A Bisexual Future?

The ONS’ annual Household Survey statistics reveal a growing proportion of young people identifying as bisexual, lesbian or gay – and the big boost is in the “B”.

3.3% of people aged between 16 and 24 identified as LGB in 2015, up from 2.8% in 2014. That 0.5% hike reflects a growth from 1.3% to 1.8% identifying as bisexual.

And with 1.8% identifying as bi, that leaves 1.5% identifying as gay or lesbian – most young LGBs are bi.

In the wider population, there was a negligible shift in overall LGB numbers, up from 1.6% to 1.7%.
The figures reflect other surveys of the balance of homosexuality and bisexuality by gender: 0.7% of women identified as lesbian and 0.8% as bisexual. Among men, 0.5% identify as bisexual but 1.6% as gay.

This nearly 2:1 ratio of bi women to bi men is seen in some other research around bisexuality: it may reflect something natural about human sexuality or it may reflect social aspects of what labels are more acceptable for people to own.

For all age groups, except the 16 to 24 year olds, the percentage that identified themselves as gay or lesbian was larger than the percentage that identified themselves as bisexual.

There is a declining proportion of people holding LGB identities among each successive age group: this is more marked among bisexual identifying people earlier in life, and happens later for gay and lesbian identities. This may be because gay and lesbian identities were more accepted earlier on while bi visibility and acceptance is taking longer; it may also be because bi people feel pressured by partners and wider society to “pick a team” or have their label determined by the gender of their current partner.

Pamela Cobb, from the ONS’ Population Statistics Division, commented “In 2015, the majority (93.7%) of the UK population identified themselves as heterosexual or straight, with 1.7% identifying as LGB, the remainder either identifying as “other”, “don’t know” or refusing to respond.

“Young adults (16 to 24 year olds) are more likely to identify as LGB compared with older age groups, and a higher proportion of males identify as LGB than females.”

London and North West England had the highest proportion of the population identifying as LGB.  Sexual identity estimates are based on social survey data from the Annual Population Survey (APS).  The ONS’ survey question is based on identity: this provides an interesting contrast to some others which ask about attraction or sexual behaviour.