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 U.S. 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.
The new, nationwide survey included 20,440 boys and 21,106 girls (average age 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.