According to new research backed by the BBC and conducted by polling company Ipsos Mori, one in three young people now identifies as gay or bisexual. The survey found that about a third of participants between the ages 16 to 22 self-identify as being attracted to someone of the same sex at least some of the time; with 9 percent identifying themselves as bi, and 14 percent “mostly heterosexual” (but not fully). Meanwhile, 88 percent of baby boomers identified as fully heterosexual, with just one percent considering themselves bi.
The data may seem surprising, but it actually isn’t. This doesn’t mean more kids are being born gay or bi, it just means that young people today feel more empowered to be open about who they are. Researchers surveyed 3,000 UK residents of various age groups (generations Z, Y, X, and baby boomers) and the data clearly showed that older generations identify much more strongly as straight, and younger generations are much likelier to identify themselves as being gay, bi, or sexually fluid.
As many saw during Bi Visibility Day, what determines someone’s bisexual or homosexuality is flexible. There’s no greater fear than that of ostracism from society. Schools and social circles are seeing a greater shift towards acceptance, meaning young people have the same fear of isolation for expressing themselves.
I myself wasn’t aware of my own bisexual identity until I was in my twenties. I figured that because I largely preferred male partners and only occasionally felt sexual attraction toward women, I must be heterosexual. I was barraged with messages telling me I was “experimenting.” This is a similar cultural narrative that many young people face when trying to find themselves.
Moreover, the simple boxes of “Bi-sexual,” “Homosexual,” and “Heterosexual” don’t really fit into the flowing nature of sexuality. The data only shows these shifting cultural understandings. Now that we’re beginning to have a greater understanding of sexual identity, people have better understandings of themselves.
It’s wonderful to see the next generation open up about their sexual identities in ways that people previously couldn’t when coming of age. This shows the way that shifting cultural attitudes towards acceptance allows people to openly be themselves. As far as good news goes, this study definitely brings some hope for the future.