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What the Surge in LGBTQ Self-Identity Means

We are now a year removed from the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade. In the flurry of protests that followed the late June 2022 decision, LGBTQ-identified persons and organizations paid a surprising amount of attention to the Court’s decision. The rainbow flag was a mainstay at Dobbs protests. Even a shallow dive into written backlash against the Court’s decision revealed that LGBT people were concerned about Dobbs at least as much as women in heterosexual relationships were, despite the latter’s lopsided contribution to actual abortion numbers. The most obvious reason for the former’s concern was Justice Clarence Thomas’s reference, in his concurring opinion, to reconsidering other “substantive due process precedents,” like those in the Obergefell and Lawrence v. Texas decisions.

But some share of the political angst no doubt comes from the fact that there has been a surge in LGBTQ self-identification among young adults who do not display homosexual behavior. That’s right. New Gallup data analyses put the LGBT figure among Zoomers (i.e., those born between 1997 and 2012) at 20 percent. Data from the General Social Survey—a workhorse biennial survey administered since 1972—reveal that the share of LGBTQ Americans under age 30 exploded from 4.8 percent in 2010 to 16.3 percent in 2021. No matter the data source, it’s clear that in 11 short years, LGBTQ identification among young Americans tripled. And yet under-30 non-heterosexual behavioral experience, while climbing, remains just over half that figure, at 8.6 percent (in 2021).

Sexual behavior once comprised the key distinction to homosexuality. Homosexuality, however, has given way to ideological and political self-identity. In light of this shift away from using behavior to self-identity in defining homosexuality, LGBTQ antagonism to the Dobbs decision starts to make more sense. In fact, we should have seen it coming. In a study published last year in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, my coauthor Brad Vermurlen and I found that the key predictor of adult attitudes about treating adolescent gender dysphoria with hormones or surgery—a topic you might not equate with abortion rights—was not age, political affiliation, education, sexual orientation, or religion. The best predictor was whether the respondent considered themselves pro-choice about abortion.

Read more at The Public Discourse 

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