Nearly 1 in 4 gen Z Mormons are LGBTQ, new study reveals

By Alma Fabiani

Published Jun 27, 2021 at 08:28 AM

Reading time: 2 minutes

In the largest study of Mormons ever conducted in the US, nearly a quarter of gen Z respondents said they identify as something other than heterosexual. A full 23 per cent said they were lesbian, gay, bisexual, or other. The extensive dataset, which was originally collected by Nationscape and canvassed more than 318,000 Americans on a rolling basis in 2019 and 2020, was then analysed by The Next Mormons author Jana Riess for the faith-focused publication Religion News Service (RNS).

All 318,000 participants self-identified as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “as the faith is formally known,” writes them. This makes it one of the largest studies of Mormons ever conducted in the US.

Riess found that in addition to the 23 per cent of gen Z Mormons who are LGBTQ+, 19 per cent of millennial Mormons also identify as something other than exclusively heterosexual. In many ways, these high figures are no surprise: millennials and gen Zers are increasingly comfortable identifying as LGBTQ+ at high rates. In other words, sexual diversity is high among gen Z Mormons because it’s high among gen Z as a whole.

“Earlier this year, a Gallup survey found that over 15% of Gen Z identifies as LGBTQ+, making it the queerest generation in history,” notes them. It also seems like gen Zers are more likely to feel comfortable reporting their sexuality, with only 1 per cent% of respondents in the Nationscape dataset saying that they preferred not to share their orientation, as opposed to the 2 to 4 per cent of older generations who gave the same answer.

This study’s high results might also be explained by the fact that young LGBTQ+ Mormons have not had the chance to formally leave the religion yet. Respondents included in the survey were 18 to 22 years old—and as Riess noted, citing her previous research, the median age for leaving Mormonism is 19.

Statistically, more queer-identifying young adult Mormons will leave the church when compared with their heterosexual peers. And given the faith’s policies on queer people, a mass departure of young LGBTQ+ Mormons from the church wouldn’t be surprising. The Mormon church opposes same-sex marriage and has anti-trans policies that put members who receive gender-affirming medical care at risk of excommunication.

Up until 2007, Brigham Young University, the world’s largest Mormon college, banned gay students from attendance. LGBTQ+ students there continue to face significant adversity, despite a recent powerful protest in which they lit up a mountainside logo in rainbow colours.

In recent years, the church has made limited progress, retracting a recent policy that targeted children of same-sex couples and their parents, and supporting certain nondiscrimination protections in Utah (while still opposing the Equality Act).

Riess also noted that black and Hispanic Mormons were statistically more likely to identify as something other than heterosexual. Only 71 per cent of Hispanic Mormons and 74 per cent of black Mormons reported being heterosexual, a notable variation from higher rates of heterosexual identification in the Nationscape dataset as a whole.

“It’s a statistically significant difference because the sample size is big enough that this isn’t just a random sampling error,” Riess explained. Gallup has also previously found that people of colour are more likely to identify as LGBTQ+ than white people in the US.

In her conclusion, Riess warned that we may see a dip in LGBTQ+ identification among gen Z Mormons in the future, when more studies on the subject will be published. “That won’t be because these people will have magically become heterosexual as they get older,” she noted. “It will be because they will have ceased to be Mormon and will drop out of the pool of respondents who currently identify as members of the church.”

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