An examination of Google Trends data from 2004 to 2023 highlights a steep rise in queries questioning personal sexual orientation and gender identity, with such searches surging over 1300%. This article explores the trends for these terms across all 50 states, examining the key hotspots and revealing possible regional narratives.
The evolution of social attitudes around sexual orientation and gender identity over the last two decades has been profound — surprising even some of the foremost political consultants and public affairs practitioners who observe opinion in the space. This shift in public conversation and awareness has, for many, given rise to questions about their own sexual and gender identity. Google Trends data from 2004 to 2023 presents a unique opportunity to explore this evolution from a novel angle, revealing a staggering 1300% increase in specific searches that may indicate that a user is questioning their sexual identity.
Among the five search terms considered—'am I gay', 'am I lesbian', 'am I trans', 'how to come out', and 'nonbinary'—a significant upward trend is observed across the U.S., with some states more pronounced than others. It's important to note that this data is relative, representing each term's share of all Google searches for the region or time period being examined. Specifically, this means that the data does not simply reflect the reality that more people are using Google today than in 2004.
The regional differences highlighted below are significant, offering a geographical landscape of self-questioning and discovery across America. One state in particular went against its branding. 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, as we will see below.
For the search term "am I gay", the top five states are:
The term "am I lesbian" showed the highest popularity in:
For "am I trans", the leading states are:
Perhaps the most poignant, the term "how to come out", could indicate a more challenging environment for self-disclosure of identity. The highest search volumes for this term are found in:
It is notable that the term "am I nonbinary?" did not have sufficient data for Google to provide results, which is why the authors chose to present the data simply for "nonbinary". For the term "nonbinary", a term less explored historically but gaining traction recently, the top states tend to be more politically and socially progressive. Namely:
Google Trends data was collected for the search terms "am I gay", "am I lesbian", "am I trans", "how to come out", and "nonbinary" for all 50 U.S. states and D.C. from January, 2004 to May of 2023. Google's proprietary 100 point scoring system was used to represent each term's normalized search volume proportional to all other searches in the region or time period compared. In this system, 100 represents the highest popularity for the term, 50 represents half the popularity, and so on.
Google Trends data is widely regarded as a strong source for measuring American public interest. According to a 2021 paper published in American Behavioral Scientist found that "this method has predicted the real winner in all the elections held since 2004."
CCI is a full service global PR, marketing, and market research firm headquartered in Austin, TX with a specialty in technology — particularly tech startups. We study trends in public opinion and build multichannel campaigns to suit client objectives. Clients range from pre-seed startups to Fortune 500 enterprises.