Around a quarter of high school students identify as gay, bisexual or have a more fluid sexuality, official data suggests.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2021 yearly report found that just 75.5 percent of 14 to 18-year-olds said they were heterosexual in 2021 – a new low.
The remainder said they were either bisexual (12.1 percent), gay or lesbian (3.2 percent), ‘other’ (3.9 percent) or said they ‘questioned’ their sexuality (5.2 percent).
The percentage of students who do not view themselves as straight has more than doubled in recent years — from 11 percent in 2015 to 24.5 percent in 2021.
Rates of alternate sexualities in school-aged children are much higher than the adult population – where about seven percent are gay, bisexual or other.
Experts say the explosion in alternative sexualities among children can be partly attributed to increased acceptance.
Dr Mollie Blackburn, who teaches sexuality studies at Ohio State University, told DailyMail.com: ‘It’s an increase in acceptance from both parents and society.
‘[Accepting people] creates a context where a child will be more willing to say that they are gay.’
She does not think the actual number of children who are truly gay, lesbian or bisexual has changed in recent years, but that young people are more willing to admit it now.
But Jay Richard, a senior research fellow at the conservative think-tank the Heritage Foundation, said the US was an outlier.
In the UK, for example, eight percent of people 16 to 24 identify as LGBT, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
He said the rise of gender studies in American schools in recent years was partly behind the rise. ‘There is no doubt in my mind that schools are absolutely playing a role in this growth.’
In recent years, some schools have begun teaching sex education as young as second grade, which has prompted pushback from Conservative lawmakers.
Richard also claimed the increased political focus on social justice was incentivizing children to say they were not heterosexual, to seem ‘less plain’.
‘There are social incentives to declaring yourself a sexual minority,’ he added. ‘There is nothing you have to do to be bisexual. You [could] just wanna make yourself cooler.’
Richard also said the new survey style implemented in today’s CDC report ‘weakened the findings’.
The data comes from the CDC’s biannual Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey. It is the first report since the Covid pandemic.
The nationally representative survey included data from 17,232 children across 152 schools in 45 US states.
Teens are anonymously surveyed on a multitude of factors, from their mental health, sexual identity and whether they use drugs or carry weapons.
In this survey, students who answered that they were ‘gay’, ‘lesbian’, ‘bisexual’ or ‘questioning’ were considered in the ‘non-heterosexual’ group.
The CDC found that 25 percent of students fell into this group, a sharp rise from just 15 percent in 2017.
However, the CDC notes that changes to how the state the questions could be responsible for the sharp rise. The addition of ‘questioning’ as an answer may be increasing rates.
‘Increases in the percentage of LGBQ+ students in YRBSS 2021 might be a result of changes in question wording to include students identifying as questioning, “I am not sure about my sexual identity (questioning),” or other, “I describe my sexual identity in some other way”‘ the agency wrote.
The report found that children who identify as part of the LGB community are significantly more likely to undergo serious mental health struggles.
More than half of female high schoolers who identify as bisexual have seriously considered attempting suicide, and 40 percent whe identified as bisexual.
This is compared to 20 percent of heterosexual female students.
A staggering 26 percent — more than one in four — bisexual female students attempted suicide.
Ms Blackburn says these rates are so high because bisexual students have trouble fitting in with peers, as they can be rejected by both the straight and lesbian communities.
This is compared to 15 percent of lesbians and 8 percent of straight girls.
Among males, bisexuals were 40 percent likely to consider suicide, with the rate being 35 percent among gay teens.
One in ten heterosexual teens considered suicide. Five percent attempted suicide, compared to 20 percent of gay teens and 17 percent of bisexual males.
These students were also more likely to be the victims of sexual violence.
When asked whether they had been physically forced to perform a sexual activity they did not want to, 23 percent of bisexual students and 17 percent of lesbian and gay students said they had.
This is compared to five percent of heterosexual students. Students in a same-sex relationship were also twice as likely to be sexually abused by their partner.
‘Students who identify as bisexual and students who have sexual contact with both sexes experience violence victimization at higher rates,’ the CDC wrote.
It is unclear what is causing the increasing rates of teens identifying as a sexuality other than heterosexual.
Some have pointed to increasing acceptance of the community in recent years. Same-sex marriage was legalized across the US in 2015, legitimizing the community in the eyes of many.
Recent classes of high schoolers are among the first to grow up in a time where gay and lesbian marriages were legal.
On the other hand, some have said the rising rates of LGBT-identifying children is a result of indoctrination in schools.
Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida and likely 2024 Republican Presidential Primary candidate, has blamed teachings of sex and sexual identity in schools.
Gov DeSantis signed HB1557, into law early 2022. The bill banned the teaching of sexual orientation or gender identity in schools from kindergarten to third grade.
Critics named the bill the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, claiming it discriminated against the LGBT community.
Proponents argue that teachings on sexual identity are inappropriate for schools, though.