The LGBT identity explosion

An estimated 20 percent of Americans under 30 identify as LGBT.   That’s roughly double the percentage of the previous generation.

Now this could be an exaggeration.  Also,  sexual identity is changing at a faster rate than actual sexual behavior.  But the trend is clear.

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LGBT identity is celebrated by almost every major institution in society, so it shouldn’t be surprising that LGBT identity is becoming more popular.

Strangely, many people who only engage in heterosexual sex still identify as LGBT.  Most of the increase is in the B for bisexual category.  You can live the life of a straight cisgender person, and still call yourself a “B.”  Make of this what you will.

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A study of the rise of LGBT identity by Eric Kaufmann has just been published by the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology.  Here is his executive summary.

  • The last decade has seen a precipitous rise in the share of Americans identifying as LGBT, particularly among the youngest adults. Today, among those under 30, a wide range of surveys converge on a number of around 20 percent.
  • Government data from Canada and the UK indicate that surveys might be overestimating the extent of the rise in LGBT identity. This caveat must be kept in mind in understanding this report.  Nonetheless, these government sources indicate that the trend is real, even if less reliable surveys might exaggerate it. The UK’s Office for National Statistics finds that 7.6 percent of those 16-24 identify as LGBT, which can be taken as a low-end estimate for that country.
  • The most popular LGBT identity is bisexual, which is significantly more common among women than men.
  • When we look at homosexual behavior, we find that it has grown much less rapidly than LGBT identification.  Men and women under 30 who reported a sexual partner in the last five years dropped from around 96 percent exclusively heterosexual in the 1990s to 92 percent exclusively heterosexual in 2021.  Whereas in 2008 attitudes and behavior were similar, by 2021 LGBT identification was running at twice the rate of LGBT sexual behavior.
  • The author provides a high-point estimate of an 11-point increase in LGBT identity between 2008 and 2021 among Americans under 30.  Of that, around 4 points can be explained by an increase in same-sex behavior.  The majority of the increase in LGBT identity can be traced to how those who only engage in heterosexual behavior describe themselves.
  • Very liberal ideology is associated with identifying as LGBT among those with heterosexual behavior, especially women.  It seems that an underlying psychological disposition is inclining people with heterosexual behavior to identify both as LGBT and very liberal. The most liberal respondents have moved from 10-15 percent non-heterosexual identification in 2016 to 33 percent in 2021. Other ideological groups are more stable.

  • Very liberal ideology and LGBT identification are associated with anxiety and depression in young people. Very liberal young Americans are twice as likely as others to experience these problems.  Twenty-seven percent of young Americans with anxiety or depression were LGBT in 2021. This relationship appears to have strengthened since 2010.
  • Among young people, mental health problems, liberal ideology, and LGBT identity are strongly correlated. Using factor analysis in two different studies shows that assuming one common variable between all three traits explains 40-50 percent of the variation.
  • Because the rise in LGBT identity is so heavily concentrated on the political left, its influence on the balance of power between the two parties is likely to be limited.
  • College students majoring in the social sciences and humanities are about 10 points more LGBT than those in STEM.  Meanwhile, 52 percent of students taking highly political majors such as race or gender studies identify as LGBT, compared to 25 percent among students overall.
  • Various data sources indicate that gender nonconformity – trans and non-binary identity – reached its peak in the last few years and has started to decline.
  • What kind of high school or college a young person attends poorly predicts their likelihood of identifying as LGBT. The one exception is Liberal Arts colleges, where 38 percent of students describe themselves in this way. This indicates that schooling might not have a large effect on changes in LGBT identity.
  • Overall, the data suggest that while there has been an increase in same-sex behavior in recent years, sociopolitical factors likely explain most of the rise in LGBT identity.

There is a lot to mull over here.

I’m glad that gay men and lesbian women don’t have to stay in the closet, and that transgendered people can be accepted for being what they think they are.  Everybody has basic human rights that should be respected.

I don’t want to change this or put it into reverse.  Everybody, including childless divorced bachelors like me, can play a useful role in society.

None of my LGBT friends is trying to revolutionize society.  They, like me, are just trying to live their lives.  They accept me as I am, and I accept them as they are.  This is not even an issue.

But the LGBT identity explosion is something different from mere acceptance of LGBT people.  It signifies important changes in society that are worth discussing.

Sex can be a source of identity, a source of pleasure or a means of expressing love.  But the most important thing about sex is that it is the means by which the human race reproduces itself.

The male-female binary is not just an identity.  It is a biological reality fundamental to human reproduction; in most societies, it is fundamental to child reading.

The family—the father-mother-child family—has been the central institution of society from time immemorial.

Traditional marriage is in trouble, for many reasons.  I don’t happen to think that the growing popularity of LGBT identity is one of those reasons.  Rather the decline in commitment to perpetuating family dynasties is what makes LGBT identity acceptable.

Are we as a people going to de-center the traditional family?  If so, can a replacement for its function be found?  That seems like a tall order.  Even if LGBT identity really has peaked and is slowly declining, as Kaufmann suggests, these questions remain.


Born This Way? The Rise of LGBT as a Social and Political Identity by Eric Kaufmann for the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology.  PDF Version.

Progressivism, Sexuality and Mental Health by Eric Kaufmann for Quillette.  [Added 06/19/2022]

Explaining the LGBT Explosion by Bryan Caplan for Bet on It.

The LGBTsQing of America by Alexander Zubatov for The American Conservative.

The Number of LGBTQ Adults is Soaring by Erin Doherty for Axios.

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3 Responses to “The LGBT identity explosion”

  1. silverapplequeen Says:

    I have nothing against trans people. I’ve known transwomen since the early 80s, we called them cross-dressers back then & nobody ever said that they were really women … they were just men who liked wearing women’s clothing, like some women (myself included) liked wearing menswear. I have never understood why this is such a big deal.

    My beef is the denial of biology (“transwomen are real women” ad nauseum)& that one’s feelings trump logic, rational thought & consideration of other people. Wear what you want; live the way you want; but don’t impose your reality on other people. Your reality may only apply to yourself, after all.


  2. philebersole Says:

    It took me a long time to realize that a man could voluntarily be castrated, and alter his body with hormones, because he considered himself a woman, or a woman could have a double mastectomy, and alter her body with hormones, because she considered herself a man—it took me a long time to realize that someone could do these things and be the better for it.

    Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning is one of half a dozen people in the world I admire most. She went to prison for years for the crime of revealing atrocities committed by the U.S. government. She almost certainly could have avoiding it by lying to implicate Julian Assange; she later went back into prison for refusing to implicate Assange. I wish I had half so strong a character as she does.

    I have a transgender friend to whom I am grateful for her helpfulness and kindness. She seems to be as well-balance and as solid a citizen as anybody I know. I would regret writing anything that she took as implying I regard her as a lesser human being than myself, which I most certainly do not.

    I have no doubt there are transgender people who have had “transition” surgery and come to regret. It stands to reason there would be. But adults have the right to make decisions about their own bodies, including bad decisions, and face the consequence.

    I am opposed to transgender surgery for under-age children. If there is an age of consent for sex, voting, drinking alcohol, serving in the military or obtaining a driver’s license, it is reasonable to have an age of consent before you can have this form of elective irreversible surgery.


  3. Fred (Au Natural) Says:

    Sexual identity is subject to current fashion. If society disapproves of gay behavior, most people identify as straight because of social pressure. Take away that disapproval and people will gravitate to whatever turns them on. The younger you are, the easier it is. You even end up with people identifying as LGTB because it is fashionable.

    I agree with you about children and trans surgery. Minors don’t have a fully developed brain and are notorious for extreme and impulsive behavior.


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