The idea that the moon must affect the human body because it causes tides does seem… dubious. But I’m not a physicist.
I mean, the difference between astrology and something like Hogwarts houses is that the latter is already beginning from the premise that it’s, you know, fiction.
I’m actually inclined towards the view that there actually is something harmful about believing in astrology–or, at least the version of believing in astrology that holds that the planets do affect the details of our lives and personalities in direct and specific ways. I agree with the linked article that an erosion of critical thinking and scientific rigor is bad news, and if there’s any reliable connection between a belief in astrology and, say, subscribing to the sort of nonsense peddled by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, or anti-vaccine beliefs, than that is, to put it mildly, deeply worrying.
On the other hand, as both a theist and a scholar of religion, there’s a way that I’m not in a position to throw stones either, and that I’m compelled to temper that and understand it as a system of meaning-making and storytelling. I suppose the difference is in whether astrology is more properly defined as spiritual tradition and myth (not myth in the sense of falsity but in the sense of a meta-story that helps us explain our identity), or if it’s more properly defined as pseudoscience (that is, does it make universal causal claims that are supposed to work according to a standardized system). The latter is seriously harmful; the former is entitled to some respect.
such great points. i’d add that another major difference between the two, in casual practice, is the nature-nurture one. sorting hat is meant to help you play up your strongest displayed traits, and in the book, it offers an override that the hat will sort you into the house you most wish to be sorted into if you feel really strongly. you can’t retroactively change your birthdate because you care about fairness and justice and really really really want to be a libra. there’s no free will in astrology, and while i guess it COULD theoretically be used to justify that some people by nature are destined to rebel, it’s almost always used as a tool enforcing conformity and sentimentality.
sure, maybe that’s more commentary on the people using it than the tool itself… but that seems difficult to claim when it’s all up to a factor your adult self has zero control over. on principle, that seems awfully implicitly supportive of anti-LGBT conservative ideals (who you think you are and behave as identity-wise is irrelevant, all that matters is your biology and moment of conception).
I reckon straight women believe as much as queer women (and non binary folks), but just don’t mention it in mixed company, to avoid being lambasted/thought silly by the men in their lives.
Basically what Riese said on the survey results article on cats:
“So many lesbian stereotypes come down to one thing:perception of lesbians as unashamed to be enthusiastic about things straight women are supposed to avoid or, at the very least, stay quiet about. For example: being fat, sporting body hair, dressing for comfort over style, foregoing makeup.”
It’s not just men who think believers of Astrology are silly (there are male believers after all). Any logical person would rightfully think such pseudoscience is silly.
I’m a Capricorn and I love reading about that sign because it really is eerily accurate for me, but I never read horoscopes or pay attention to other star signs. I just like blaming my stubbornness on being a goat.
Thank you for this. It’s amazing
I personally hate how lesbians/queer women are associated with Astrology. Anyone with rudimentary scientific knowledge should know better than to seriously ascribe to medieval gobbledygook. Makes me wonder if they also believe in the four humors. I’m thankful, however, that at least I can rule out potential dates on this criteria.
I think the question posed about “believing in astrology” gets to the root of what’s so confusing and irritating about how we as queers tend to use astrology. As a professional astrologer (and queer), I don’t believe in astrology. I do speak it fluently, and find it fascinating, but I took up the practice a little reluctantly when I realized how important it was to my queer community. As a queer astrologer, my role is to use it in ways that empower all of us and remind us of our agency, complexity, and the full scope of our humanity.
Like any other internally rigorous system that has a highly specialized language and can be used to make grand claims about the world and the future (ahem, Marxism, ahem), astrology is always an incomplete system, and tends to attract people who want a systematic understanding of reality. There is always a temptation to think you can know how everything and everyone fits together—to solve the eternal mysteries of humans and our complex relationships. There are many tools that help us see a little farther over the horizon, but it’s our responsibility to use them with humility, staying aware of what we don’t know and can’t know.
I’m excited to live in a time when queerness and astrology are mashing up against each other in complicated and interesting ways. I remember being at the first Queer Astrology Conference in San Francisco in 2013, co-organized by the very talented Jessica Lanyadoo and Chani Nicholas, amongst others, when this question came up—as thoughtful queers, engaged with critical theory and social justice, what do we do with the essentialism + other problems we’ve inherited from astrology?
For me, astrology is a language that can mirror reality (which is itself subjective and ever-shifting, but definitely real). A few of us are very fluent in this language and can say a lot with it. Many of us are less fluent but try to say a lot through it. Imagine if our queer scenes were inundated with everyone speaking a few phrases in French and laughing knowingly. Both those who spoke no French at all and those who grew up fluent in French would have a hard time.
But I don’t have to “believe in French” to speak French. I do know that the languages I have available to me expand my capacity to see, understand, and describe the world. So, whatever your relationship to astrology (or French, or Marxism), I encourage you to dive deep into whatever languages and systems you care about, learn them as fluently as you can, and remember that they’ll never tell the whole story.
I absolutely fucking hate astrology. Why the fuck are so many enbies, an indentity defined by the rejection of a set of stereotypes assigned to you at birth, embracing another set of stereotypes assigned to you at birth? It’s the dumbest shit and reading all the braindead pseudoscientific defenses of it makes me want to rip my hair out.
i don’t get it. i’m a cancer and i don’t even relate to like half of the traits and the ones that i do relate to are basically my mental illness?!?!
sincerely, a tired lesbian