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Why Gen Z is More Likely Than Millennials to Identify as LGBTQ+

Mar 17 2022

YPulse research shows that the number of young people who identify as LGBTQ+ has increased, and we’re digging into why…


TL;DR:

  • The number of Gen Z and Millennials who identify as LGBTQ+ has increased in the last five years 
  • Gen Z is behind the growth, with the younger generation more likely than Millennials to currently identify as LGBTQ+
  • There are a variety of factors contributing to the rise in LGBTQ+ identification, including access to representation, information, and community on social platforms

The number of people who identify as LGBTQ+ is unquestionably on the rise. Last year, a Gallup poll reported the percentage of adults who identify as LGBTQ in the U.S. is growing, increasing from 4.5% in 2017 to 5.6% in 2021. But young people are really the ones behind the increase in LGBTQ identification. YPulse’s data, which looks at a larger proportion of Gen Z, shows that the number of 13-39-year-olds who identify as LGBTQ+ has increased even more significantly:

The number of young people who identify as LGBTQ+ has increased in the last five years

According to YPulse’s data, the number of Gen Z and Millennials identifying as LGBTQ+ has increased by 8 points since 2017. The 22% of 13-39-year-olds who tell us they identify as LGBTQ+  is over three times the number of adults Gallup reports identify as LGBTQ+ overall. But this increase is even more significant among 13-20-year-olds, with the number of this young demo who identify as LGBTQ+ doubling from 14% in 2017 to 27% in 2022. In short, Gen Z is the generation fueling this shift, and clearly being more open about their sexual identities from a far younger age than any generation before them. We already see that they are far more likely than Millennials to identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or other:

Gen Z is more likely than Millennials to identify as LGBTQ+

YPulse’s recent dating and relationship survey shows that 27% of 13-20-year-olds identify as LGBTQ today compared to 19% of 21-39-year-olds. Gen Z is more open than previous generations about their gender identity and sexuality, and they’re challenging traditional gender norms in an effort to create a more inclusive future for all. Additionally, our data also shows that 57% of Gen Z agree “Most people’s sexual orientation falls somewhere in between straight or gay,” and they more likely than Millennials to disagree with the statement, “You are either straight or gay, there is no in-between.”

Understanding the importance of the LGBTQ+ community for this generation is vital, but the reasons behind the shift may be just as important—especially where brands are concerned. Relying on stereotypes is the best way to get canceled, especially by a generation that values social efforts and representation. We’re here to provide some context on the generational shift into LGBTQ+ acceptance—and the factors at play. So, what are some of the things that have led to this generation feeling freer to live authentically?

Exposure to the stories and truths of other LGBTQ+ individuals and celebrities is one of the major reasons. Unlike previous generations, Gen Z is growing up on social media, with access to communities and content that normalizes LGBTQ+ representation. From Grindr having a TikTok account (no, really) to out-and-proud influencers stepping into the public eye, queer culture is easy to find on social platforms, where young consumers are facing less overall backlash for living as their authentic selves. Likely because of this, Gen Z stars like Lil Nas X and JoJo Siwa are setting a new precedent by coming out publicly at young ages—often via social media as well. As a result, young people—especially teens—feel more comfortable and more accepted when it comes to coming out themselves.

COVID might have helped to fuel this difference

But it’s not just representation that has led to the shift we’re seeing. In a short period of time, a myriad of circumstances came together to create an environment in which young people could explore their genders and sexualities, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

The crisis hit at a very formative time in Gen Z’s development—within two weeks, these young people went from their daily routines, in-person communities and standard way of living to being forced to navigate life inside a bubble. In that time, many turned inwards to self-explore and reflect, which, in some cases, led to identifying as genders and sexualities different to the ones they entered the pandemic with. In fact, YPulse’s The In-Between trend research found that 12% of 13-39-year-olds say their sexual orientation or gender identity changed during COVID. That number increases to 16% among Gen Z, and 19% among Gen Z females. This time for introspection and reflection was also a period of increased time online, where young people could look for confirmation and validation for their feelings. Just one example: Google trends shows that searches for “Am I Gay Quiz” have increased significantly over the last two years.

Quarantines also likely provided more time to engage with online communities that helped them to explore their identities as well. On TikTok—which, by nature of its unique algorithm, allows regular users to go viral and reach their peers—the community of Gen Z and Millennials has its own (informal) name: #GayTok, which has a whopping 3.7B views. In fact, the app has become a safe space for young LGBTQ and non-binary users to explore their sexuality. LGBTQ influencer houses have been popular on the platform, while Millennial queer families have also formed “TikTok families” to help LGBTQ youth feel safe and accepted. Mafia Moms, Angelic Goddess Dads, and Supermagical Aunties who all collectively have millions of followers—are among some of the popular accounts who provide an outlet for young users who “don’t have the at-home structure they need or desire” and reaffirm their sexuality, gender identity, or even their dyed hair.

Understanding Gen Z’s LGBTQ+ identities is a must for brands

We told you last year that supporting LGBTQ+ is vital in reaching Gen Z, and our recent Causes/Charity & Activism behavioral research found that Gen Z is more likely than Millennials to say LGBTQ+ discrimination / rights is a cause they’re passionate about, and far more likely to say it’s a cause they want brands to be involved in. The fact that this generation is so much more likely to consider themselves a part of the LGBTQ+ community is the clear driver of this difference. Understanding the whys behind this, and the importance of communities and representation in their journeys, could help brands to more authentically connect with and support them.

YPulse Business users can access the full Dating and Relationships behavioral report and data here.

Don’t have a YPulse Business account? Find out more here.

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