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23% of young black women now identify as bisexual.

Young people – especially young black women – are more willing to explore their sexuality.

Since 1972, social scientists have studied the General Social Survey to chart the complexities of social change in the United States.

The survey, which is conducted every couple years, asks respondents their attitudes on topics ranging from race relations to drug use. In 2008, the survey started including a question on sexual identity.


As sociologists who study sexuality, we’ve noticed how more and more women are reporting that they’re bisexual. But in the most recent survey, one subset stood out: 23% of black women in the 18 to 34 age group identified as bisexual – a proportion that’s nearly three times higher than it was a decade ago.

What forces might be fueling this shift? And what can learn from it?

Bisexuality among women is on the rise

In the 10 years that the General Social Survey has included a question on sexual identity, rates of identification among gay men, lesbian women and bisexual men in the U.S. haven’t changed much.

Bisexual identifying women, on the other hand, account for virtually all of the growth among those who say they’re lesbian, gay or bisexual. Of all of the women who responded to the 2018 survey, more than 1 in 18 identified as bisexual. One decade ago, only 1 in 65 did.

The most dramatic shift among bisexual identifying women is happening among young people. In the 2018 sample, more than 1 in 8 women from the ages of 18 to 34 identified as bisexual. There were more than twice as many young female bisexuals as there were young lesbians, gay men and bisexual men combined.

That’s a large shift – and it all happened in a relatively short period of time.

Add race to the figures and you’ll see that young black women, in particular, account for a disproportionate share of this shift.

A few years ago, we wrote about how approximately 18% of young black women identified as lesbian or bisexual in the 2016 General Social Survey sample. That rate was more than two times higher than for white women or other racial groups – and almost four times higher than for men of any racial group.

By 2018, more than 25% of young black women identified as lesbian or bisexual. And the majority of that change can be accounted for by bisexual-identifying black women.

In other trends, black women also led the way

Data like these help us to establish a shift is occurring, but they don’t really explain why it’s happening.

Exploring the “why” requires different methods of analysis, and existing studies – like Mignon Moore’s research on gay identity and relationships among black women – can provide some clues.

But beyond this, other demographic research shows that black women have led the way in other trends related to gender.

Consider the gender gap in college attendance. As early as 1980, black women began to outpace black men in completion of a four-year college degree. It wasn’t until a decade later that white women started earning college degrees at a higher clip than white men.

And in the first half of the 20th century, more unmarried black women started having children. Eventually, more unmarried white women started having children, too.

Perhaps when it comes to sexuality, black women are also ahead of the curve. If that’s the case – and if this trend continues – we might expect women of other races to follow suit.

A shortage of men?

Cultural forces might also play a role.

Sociologists Emma Mishel, Paula England, Jessie Ford and Mónica L. Caudillo also analyzed the General Social Survey. Rather than study sexual identities, they studied sexual behavior. Yet they discovered a similar pattern: Young black women were more likely to engage in same-sex sexual behavior than women and men in other racial and age groups.

They argue that these shifts speak to a larger truth about American culture: It’s more acceptable for women to spurn gender norms because femininity isn’t valued as highly as masculinity. Since masculinity and heterosexuality are closely intertwined, men might believe they’ll suffer a higher social cost for identifying as bisexual.

Others have pointed to the shortage of men hypothesis to explore young black women’s decisions about relationships and marriage. This too might explain why young black women, in particular, seem more willing to explore bisexuality.

According to this argument, fewer “marriageable” men create a need for women to consider options beyond heterosexual relationships or marriage. A traditional marriage isn’t as necessary as it once was; since women have more educational and economic opportunities, they can afford to be pickier or, possibly, to explore same-sex relationships.

Another aspect of the hypothesis involves the disproportionately high rates of incarceration of black men in the U.S. It’s possible that because black women are, as a group, more likely to live in areas with smaller “pools of marriageable men,” they’re more open to bisexuality.

We’re less convinced by the shortage of men argument because it ignores the fact that incarceration rates of black men haven’t increased over the past decade. Yet over this period of time, the percentages of young black women identifying as bisexual have grown substantially.

The challenge of surveying sexuality

Finding reliable ways of measuring sexual identity on surveys is more difficult than you might think, and the trend could have been spurred by something as simple as the way the question is phrased in the General Social Survey:

“Which of the following best describes you?”

  • gay, lesbian or homosexual
  • bisexual
  • heterosexual or straight
  • don’t know

Of the roughly 1,400 people who responded to this question on the 2018 GSS survey, only six responded “don’t know.” Another 27 didn’t respond at all.

But everyone else selected one of those three options.

Perhaps some respondents didn’t want to neatly tie themselves to the category of “gay” or “straight.” If this is the case, “bisexual” almost becomes a default fallback.

Either way, one thing seems clear: Young people – especially young black women – are more willing to explore their sexuality. And the ways they are sexually identifying themselves on surveys is only one indicator of this change.

is Assistant Professor, Sociology, University of California, Santa Barbara.

is Professor and Chair of Sociology, Barnard College.
This article is syndicated from The Conversation. You can read the original version here.
Articles
via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

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In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

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Center for American Progress Action Fund

Tonight's Democratic debate is a must-watch for followers of the 2020 election. And it's a nice distraction from the impeachment inquiry currently enveloping all of the political oxygen in America right now.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

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In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

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Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

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via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

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