Choosing to identify as trans is as American as apple pie

Roderick Graham
8 min readJul 28

According to a 2021 Gallup poll: “The percentage of U.S. adults who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or something other than heterosexual has increased to a new high of 7.1%, double the percentage from 2012.”

We can see the percentage breakdown below. Most LGTBQ people identify as bisexual, followed by gay, lesbian, and trans. I sometimes like to translate the percentages into raw numbers. Given a US population of about 330 million people, the poll suggests that over 13 million people are bisexual, 5 million are gay, 3.3 million are lesbian, and about 2.3 million people are transgender. For comparison, 5.8 million people identify as Jewish, or about 2.4% of the population.

For many in the United States, the doubling of the LGBTQ population is cause for alarm. They see this rise as a sign something is wrong with society.

For these folks, this rise is not because people willingly, based upon their own interests and desires, choose to identify this way. Instead, these numbers result from social contagion: a metaphor used to suggest that people are being influenced into posing as LGBTQ because of influencers on social media or because it is the cool thing to do.

Supporting this theory is a Gallup poll from 2022 showing that it is young people who are identifying as LGBTQ, and not older people. The logic is that if LQBTQ is a stable, randomly distributed quality of the human species, then in this more sexually liberated era, we shouldn’t see such big differences between young and old. Young people, the logic goes, are just posing.

The social contagion explanation has some surface validity to it. But I find this explanation both incorrect and problematic — especially for the most stigmatized of this group, trans persons. I addressed this issue in a video on my YouTube channel, but I want to contest the idea here in writing.

Roderick Graham

Gadfly | Professor of Sociology at Old Dominion University | I post about social science, culture, and progressive politics | Views are my own