Joseph Backholm is Senior Fellow for Biblical Worldview and Political Engagement at Family Research Council. This article appeared in WORLD Magazine on March 16, 2022.
Americans are identifying as LGBT at higher rates than ever before. At least that’s what a recent poll claims. According to Gallup, the number of those who say they are something other than what God designed them to be has risen to 7.1 percent, a more than 100 percent increase from 10 years ago, when Gallup first began asking the question, and a 26 percent increase from just last year.
Unsurprisingly, younger people are significantly more likely to identify as LGBT. Nearly 21 percent of Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2003) claim that identity. A George Barna survey from 2021 reported that 39 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds identify as LGBTQ. Undoubtedly, part of this increase is explained by the perpetual redefinition of terms. Initially, the gay rights movement was defined exclusively by those who were attracted to the same sex. Later, a “B” for bisexual and a “T” for transgender were added, and the circle continues to widen. Oregon Democratic Gov. Kate Brown recently tweeted her support for “all the LGBTQ2SIA+ children and young people.” Almost no one knows what that means, but it’s clear the opportunities to fit under the LGBT umbrella are growing, and a good number of young people, in particular, are seizing the moment.
Beyond that, the definition of “transgender” changes by the day. In the recent past, it referred to those with gender dysphoria, a condition where people experience mental distress over the sense that their body’s gender is not aligned with what their mind tells them. More recently, however, the term transgender is used as a way to describe those who don’t fit gender stereotypes. Yesterday’s tomboy is today’s transgender, gender fluid, or possibly even “demiboy.”
The generational differences are striking. The Gallup poll found that each generation is twice as likely to identify as LGBT as the generation before it. Only 2.6 percent of baby boomers identify as LGBT, but 4.2 percent of Generation X, 10.5 percent of millennials, and 20 percent of Gen Z do. Of those born before 1946, only 0.8 percent identify as LGBT.
Why the dramatic increase?
Gallup claims the survey results are simply the result of an increasingly tolerant world: “These young adults are coming of age, including coming to terms with their sexuality or gender identity, at a time when Americans increasingly accept gays, lesbians and transgender people, and LGBT individuals enjoy increasing legal protection against discrimination.”
The truth is much more complex than the emergence of a brave new world in which people are free to live their truth. If anything, these results resurrect the “nature versus nurture” debate that LGBT activists have worked long and hard to avoid. After all, their decades of activism have been built on the assertion that LGBT status is an immutable product of birth, like being born black or left-handed.
However, the fact that we don’t see exponential, generational increases in the number of left-handed or black people speaks to the obvious but frequently denied differences between LGBT identity and the other groups with which the LGBT community desperately wants to be compared.
It is not a coincidence that the rise in LGBT identity has corresponded with the relentless promotion of LGBT characters and storylines in entertainment. Much of the world now conducts a monthlong, annual celebration of all things LGBT. Corporations and governments around the world have created diversity, equity, and inclusion programs that exist—almost exclusively—to make people view LGBT status and behaviors favorably. People are getting the message.
For many young people, straight is boring and the natural desire to be special is exceeded only by the ease with which one can become special through a simple declaration. Abigail Schrier, in her book Irreversible Damage, has documented the social contagion associated with transgender identity among high school girls. According to Schrier’s research, most Western countries have seen a 1,000 to 5,000 percent increase in (mostly white) teenage females seeking treatment from gender clinics and psychologists.
Lisa Littman, a Brown University researcher, found that among teenage girls claiming to be transgender, more than one-third had friendship groups in which 50 percent or more of the youths began to identify as transgender in a similar time frame. In the past, teenage friend groups would all get the same haircut, today they change genders. Notably, Brown University mothballed Littman’s research because the results undermined the prevailing claim that transgender young people are “born that way.”
LGBT activists desperately need to preserve the “born that way” narrative, but the success with which they are converting people is undermining that case.
The LGBT political lobby could become a victim of its own marketing success. Activists have convinced so many people an LGBT identity is appealing that many are opting in. But if someone can simply opt in, logic holds that they might also opt out. That is a conversation the “LGBTQ2SIA+” community does not want to have, but, ironically enough, they may not have a choice.