Written by Juan Romero Cruz
I cannot even recall how many times I have heard the word normal as a synonym of cisgender or heterosexual. Putting aside how obviously wrong using these terms interchangeably is, it implies that the majority of the population is cis-hetero, which is something that we have always taken for guaranteed and is, in fact, true. Or is it?
Nowadays, this norm may not seem as clear as it may have been a couple of years ago, mainly across the younger generations. Social media is proving this to us since there is increasing queer visibility on lots of platforms from TikTok to Netflix. Nonetheless, how does this perception translate to actual data?
Even though there is not a study that estimates the ratio of cis-hetero/queer people worldwide, there is one remarkable piece of research from Ipsos MORI that focuses on sexuality in the British context and compares this ratio among generations. Their findings are the following:
76% of Gen Z identify as heterosexual, and only 54% say they are exclusively attracted to the opposite gender. In comparison, this diversity decreases significantly by age: 66% of Millennials, 76% of Gen X, and 81% of Baby Boomers say they are solely attracted to the opposite gender. These numbers are represented in more detail in the graph below:
This data reveals how there is, in fact, a trend: with time, fewer people are heterosexual, being only 52% in Gen Z. However, why is this happening? What does this data really mean? Some say that society is “indoctrinating their kids to be gay”, which cannot be taken as valid since it implies that sexuality is a choice. We could also think that there are simply more gay and bisexual people. However, what is really happening is that society is becoming a safer space for queer people, and improvements such as greater queer visibility on social media make it easier for us to realize our identities and be ourselves openly. This means that there has always been the same amount of gay and bisexual people. The difference is that now we are not staying in the closets and are raising our voices.
All this sounds so good and it should make us happy that the conditions are being given so that more people can openly embrace their real selves. Nonetheless, even though there is an evident improvement regarding the LGBTQ+ community, it mostly implies sexuality (mainly homosexual white men) and leaves out the rest of the community. Even this research reinforces this issue to some extent since it invalidates non-binary identities by assuming there are two genders and it also uses the terms sex and gender interchangeably. From within the community and even outside we should emphasize visibility of the whole collective, especially trans and non-binary people of color, to whom we, in fact, owe our rights.
Taking into account that the worldwide situation is still so improvable even in the most accepting countries, there are definitely still lots of queer people who do not have the resources to realize who they are or a safe space to be open about it. This means that the number of heterosexual identifying people will for sure keep decreasing in the next years as the social conditions improve, which is also supported by the trend shown in the data. Does this mean heterosexuality will become a minority in terms of numbers? Whatever the answer is, the current data should make us rethink our concept of “normality” since being heterosexual has become just as normal as not being it.
Another point that proves that the prevalence of heterosexuality is strongly linked to sticking to social norms is the fact that the rate of autistic people who identify themselves as part of the LGBTQ+ community is much higher (from 2 to 3 times higher) than that of the rest of the population because they are less likely to be affected by social norms.
Finally, if we put all this into historical context, before Christianity and western colonialism imposed the current heteronormative and gender binary norm, there were several societies who approached both gender and sexuality in a much more diverse and fluid way (refer to Callisto’s article: https://www.eucsaqueerco.com/post/a-history-of-non-binary-identities). Therefore, are heterosexuality and the gender binary as normal as we have been taught or are they simply the social normative we have been forced to conform to?
Some interesting sources: