Written by Joanna Button
What’s happening? Nearly 40 percent of Brown University students say they are not straight, up from 14 percent in 2010, according to a recent survey run by The Brown Daily Herald, the university’s student newspaper. Social contagion may explain the sharp rise in LGBT identification.
The numbers: The poll found that LGBT identification among Brown students is five times higher than the national rate. Since 2010, the school’s gay and lesbian population has risen by 26 percent; the number of students identifying as bisexual by 232 percent. The number of students saying they identify with “other” sexual orientations increased by 793 percent.
It’s universities in general: A report by the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology similarly found that about 40 percent of students at liberal arts colleges and 23 percent of college students overall identify as LGBT. The researcher also noted that LGBT sexual activity and relationships among students hadn’t increased at the same rate as LGBT identification, suggesting students might be identifying as LGBT to receive social recognition or acceptance.
- America’s numbers: As of last year, over 7 percent of U.S. adults and 16 percent of Gen Z identified as LGBT. Schools across the country are seeing massive spikes in “nonbinary” students even in elementary grades.
The mainstream explanation: Activists and academics have pushed back against the idea that social pressure and trends play a role in LGBT identification, and studies that suggest it receive major backlash. But the mainstream theories that more students identify as LGBT because social acceptance is increasing also ignore the efforts by the federal government, school systems, medical associations, and activists to normalize LGBT identities for children.