The Washington Post is out with a new column analyzing recent Gallup polling data on the rise in LGBTQ identification among young people, which suggests that broader societal acceptance is strongly correlated with that increase. It's worth reading in full, in part because it is a conclusion that is both intuitive and rare, but here are some selections:
As it does regularly, Gallup asked Americans last year if they identified as straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. About 7 percent of Americans said they identified as one of the latter four categories, essentially the same percentage as identified that way in 2021.
There was an interesting divide, though. When Gallup broke out responses by age, it found that younger Americans were much more likely to identify as LGBT (the Gallup poll excluded “queer,” so no “Q”) than older ones. Only about 2 percent of those in the Silent Generation (born during or before World War II) identified as LGBT. By contrast, about 20 percent of Gen Z (should be known as Lockdowners) chose one of the LGBT options.
This phenomenon is not new. The divide between older and younger Americans on self-identification has been a subject of debate for some time and is often cited in rhetoric targeting the perceived liberalizing effect of education and culture. As Florida considered legislation passed last year that limited discussion of same-sex relationships in schools, the dangerous idea that kids were being actively encouraged to be gay became prevalent in right-wing rhetoric.
It also ignores other lessons from American history. In 2015, The Washington Post presented this graph, showing how identification of children as left-handed rose during the 20th century and then plateaued at about 1 in 8 kids.
Kids weren’t being groomed to be lefties. Quite the opposite: When my mother was young, she was told to learn to write with her right hand. Over time, that idea fell out of favor and lefties could simply be lefties. The percentage of the population that is left-handed stabilized.
Perhaps what’s happening with LGBTQ identification is analogous. Perhaps the change isn’t that kids are being encouraged to be gay when they aren’t; perhaps it’s that they feel free to identify that way if they are — a freedom older Americans didn’t enjoy. A freedom some still see an unacceptable for themselves or in their peer groups.
Other outlets including The New York Times have used emergent data about LGBTQ identification to help fuel the right-wing panic and the ensuing legislative backlash. Media Matters has covered the way that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and others have seized on this trend to promote anti-LGBTQ legislation and has covered flaws in the Times' coverage at length.