Source: Getty Images

Poll Shows Gen Z Adopting Their Own Labels for Sexuality

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 4 MIN.

Could labels for sexuality like "gay" and "lesbian" disappear along with baby boomers, Gen Xers, and, eventually, millennials? Perhaps, if Gen Z's preferences hold steady.

A poll by Business Insider and YouGov turned up evidence for what you might already have suspected: that Gen Z isn't impressed by, or in need of, old-fashioned labels that don't explain enough or even feel necessary to younger Americans.

The poll also reconfirmed what earlier surveys had found. People of Gen Z are considerably more comfortable and confident when it comes to being forthright about who they authentically are.

"More than 26% of the 18- to 26-year-olds, or Gen Zers, polled said their sexual identity was something other than straight," Business Insider reported, "compared with 15% of millennials, 11% of Gen Xers, and 7% of boomers who said the same."

Along with that openness comes a preference for terms that are less restrictive, more openly expressive, and less politicized, the article noted. That means umbrella terms like "queer" are coming into fashion – reclaimed from the haters – while comparatively limited, or limiting, labels like "gay" and "lesbian" are starting to fade away as "Gen Zers are questioning whether any one label can fully embody who they are and what they're attracted to in others," Business Insider detailed.

One young individual, 22-year-old Frederec Chen, told the publication that he grew out of and discarded one label after the next, starting with "gay," moving on to "bisexual," and finally adopting "queer."

"I kept seeing videos that were like, 'Lesbians do this, gays do this, and bisexuals do this,'" Chen explained to Business Insider. "It looked like sexuality was being commodified, and people were assigning aesthetics to certain sexualities."

Professor Phillip Hammack, Director of the Sexual and Gender Diversity Laboratory at the University of California, Santa Cruz, told the publication that Chen's thinking lines up with his generational cohort. "More people than ever before are ditching binary terms that suggest they like only one type of person," Business Insider summarized. "Instead, they're opting for descriptors like 'queer,' 'bisexual,' and 'pansexual,' because they suggest attraction to a variety of genders," the article added.

Another young American, 21-year-old Jayson Lorenzo, "primarily says he's gay, but will sometimes use 'queer' to avoid unwanted assumptions," Business Insider related.

"I put a blanket over gay because some people like to miscategorize it as excluding people, which I'm really not," Lorenzo told the publication. "So queer is just a better way to say my sexuality."

On the other hand, there are now a plethora of specialized terms that parse and specify fine shades and combinations of sexual orientation, Business Insider noted, reporting that another young interviewee, 24-year-old Cobie Ray Johnson acknowledged how "The strings of words that people use to identify themselves can look kind of funny."

"Sometimes I'm like, 'OK, that's a lot of information right now,'" Johnson added. "But I think it does really help people figure out if they're on the same page."

"It's not a totally new idea," Hammack noted of Gen Z attitudes, "but we've seen this generation show more willingness to say, 'Hey, sexuality is not this rigid, binary thing.'"

The poll showed that "5% of Gen Zers identified as queer, compared with 1% of Gen Xers and millennials," Business Insider detailed. "Similarly, 13% of Gen Zers identified as bisexual, while 7% of millennials and 4% of Gen Xers said they used the label."

"Only 1% of boomers identified as bisexual, and less than 1% of boomers identified as queer," the article added, reflecting a number of other studies showing similar results.

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

Read These Next