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1 in 4 US High School Students Identifies as LGBTQ

1 in 4 US students identify themselves as LGBTQ
1 in 4 US students identify themselves as LGBTQ. Credit: Sam T / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

One in every four high school students has a non-heterosexual sexual orientation, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) biannual Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey.

The report, which used data from 2021, stated that 75.5 percent of 14 to 18-year-olds identified as heterosexual, marking a record low. The remaining students identified as either bisexual (12.1%), gay or lesbian (3.2%), ‘other’ (3.9%), or reported questioning their sexuality (5.2%).

Subjects of Sexual Orientation Require Attention

The official data shows that the proportion of students who do not identify as straight has increased significantly, more than doubling from 11% in 2015 to 24.5% in 2021. This is a substantial shift in just a few years.

It is important to note that rates of non-heterosexual identities among school-aged children are much higher than those in the adult population, where only about 7% identify as gay, bisexual, or other. This indicates that sexuality and sexual orientation are topics that require ongoing attention and understanding in the context of younger age groups.

Details of the Survey

The survey included data from 17,232 children who attend 152 schools in 45 US states, making it nationally representative. The survey covers a range of topics, including mental health, drug use, weapon possession, and sexual identity.

For this survey, students who identified as ‘gay’, ‘lesbian’, ‘bisexual’, or ‘questioning’ were considered part of the ‘non-heterosexual’ group. CDC found that 25% of students fell into this group, a significant increase from 15% in 2017.

However, the CDC also notes that changes to the way the questions were posed may be responsible for this sharp rise. The addition of ‘questioning’ as an answer option may be contributing to the increase in rates.

Higher Risk of Mental Health Problems

The latest report has revealed that students who identify as part of the LGBT community are at a higher risk of experiencing serious mental health problems.

The findings show that over 50% of female high school students who identify as bisexual have considered attempting suicide, and 40% of those who identify as gay or lesbian have also had these thoughts. This is in comparison to 20% of female heterosexual students.

Even more alarming is that over one in four bisexual female students, or 26%, have attempted suicide.

Similarly, males who identify as bisexual were 40% more likely to have suicidal thoughts, while the rate was 35% among gay males. In contrast, one in ten heterosexual males considered suicide, with only 5% attempting it.

LGB students attempted suicide at a rate of 20% for gay men and 17% for bisexual men.

Risk of Abuse

When asked if they had been physically coerced into performing a sexual act they didn’t want to, 23% of bisexual students and 17% of gay and lesbian students said they had. In comparison, only 5% of heterosexual students reported such abuse.

Furthermore, students in same-sex relationships were twice as likely to experience sexual violence from their partners. These findings underscore the need for greater support and resources to address the unique challenges faced by LGBT youth.

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