More Americans than ever are identifying as LGBTQ+—here’s how to talk about sexuality with your kids 🏳️‍🌈

Teens and young adults are increasingly likely to consider themselves part of the community.

Rainbow in hands
Twenty20/nslebedinskaya

More Americans than ever identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer, according to a new poll.

An estimated 5.6% of adults identify as LGBTQ+, according to a new Gallup poll. That's an estimated 18 million adults.

Gallup interviewed more than 15,000 people throughout 2020 to find insight as to how Americans view their own sexualities and genders.

Of those who identify as LGBTQ+, 54.6% identified as bisexual, 24.5% as gay, 11.7% as lesbian, 11.3% as transgender and 3.3% used another term to describe themselves. Because respondents were able to identify with more than one category, the total exceeds 100%.

Younger Americans are much more likely to identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community. Nearly 16% of Generation Z, those 18 to 23, do not identify as cis-gendered or heterosexual. Just 2% of Americans 56 and older self-identify that way; it's unclear from this report if this means that there are fewer LGBTQ+ people in the 56+ community. The poll does show that younger people are more likely to be open about their identity, though.

And that's important.

We know that more people than ever are openly identifying as non-heterosexual or non-cis-gendered. Maybe a member of your family falls into this growing category; maybe you do. The odds are that your children will have questions related to gender, sexuality and sexual orientation.

It's your job to prepare yourself for those conversations—and we're here to help.

First of all, it's okay to feel out of your depth! Many people feel uncomfortable discussing sexuality, sexual orientation and gender with other adults, let alone teens or kids.

Acknowledge your nerves. Acknowledge your limitations. What can you share with your children? What do you not know enough about?

Find resources that can help you shape and guide the conversation. Organizations like GLAAD, The Trevor Project, PFLAG, the Stonewall Community Foundation and Johns Hopkins Medicine have free resources available on their websites.

Diana Spalding, Motherly's Health and Wellness Director, recommends the GENDER book. It's a great resource that explains gender and sexual orientation in ways that are clear and easy to understand.

Have conversations about sexuality and gender, regardless of whether your child has come out as LGBTQ+. Read books and watch shows and movies with LGBTQ+ characters. Representation matters and can help your child find themselves or their friends reflected in society.

Be ready to listen to your child, too. Show them you're open to the conversation and their thoughts and feelings.

Address discriminatory incidents immediately, in the same way you would address other behavior that isn't aligned with your family's values. Let your child know that discrimination is never okay. If your child identifies as LGBTQ+, then your actions will let them know that you have their back. If your child identifies as cis-gendered or heterosexual, you'll still be reinforcing the powerful message that hateful words and actions are never okay.

Jamie Orsini is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, military spouse, and a mom to two busy toddlers. In her spare time, Jamie volunteers with the Solar System Ambassador program with NASA/JPL and reads anything she can get her hands on. She’s currently working on her first novel.

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