More People Than Ever Before Identify As Bisexual

Recently released data shows that one-third of 18 to 34-year-olds are not heterosexual, according to research from YouGov. Getty Images

More people than ever before in the United States identify as something other than heterosexual, a trend that signals an increase in sexual fluidity and a cultural shift toward more acceptance of diverse sexual orientations.

Recently released data shows that one-third of 18 to 34-year-olds are not heterosexual, according to research from YouGov, an international Internet-based market research and data analytics firm from the U.K. The data also revealed that the number of people who identify outside of heterosexuality is steadily rising, up 5 percent since 2015.

This change might be due to the growing acceptability of same-sex sexual relationships in both culture and in law, Carrie Baker, director of Smith College's Program for the Study of Women and Gender, told Newsweek.

A gay couple in a pride parade. More people than ever before in the United States identify as something other than heterosexual. Getty Images

Within the last few years, there have been more depictions of same-sex couples in movies and television, as well as more public conversations about sexual orientation and same-sex attraction. Changes in legislation have altered the context in which we live. The U.S. Supreme Court's landmark same-sex marriage decision and the removal of "don't ask don't tell" spurred more conversations in the media around same-sex relationships. With all of these political and cultural changes, it's possible that people simply feel more comfortable expressing their desires in this social climate, Baker explained.

"Really it was not that long ago that same-sex behavior was illegal in this country," said Baker, who also teaches courses on women and gender studies at Smith College in western Massachusetts. "As our culture opens up same-sex sexuality as a possibility, more people are likely to experiment or to acknowledge those feelings or act on them."

Participants in the YouGov survey were asked to rate themselves on the Kinsey scale, where 0 is completely heterosexual and 6 is completely gay. Alfred Kinsey invented the scale in the1940s as a way to study human sexuality. The data was compared to another similar survey that was conducted by the research firm in 2015.

The results were clear. One-quarter of people of all age groups identified as something other than completely heterosexual, compared to 20 percent of people in 2015.

This could indicate that sexuality exists on a spectrum and it is not fixed over a lifetime, you might identify as heterosexual early in life, but later in life that might evolve, said Baker.

The context of someone's life might also influence their desires. Exposure to popular culture, movies and television that show depictions of same-sex encounters might have an influence on people. Same-sex environments like prison and the military might also sway someone to act or have sexual feelings about someone of the same sex, said Baker.

"Circumstance can influence sexuality," she said. "I also think the young people are thinking less of sexuality as sort of rigid and binary and more as on a continuum and as fluid."