(HealthDay): There are more teens in the United States reporting their sexual identity as polls nationwide show gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
Between 2015 and 2019, the percentage of young people aged 15 to 17 who said they identified themselves as “non-heterosexual” went from 8.3% to 11.7%, according to national surveys performed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“While our analyzes showed that there has been a significant increase in the proportion of girls and boys who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual, we cannot be sure whether this represents a true increase in this magnitude or if it reflects at least in part, greater comfort on the part of adolescents in recognizing a non-heterosexual identity in an anonymous questionnaire, ”said Dr. Andrew Adesman, who led an analysis of the results.
Adesman is head of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New York City.
Since 2015, the CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey includes questions about respondents sexual identity and the sex of their intimate contacts. Prior to 2015, these questions were only included in some regional versions of the survey. Analysis of data from regional surveys between 2005 and 2015 had shown an increase in non-heterosexual sexual identity in both boys and girls.
The new nationwide survey included 20,440 boys and 21,106 girls (mean age 16 years).
In addition to the overall increase, the percentage of boys who identified as non-heterosexual went from 4.5% to 5.7%. For girls, the increase was greater, from 12.2% to 17.8%, depending on the results.
Dr. Amy Green is Vice President of Research for Project Trevor, a national group that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to non-heterosexual youth.
Green noted that today’s youth have more access to information and language that can help them understand their identity.
“Generation Z youth also have the most positive attitudes toward the LGBTQ community, which can reduce the stigma associated with identifying in this way,” he said.
Green noted that the Trevor Project’s own surveys consistently show that young people understand and want to express the nuances of their sexual orientation.
“[This] that is why we advocate for the collection of this information in both research and clinical settings, to better inform about policies, programs, and practices designed to support the well-being of LGBTQ youth, ”Green said.
Joseph Kosciw is GLSEN’s director of research in New York City, who has worked for 30 years to help schools be safer and more affirmative for LGBTQ students. He hopes that this study will reflect this work and that schools will be more welcoming places where students can be themselves.
“I think the weather [in schools] “It’s better and young people are more comfortable,” he said. “And I also think that, in general, young people in the current generation are more open to being just what they are.”
When LGBTQ students are in supportive school settings, teens can be positive for them, he said. For others, school may feel insecure and not assertive, Kosciw said. Even in these circumstances there may be spaces of hope and comfort, including Gender and Sexuality Alliance clubs, he added.
Supportive school environments include those where students are reflected in protection policies, with equal access to school and activities as everyone else. This includes changing rooms and bathrooms that fit their gender identity or are allowed to bring a same-sex date to the ballroom dance, Kosciw said.
“To the extent that students can be a part of school life, they do better in school and thrive, so I think it can be an exciting time for many LGBTQ students,” he said. “And it’s really the responsibility, as a school, to make sure their schools are safe and they claim spaces.”
The increase in adolescents who identified as non-heterosexual was not matched by a corresponding increase in intimate contact of the same sex. Although the survey showed modest increases, they were not large enough to be statistically significant.
Adesman said the likely explanation for the higher proportion of girls who identified as gay or bisexual and the corresponding increase in same-sex activity is because the stigma of boys remains much greater than that of the girls.
“High school can be a very difficult time for teens in many ways, and it’s especially difficult for teens who identify as gay or bisexual,” Adesman noted.
“Knowing that gay and bisexual youth are at increased risk for social isolation and victimization, as well as emotional problems, school staff and health professionals we need to be more attentive to these concerns in what appears to be an increased proportion of discharge school students in the US, ”he added.
The findings were published online on June 14 a JAMA Pediatrics.
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Citation: Big increase in American teens who identify as gay and bisexual (2021, June 15) Retrieved June 15, 2021 at https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-06-big-teens- gay-bisexual.html
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