The number of LGBT Americans is soaring. Why?

One in five Gen Z Americans – 21 percent -- identifies as LGBT, according to the latest Gallup poll. For the whole population the figure is 7.1 percent.

That is an astonishing figure. For years sociologists, pollsters, and activists have been downplaying the number of LGBT people. Last year, New York Times gay columnist Charles Blow expressed his exasperation at homophobic fears: “Gallup recently measured a modest rise in those identifying as L.G.B.T. in the United States, to 5.6 percent in 2021 from 4.5 percent in 2017,”he wrote. “That is a tiny fraction of the entire population.”

But the tiny fraction is growing. This year’s aggregate figure of 7.1 is double the percentage in 2012, when Gallup began surveying sexual minorities. If it doubles every ten years, by 2052, half of Americans will be LGBT, and by 2062 … No, that’s hardly imaginable.

The details of LGBT demographics in the Gallup report are fascinating.

A bar chart made by Axios based on the Gallup data

These “generations” are very loosely defined, but last about 15 years. And in every generation the percentage of people who identify as LGBT has roughly doubled. Bear in mind that half of the Gen Z cohort (people born between 1997 and 2012) has not turned 18 yet. So the percentage of Americans who identify as LGBT could increase even further as the younger Gen Zers enter sexual maturity. It may not be a “tiny fraction” after all. As the Gallup report points out:

Now a much greater proportion of Gen Z, but still not all of it, has become adults. The sharp increase in LGBT identification among this generation since 2017 indicates that the younger Gen Z members (those who have turned 18 since 2017) are more likely than the older members of the generation to identify as LGBT.

Should that trend within Gen Z continue, the proportion of U.S. adults in that generation who say they are LGBT will grow even higher once all members of the generation reach adulthood.

As one digs deeper into the statistics, “identity” becomes more perplexing. For it turns out that 57 percent of “LGBT U.S. adults” are bisexual. Amongst LGBT Gen Xers, even more --two-thirds -- are bisexual. According to Gallup, “bisexuals are much more likely to marry spouses or live with partners of a different sex than with spouses or partners who are the same sex as they are.”


It's very difficult to interpret figures like this. But the predominance of bisexuals suggests that a lot of young Americans are combining transgressive recreative sex with more conventional heterosexual relationships.

The Gallup survey was widely reported, but there were only a few insights into why more and more people are identifying as LGBT – and where, or if, the percentages would stop growing. These included:

It’s the Left. “The left has introduced a malignant, unnecessary confusion that has 40% of America’s young adults unsure about exactly who they are,” writes Vince Coyner at The American Thinker. However, there are a good number of LGBT people on the right, as well. And it’s unclear how Joe Biden, AOC, and Bernie have driven the LGBT conspiracy.

It’s Hollywood. The latest media visibility report from GLAAD, the LGBT advocacy group, says that nearly 12 percent of characters in primetime scripted series regulars on broadcast networks in the 2021-22 season were LGBTQ – a record number. Celebrities like Laverne Cox, Ellen DeGeneres, Tim Cook, Alan Joyce, Miley Cyrus, and Caitlyn Jenner have helped to normalise the LGBT lifestyle.

It’s indoctrination.§ From drag queen story hours for kindergarten kids to Sex Weeks to help orient freshman college students with fun events like the “wheel of fornication”, schools have a lot of potential for influencing young people. Some LGBT people approach education with evangelical zeal. But this alone cannot account for the rising proportion of people who identify as LGBT. The numbers were already rising 40 years ago.

It's the water. Plastics and hormonal residues in the water supply have been fingered as a possible reason for increasing rates of homosexuality. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals have been found to change sexual preferences in animals. A recent best-seller, Countdown, by American epidemiologist Shanna Swan, suggested that they might also affect gender identity in humans.

It's less stigma. An article in the libertarian magazine Reason sums up this point of view: “The increase in the number of LGBT self-identification is a positive result of allowing people to define themselves and their sexual identities absent government pressures forcing them to conform to majority preferences in order to enjoy the same rights granted to everyone else.”

It's natural. Although his research has been largely discredited, sexologist Alfred Kinsey, author of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, asserted that 10 percent of American males were homosexual in the 1940s. In the light of these statistics, was he right? Perhaps declining stigma and discrimination have emboldened people to be open about their identity.

These answers, however, fall far short of explaining the immense cultural change which has obviously taken place between the Baby Boomers and Gen Z. Nor is it likely that we will find a non-controversial solution any time soon. In the meantime, I’d like to share my explanation,

It’s the Pill. No, not estrogen in the water supply or feminising hormones in the womb, but how the Pill “changed” human nature. The figures in the Gallup poll show that the uptick in LGBT identity began in the 1960s when the Pill became popular. Even at the time it was realised that the consequences of separating sex from procreation were going to be momentous. Pearl Buck, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, wrote in 1968, "Everyone knows what The Pill is. It is a small object — yet its potential effect upon our society many be even more devastating than the nuclear bomb."

Both progressives and conservatives understood that the Pill would lead to sexual anarchy, although progressives called it sexual liberation. But there was a philosophical consequence that no one seems to have anticipated. If sex and procreation are not mutually dependent, what is sex for? Does it have a purpose other than self-satisfaction? Human beings are rational purpose-driven animals. If they’re unaware of the deep existential bond between sex and procreation, they are bound to reason that sex is only for pleasure, or at best, to demonstrate affection.

So, as the years have passed, each generation has had less and less reason to believe that procreative, heterosexual sex was normal or even desirable. It may be difficult to establish statistically but there is a correlation between the steady decline in fertility in the US, and around the world, and the steady increase in LGBT identity.

Whatever the explanation is, a generation which is 100 percent LGBT is inconceivable. At some point the rainbow train will stop. But what society will look like then is impossible to predict.

§ A late addition to the list of possible explanations, prompted by a reader's comment.


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