Changing gender identities in the UK

Only one third of 18-24 year olds identify as ‘completely heterosexual’

Two YouGov tracking surveys demonstrate how far gender identities vary across the generations and suggest that gender fluidity is now the new norm among 18-24 year olds in the UK.

One survey on sexual orientation asks people to identify themselves on a scale of sexuality where 0 is ‘completely heterosexual’ and 6 is ‘completely homosexual’ (respondents also had the opportunity to enter ‘no sexuality’ as an option.

The results below are the latest responses from the August 2022 survey.

Only 35% of 18-24 year olds identify as ‘completely heterosexual’
87% of people aged 65 and over identify as ‘completely heterosexual’…

Sexuality as a Scale

The findings above broadly fit into the views the two different age groups have on whether sexuality is fixed or a sliding scale.

The results below are from August 2022, the latest from a second YouGov LGBTQ tracking survey.

74% of 18-24 olds think sexuality is a scale….
54% of 65 and overs think sexuality is a scale…

Analysis of Survey Results on Sexuality….

18-24 year olds are much less likely to identify as completely heterosexual compared to 65 and overs (35% compared to 85%)

Younger people are also more likely to see sexuality as fluid compared to older people, but the differences here are smaller (74% compared to 54%).

For younger people (18-24) these YouGov surveys suggest that gender fluidity is the new norm with the majority of young people now identifying as ‘somewhere between completely heterosexual and completely homosexual’ in August 2022.

It is also worth noting that relatively few 18-24 respondents identified as completely homosexual, offering further support for the new ‘gender fluid’ norm.

The fact that 75% of 18-24 years olds think gender is a scale offers more support for the view that people see gender as something fluid, and not as fixed by one’s sex for example.

And while a huge 85% of over 65s identify as completely heterosexual, a relatively low 54% of them believe sexuality is a scale, suggesting the majority of them accept the fact that younger people view their sexuality differently even if the over 65s themselves are much more likely to feel completely heterosexual.

Societal Change and Changing Gender Identities…

The most obvious interpretation/ explanation of the above results is that society has gone through a massive ‘sexuality shift’ over the last four decades. Today, in 2022 it is much more acceptable to be openly gender fluid and so this makes it easier to ‘come out’ and identify as such, and this is precisely what young people are doing.

In contrast, people who are today over 60 were born in a much more gender and sexuality repressive age – with traditional male and female roles still the norm and overt discrimination against gay people, thus their gender identities were channelled into more narrow conceptions of heterosexuality with which they are now stuck.

All of this seems to suggest that social context plays a large role in shaping gender identities and raises very interesting questions about the relative role of agency and social institutions and how they interplay to explain how there has been such a rapid shift in the changing gender identities of the young…

Once gender fluid always gender fluid…?

The above survey results don’t tell us whether the more fluid gender identities of the young will change to being more ‘set’ over the course of their lives.

It could be that ‘knowing one’s sexuality’ takes many years, even decades, and that by the time today’s 18-24 year olds are themselves 65, they are by then reporting higher levels of heterosexuality.

It may have been that more of today’s 65 year olds would have identified as gender-fluid when they themselves were younger.

Relevance to A-level Sociology

The above data suggests that most people see gender as a scale, something which Sam Killerman has explored through his concept of the GenderBred person which I outline in this introductory post on sex and gender.

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