Record 5.6% of US adults identify as LGBTQ, poll shows; Gen Z drives the numbers

The estimated 18 million adults who identify as LGBTQ represent a continued upward trajectory since Gallup started tracking identification in 2012, Gallup senior editor Jeff Jones said.

SHARE Record 5.6% of US adults identify as LGBTQ, poll shows; Gen Z drives the numbers
PrideParade_67.jpg

The Balloons By Tommy float in the 2019 Chicago Pride Parade on June 30, 2019.

Rick Majewski/For the SunTimes.

A record number of U.S. adults – 5.6% – identify as LGBTQ, an increase propelled by a younger generation staking out its presence in the world, a poll released Wednesday shows.

The survey by Gallup marks more than a 1 percentage point jump from the last poll in 2017 in which 4.5% of adults identified as LGBTQ.

The estimated 18 million adults who identify as LGBTQ represent a continued upward trajectory since Gallup started tracking identification in 2012, Gallup senior editor Jeff Jones said.

“It reflects what we are seeing in society and the way society is changing,” he said.

One of the biggest headlines in the 2020 poll is the emergence of Generation Z adults, those 18 to 23: 1 in 6, or 15.9%, identify as LGBTQ. In each older generation, LGBTQ identification is lower, including 2% or less of respondents born before 1965.

For the first time, Gallup queried respondents on their precise sexual orientation, rather than a simple yes or no on whether someone identified as LGBTQ, allowing more insight into identity, Jones said.

Among LGBTQ adults, a majority or 54.6% identify as bisexual, the poll shows. About a quarter, or 24.5%, identify as gay; 11.7% as lesbian; 11.3% as transgender.

Generation Z again leads the way: 72% who identify as LGBTQ say they are bisexual.

There are gender differences as well:

• Women are more likely than men to identify as LGBTQ (6.4% vs 4.9%.)

• Women are more likely to identify as bisexual than men (4.3% vs 1.8%.)

LGBTQ youths growing up amid a more accepting reality

Advocates are not surprised to see more young people identifying as LGBTQ. Ineke Mushovic, executive director of the Movement Advancement Project, cites “generational shifts in awareness and acceptance” that have reshaped how LGBTQ youths are embraced by families and peers.

“I have had conversations with many older LGBTQ people who break down in tears when they share their coming-out stories of decades ago – heart-wrenching stories of family rejection, losing parents, losing siblings, losing jobs,” she said. “Older generations grew up during those times when being LGBTQ could land you in jail, or alone or jobless.

“The younger generations haven’t experienced this level of fear where often being in the closet felt less like a choice and more like a survival mechanism.”

Parents have created environments where young people not only feel safe in coming out – but those on the cusp of adulthood can map futures packed with possibilities, something not seen even a generation ago, she said.

LGBTQ representation in communities, media, politics and beyond in recent years is significant, said Cathy Renna, communications director for the National LGBTQ Task Force: “Children are taught prejudice, and when LGBTQ people are part of their lives from the beginning they understand that they can be themselves and are not alone.”

Renna cites a better and “more nuanced” grasp of sexual orientation and gender identity that has enabled LGBTQ youths to celebrate their full selves.

“Young people do not want to check off a box; they want to be able to express themselves authentically and acknowledge all their identities,” she said.

A more hopeful time, but hardships and bias still exist

The survey comes amid a cautiously optimistic time for the LGBTQ community. President Joe Biden made equality a plank in his campaign, promising an ambitious agenda to advance LGBTQ rights after four years of setbacks and attacks by the previous administration.

Biden has signed executive orders that prohibit workplace discrimination in the federal government based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and he lifted the transgender military ban. And he has pledged to sign the federal Equality Act, recently introduced in the House – which provides sweeping protections in housing, education, credit and services – in his first 100 days if Congress acts.

The poll numbers give the battle for equality perspective, Mushovic said.

“Less than 20 years ago, just being in a same-sex relationship could be a crime. Now, LGBTQ people can marry the person they love,” she said. “And the Supreme Court found, just last year, that it’s not legal to fire someone just for being LGBTQ. So LGBTQ people finally have a little more freedom to be themselves.”

But much work remains, she said. Violence and bias still lurk in society, Mushovic said, hitting communities such as transgender people of color particularly hard.

“The fact that it’s 2021 and we’re still pushing for the Equality Act, decades after federal non-discrimination protections were originally introduced, shows that our laws need to catch up to the public on these issues,” she said.

The Latest
A train conductor heading north spotted the 28-year-old woman in the 900 block of West Cornelia Avenue, police said. She had suffered burns on her chest and legs, apparently from the third rail.
They were in a car when a black Jeep pulled up and someone inside began firing around 1:30 a.m. in the 1200 block of North Milwaukee Avenue, police said. Their car then crashed in the 1600 block of West Congress Drive.
The teen was shot around 12:25 a.m. in the 6400 block of South Vernon Avenue, police said. He was dropped off at Jackson Hospital and was listed in good condition.
The rude woman also has been know to steal glances at her friend’s paunch.