DENVER (KDVR) — Fewer teens than ever are identifying as heterosexual, according to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC study found one in four high school students identifies as LGBTQ. Part of the reason this number could be so high is that a lot of these teens were asked for the first time if they were questioning their sexuality.

The CDC surveyed 17,508 students in 152 schools nationwide to get these figures. Those numbers show that in 2021:

  • 26% identified as LGBTQ
  • 12.2% identified as bisexual
  • 5.2% identified as questioning
  • 3.9% identified as other
  • 3.2% as gay or lesbian
  • 1.8% said they did not understand the question

Tara Tull, an expert with Metropolitan State University of Denver, said the numbers are surprising but can be explained.

“The one in four number is surprising, but at the same time, if you drill down into the actual data, it only shows that about 3% of youth identified as gay or lesbian, over 5% were questioning. And I think what’s happened in the last five or 10 or 15 years is we’ve really opened up space for people to explore their identities in ways that there didn’t used to be that social room to maneuver in,” Tull said.

‘More openness and conversation’ on sexual identity

Those questioning or not, Tull said, will be comfortable having conversations surrounding how you identify.

“Most teenagers do not feel normal, they’re different and they’re really struggling, and I think some of that struggle with being a teenager has just kind of come together with these issues of gender and sexual identity. And so I think there is just a lot more openness and conversation,” Tull said.

Changing times and social media play a role too, with support at your fingertips.

Tull said there is also a tendency to lump in gender identity with sexual identity, so this could also play into the numbers of students who labeled themselves as questioning or other identifying as trans or nonbinary.