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CDC Report Describes Changes, Complexity in Adults’ Sexual Orientations

by HRC .com January 07, 2016

CDC Report Describes Changes, Complexity in Adults’ Sexual Orientations

A Centers for Disease Control report on sexual behavior, attraction and identity among adults in the U.S. reveals that both men and women under age 45 are more likely to identify as bisexual today than they were earlier this decade.

Findings released today from the CDC’s 2011-2013 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) show that about seven percent of women and four percent of men in that age group describe themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual, compared to five percent of women and three percent of men who identified as LGB in the 2006-2008 survey.

The report corroborates previous research suggesting that half or more of LGBT people in the U.S. are bisexual, with women almost three times more likely to say they are bisexual. Overall, nine in 10 women and men identify as “heterosexual or straight,” according to the report, and fewer than two percent said they were “homosexual, gay or lesbian.”

More than 9,000 adults ages 18 to 44 were interviewed for the 2011-2013 NSFG survey. Their responses also revealed that:

  • Women and men are now both more likely to identify as bisexual;
  • Women were less likely to identify as gay or lesbian;
  • The percentage of gay men did not change significantly;
  • Eight percent of women under 25 identify as bisexual, compared to five percent of women ages 25 to 44.
  • And women under age 25 were the most likely among age and gender groups to be LGB overall.

A variety of factors may have caused the shifts in NSFG participants’ identities, including changes to the survey’s wording and generational differences. Moreover, the shift occurred during a time when bisexual advocates are working hard to combat stigma and increase visibility and acceptance.

While bisexual people have long been prominent members and activists in LGBT communities, advocates are drawing attention to issues where bisexual experiences and needs differ from those of gay and lesbian people. In September 2015, HRC partnered with BiNet USA, Bisexual Resource Center and the Bisexual Organizing Project to release a report on health disparities among bisexual people. Some of these challenges arise when healthcare providers are ill-prepared to work with bisexual patients.

Here’s what Tari Hanneman, Deputy Director of the Health and Aging Program at the HRC Foundation, told the Verge, in a piece on the CDC report:

“Bisexual people often face outright discrimination when they come out in healthcare settings. That can lead bisexual people to delay or avoid seeking care, or not disclose their identities to their providers,” perpetuating mistaken assumptions about a patient’s health needs.

The report also makes clear that sexual orientation labels have a range of meanings for the people who use them. For instance, while fifteen to twenty percent of people “mostly” attracted to those of a different gender said they were bisexual, most identify as heterosexual or straight. This finding underscores the fact that identities, while important, rarely tell the whole story of our experiences with sexual orientation.

HRC .com
HRC .com


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