Are teens "post-gay"? Contemporary adolescents' sexual identity labels

Stephen T. Russell, Thomas J. Clarke, Justin Clary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


Recent reports suggest that historically typical sexual identity labels-"gay," "lesbian" and "bisexual"-have lost meaning and relevance for contemporary adolescents. Yet there is little empirical evidence that contemporary teenagers are "post-gay." In this brief study we investigate youths' sexual identity labels. The Preventing School Harassment survey included 2,560 California secondary school students administered over 3 years: 2003-2005. We examined adolescents' responses to a closed-ended survey question that asked for self-reports of sexual identity, including an option to write-in a response; we content analyzed the write-in responses. Results suggest that historically typical sexual identity labels are endorsed by the majority (71%) of non-heterosexual youth. Some non-heterosexual youth report that they are "questioning" (13%) their sexual identities or that they are "queer" (5%); a small proportion (9%) provided alternative labels that describe ambivalence or resistance to sexual identity labels, or fluidity in sexual identities. Our results show that lesbian, gay, and bisexual identities remain relevant for contemporary adolescents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)884-890
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Youth and Adolescence
Issue number7
StatePublished - Aug 2009


  • Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual
  • Sexual identity
  • Sexual orientation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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