A recent study from the Cultural Currents Institute found searches related to sexual orientation and identity skyrocketed over 1300% in the last two decades according to Google Trends data. Searches for terms like “Am I gay” and “Am I trans” surged significantly between 2004 and 2023.
The data reportedly aligns with Gallup poll findings that the percentage of adults identifying as LGBTQ+ more than doubled from 2012 to over 7% currently. Younger generations also identify at higher rates, with one in five Gen Z individuals identifying as part of the community.
Interestingly, the state seeing the biggest increase was Utah, topping lists for searches of “Am I gay,” “Am I lesbian,” and “Am I trans.” Oklahoma, West Virginia, Mississippi, Louisiana and Kentucky saw the highest volumes for “how to come out,” suggesting struggle for LGBTQ+ individuals living authentically in areas without protections. Meanwhile, searches of “nonbinary” increased most in progressive states like Vermont, Oregon, Maine, Montana and Washington.
Cultural Currents Institute explained:
Utah, a state with traditionally conservative social values, surprisingly tops three out of five search term categories. This might indicate a significant underlying questioning of identity among its internet users, possibly driven by the conflict between personal feelings and societal expectations. These tensions between public life and web searches are common in Utah, where we recently shared data indicating that searches for “VPN” surged after the website PornHub blocked the state. Other socially conservative states also showed evidence of tension between social attitudes and private experience.
When it came to the search “am I gay,” Utah had the highest search volumes nationally. The other top states where this question was frequently asked included Iowa, Indiana, West Virginia and New Hampshire, underscoring how questions of sexual identity have arisen all across the country in both liberal and conservative areas in recent times. See below:
AM I GAY?
Regarding the search phrase “am I gay,” the top five states are as follows:
- West Virginia
- New Hampshire
The search term “am I lesbian” was most prominent in Utah, according to the Google Trends data analysis. Other states with notable search volumes for this query included Connecticut, Kentucky, Washington and Colorado, suggesting many women in these areas have questioned or explored their sexual orientation over the past two decades. See below:
AM I LESBIAN?
The term “am I lesbian” showed the highest popularity in:
Meanwhile, the search term “how to come out” possibly signifies greater difficulties for those seeking to disclose their identity, according to the analysis. Oklahoma had the highest search volumes of any state for this query. Other locations with notable amounts of these searches included West Virginia, Mississippi, Louisiana and Kentucky. This suggests individuals in these parts of the country may face especially challenging environments when it comes to openly expressing their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The search term “am I trans” saw significant popularity in several states according to the Google Trends analysis. Utah had the highest search volumes overall. Other states with notable query numbers for this question included Kentucky, Colorado, Michigan and Washington, suggesting issues of gender identity and expression are on the minds of many individuals in different parts of the United States.
The search term “nonbinary” showed different geographic patterns compared to the other searches examined. There was insufficient data for Google to provide results specifically for the query “am I nonbinary?” When looking simply at searches for “nonbinary”, the top states tended to be more socially and politically progressive, namely Vermont, Oregon, Maine, Montana and Washington. This suggests discussions around nonbinary gender identities have been embraced earlier in these areas compared to other parts of the country.
Factors driving the rise likely include growing queer representation on television and in elected offices. Additionally, as the most visited search engine globally, Google inevitably reflects evolving discussions and identities within society overall. The insights demonstrate its utility for self-discovery when other resources have declined. Altogether, the data paints a picture of progress, but also ongoing challenges, for LGBTQ+ communities across America.
For more information regarding this study, read here.