Generation Z may inherit a slightly more progressive planet, according to a new study that found more than half of gay and bisexual teenage boys had disclosed their sexual identity to one of their parents — a 60 per cent increase since 2005. But the research, published in the journal Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, stressed that stigma and religious affiliation remain enduring obstacles in early study of the generation that was born between 1998 and 2010.
“This study is encouraging in that it shows that many teens, including those under 18 years old, are comfortable with their sexuality,” said David A. Moskowitz, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University’s Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing. “At the same time, we must be cautious, as the data also point to some of the same barriers and discrimination that previous generations have faced. Work still needs to be done.”
The study relied on survey data from 1,194 boys, aged 13-18, who identified as gay, bisexual or pansexual (those attracted to people regardless of gender). Subjects answered questions on race and age and religious affiliation and attendance of religious events before being asked to indicate, on a scale of 1 to 4, how strongly they agreed or disagreed with certain statements about their sexuality. Sample statements included, Sometimes I think that if I were straight, I would be happier” and “If there were a pill to make me straight, I’d take it.”
Sixty-six per cent of participants said they had disclosed their sexual identity to their mother or another female parental figure, while 49 per cent shared the news with their father or male parental figure. In the 1990s, researchers said those numbers were 40 and 30 per cent, respectively, for adolescent boys.
Enjoying this story? Subscribe to our newsletter here
Among the other interesting findings were that white participants were more likely to come out to a parental figure than their Black peers, while those identifying as gay were more inclined to share their status than bisexuals or those unsure of their identity. Religious teenagers weren’t as likely to open up to a parent as those who were not and those who embraced their identity were more comfortable sharing the news than those who had yet to do so.
“This gives us an understanding of the factors that move teenagers to share this type of information with the people closest to them,” Moskowitz said. “We can now compare these practices with how other generations deal with these issues and think about what it all means for future generations.”
According to Statistics Canada’s Canadian Community Health Survey, 1.7 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 18 and 59 identified as gay or lesbian in 2014. Another 1.3 per cent of people considered themselves bisexual. The survey points out that people are generally more willing to answer questions about their sexual identity than their sexual behaviour and that data from other countries has revealed that the number of people who consider themselves to be gay is much smaller than the number of people who report having had sex intimate relations with someone of the same sex.
Highlighting the unique challenges faced by these groups was the finding that 33.4 per cent of gay individuals found most days to be quite a bit or extremely stressful compared to 26.7 per cent of heterosexuals.
Researchers behind the current study said they have laid the groundwork for further investigation into this emerging generation. “An important next step would be to determine the coming-out practices of females in this age group,” Moskowitz said. “This study provides a roadmap for such an effort. In the meantime, these findings should be helpful to those who work with teenagers identifying as sexual minorities.”
Dave Yasvinski is a writer with Healthing.ca