A new study from a market research firm in Austin, Texas reveals where in the U.S. the most people are questioning their sexuality.
The unlikely answer is ruby red, religiously conservative Utah, a finding that earns the Mormon enclave the title “most closeted” among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
“The evolution of social attitudes around sexual orientation and gender identity over the last two decades has been profound,” Cultural Currents Institute writes in a memo accompanying the study, which examined Google Trends data from 2004 to 2023.
The deep dive uncovered “a staggering 1300% increase in specific searches that may indicate that a user is questioning their sexual identity.”
CCI mined data for five search terms: “am I gay,” “am I lesbian,” “am I trans,” “how to come out,” and “nonbinary,” finding a significant upward trend among all the terms, with the results in some states more pronounced than others.
The top five states for “am I gay” were Utah, Iowa, Indiana, West Virginia, and New Hampshire.
Utah, a red state with the country’s largest Mormon population, topped the search list for three of the terms: “am I gay,” “am I lesbian,” and “am I trans.”
The state’s top spots “might indicate a significant underlying questioning of identity among its internet users,” writes CCI, “possibly driven by the conflict between personal feelings and societal expectations.”
The firm describes this tension as “common” in Utah, where recent data revealed a surge in searches for “VPN,” an internet workaround employed after the website PornHub was blocked in the state.
Total search volume for the five terms combined shows a remarkable jump in the last two years, coinciding with the far-right’s campaign targeting the LGBTQ+ community with legislative bans on gender-affirming care, drag performance and other discriminatory measures, and efforts of groups like Moms for Liberty, LibsofTikTok and Gays Against Groomers directed at school boards, libraries and local governments.
Utah was the first state to ban gender-affirming care for trans youth in 2023. The law is on hold pending a court challenge.
The top five states for the search term “am I lesbian” were Utah, Connecticut, Kentucky, Washington, and Colorado.
“Am I trans,” was most popular in Utah, Kentucky, Colorado, Michigan, and Washington.
A collection of five deep red states topped the list for the search term “how to come out,” including Oklahoma, West Virginia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Kentucky, a result that “could indicate a more challenging environment for self-disclosure of identity,” according to the study authors.
The search for “nonbinary” yielded a broader ideological mix of states, including Vermont, Oregon, Maine, Montana, and Washington.