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June 17, 2021

Big rise in US teens identifying as gay, bisexual

 
June 17, 2021

NEW YORK: More teens in the United States are reporting their sexual identity as gay, lesbian or bisexual, nationwide surveys show. Between 2015 and 2019, the percentage of 15- to 17-year-olds who said they identified as "non-heterosexual" rose from 8.3% to 11.7%, according to nationwide surveys by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Although our analyses demonstrated that there has been a significant increase in the proportion of girls and boys that self-identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual, we cannot be certain if this represents a true increase of this magnitude, or if it reflects at least in part, greater comfort by teens with acknowledging a non-heterosexual identity on an anonymous questionnaire," said Dr Andrew Adesman, who led an analysis of the findings, reported international media.

Adesman is chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New York City. Since 2015, the CDC's Youth Risk Behavior Survey has included questions about respondents' sexual identity and the sex of their intimate contacts.

Before 2015, those questions were included only on some regional versions of the survey. Analysis of regional survey data between 2005 and 2015 had shown a rise in non-heterosexual sexual identity for both boys and girls.

The new, nationwide survey included 20,440 boys and 21,106 girls, with an average age of 16 years.

In addition to the overall increase, the percentage of boys who identified as non-heterosexual rose from 4.5% to 5.7%. For girls, the increase was greater -- from 12.2% to 17.8%, the findings showed.

Dr Amy Green is vice president of research for The Trevor Project, a nationwide group that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to non-heterosexual youth.

Green noted that young people today have greater access to information and language that can help them understand their identity. "Gen Z youth also have the most positive attitudes towards the LGBTQ community, which can reduce the stigma associated with identifying in this way," she said.

Green noted that The Trevor Project's own surveys consistently find that young people understand and want to express the nuances of their sexual orientation.

"This is why we advocate for the collection of this information in both research and clinical settings, to better inform policies, programmes and practices aimed at supporting the well-being of LGBTQ youth," Green said.

Joseph Kosciw is research director of GLSEN in New York City, which has worked for 30 years to help schools become safer and more affirming for LGBTQ students.