It's official: Gen Z is really gay

According to new research, Gen Z is queerer than any other generation

According to a new report published by LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall, more Brits than ever are identifying as gay, lesbian and bisexual – and the figures indicate that Gen Z is especially fruity.

Over the last decades, there has been a gradual increase in social acceptance towards lesbian, gay and bisexual relationships, alongside an increase in the percentage of the population who identify as lesbian, gay and bisexual. Stonewall’s report acknowledges that there is a lack of data concerning the trans population in the UK, but estimates that its below 1 per cent, including non-binary people.

Across the population, more people (5 per cent) identify as bi than gay (3 per cent) or lesbian (1 per cent), which is a new development. Taken altogether, 7 per cent of the population identify as being attracted to more than one gender. The study also found that 2 per cent of the population identify as ace or asexual.

But what’s really striking about the data is the generational differences it shows: younger generations are less likely to identify as straight and Gen Z in particular is far queerer than its predecessors. Within Gen Z, only 71 per cent of people identify as straight (compared to 91 per cent of boomers) and 14 per cent identify as bi or pansexual (compared with only 2 per cent of boomers.) Interestingly, given how often you hear that lesbians are ‘going extinct’, Gen Z are more likely to identify as lesbians than Gen X-ers or Boomers. Another surprising figure is that more Gen Z people are identifying as asexual (5 per cent) than gay (2 per cent) or lesbian (3 per cent).

Looking at who Gen Z actually say they are attracted to – rather than just how they identify – provides even more notable results. Only 53 per cent of Gen Z consider themselves exclusively straight, and 40 per cent have patterns of attraction that could be described as queer. This suggests that as LGBTQ+ relationships and identities have become less hidden, more and more people are coming out.

Across history, sexual identities and behaviours have always changed in line with the prevailing social attitudes of the time, so this is nothing new. There is probably no fixed, innate percentage of the population who are LGTBQ+; these are things that can emerge in line with the environment around you. There are probably some boomers who haven’t been tortured by a life of closeted bisexuality, but might have had some fun experimenting with their sexuality if they’d grown up in a time when this was more permissible (obviously, plenty will have been doing it anyway, regardless of social censure). If more people now feel they have the freedom to deviate from a prescribed heterosexual norm, this is surely a sign of progress. Stonewall’s report also shows that there are no observable differences in sexual orientation across ethnicity, social class and education levels, which refutes the idea that “coming out as LGBTQ+ is in some way an affectation of the more privileged in society”.

The report also looked at how LGBTQ+ people are connected with the rest of society, finding that significant proportions of the populations have family members and close friends who are gay or lesbian (39 per cent) and bi (22 per cent). Slightly less people said they have a close friend or family member who is trans (9 per cent), although Gen Z are more likely to than any other generation. Gen Z are also more likely to be aware of trans celebrities and have trans acquaintances, which Stonewall suggests means that “the future is far more familiar and connected with trans people.”

Overall, the report paints a fairly positive picture of LGBTQ+ life in Britain, as a place where more and more people feel comfortable coming out and increasing numbers of straight people have close LGBTQ+ friends – you would hope these trends mean that campaigns against our rights will eventually become less tenable (obviously, you’re less likely to support anti-trans legislation if your best friend is trans).

While the report feels like a rare bit of good news for Britain’s LGBTQ+ community, it’s hard to square this with the figures, published yesterday, which revealed a shocking increase in both homophobic and transphobic hate crimes – and seemed to suggest a contradictory narrative about a country becoming ever more violent towards queer people. But both can be true: there can be broader improvements in social acceptance alongside a minority of hold-outs who are increasingly hostile. There is much in Stonewall’s report to inspire optimism that things will get better at some point in the future. The question is: how long will we have to wait?