Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 38, Issue 7, pp 884–890 | Cite as

Are Teens “Post-Gay”? Contemporary Adolescents’ Sexual Identity Labels

  • Stephen T. RussellEmail author
  • Thomas J. Clarke
  • Justin Clary
Empirical Research


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.


Sexual identity Sexual orientation Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual 



This research was supported by a contract from the California Endowment to the California Safe Schools Coalition, and by a William T Grant Foundation Scholar Award to the first author. The authors thank the Gay-Straight Alliance Network for their role in collecting the data, the California Safe Schools Coalition Evaluation Committee for access to the data, and Jenifer McGuire, Cesar Egurrola, Craig Talmage, Jacqueline Larriva, and Nicole Lehman for assistance with data preparation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen T. Russell
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Thomas J. Clarke
    • 1
  • Justin Clary
    • 1
  1. 1.Norton School of Family and Consumer SciencesUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  2. 2.Frances McClelland Institute for Children, Youth and FamiliesUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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