In 2019, we are experiencing a shift in the way that we have conversations about our sexual orientations. As public conversations about sexual orientation, gender identity, and consent become more frequent in our day to day life, the societal expectations of younger generations are beginning to change. With the uptick in public figures coming out, improved sexual and gender education and dialogue focused on the importance of identity formation, it is not a surprise that more and more people are beginning to identify as bisexual than ever before.
There has been significant evidence coming together to suggest the existence of what I dub the “Bitopia.” Data released in 2018 by the General Social Survey (GSS) suggests that there has been a threefold increase in the percentage of Americans identifying as bisexual in the last 10 years – going from one percent to three percent. In the same report, it was also found that in the last 10 years, there has been an increase in the number of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 that identify as bisexual – increasing from 2.5 percent to eight percent.
Still not sold on the idea of the bitopia? Here’s an argument.
Picture the tallest adult you know standing beside the shortest adult you know. How tall are they? Maybe around 6-foot-6-inches for the tallest and 4-foot-10-inches for the shortest. As anyone who’s taken Abbott’s BIOL 1107 knows, height is determined by many factors ranging from the combination of gene’s and environmental factors (like nutrition) that end up creating a normal distribution of human height where most people fall somewhere around the “average height.” Unlike other traits, however, height is not subject to natural selection. Unless extreme, abnormal height does not inhibit any individual’s ability to meet the fundamental purpose of any species: To reproduce and pass on their genes.
The significance of reproduction in survival is one that is omnipresent in all forms of life. It’s the classic question: How can I adapt the traits that will allow me to survive to the age whereby I can pass on my DNA? Up until the start of the Industrial Revolution, to ensure survival and passing on of DNA, you would have many children under the assumption that only some of them would survive to reproduce. Like chronic conditions, being of any sexual orientation other than heterosexual was and continues to be an unfavorable context for the passing on of one's genes. Following the advancement of modern healthcare and technology, however, surviving to old age has become a possibility for those suffering from chronic conditions or traumatic accidents. The increase in survival rate has made it almost impossible for the human species to “die out” as a result of being unable to adapt to the environment.
On a functional level, less death of those suffering from chronic illness is facilitating the growth of traits that may limit reproduction – sexual orientation being a primary trait.
Thousands of years ago, it was crucial for humans to be engaging in heterosexual sex so that they could reproduce and pass on their genes/keep their genes in the gene pool; this forced the normal distribution of sexualities to the heterosexual side. Now in the 21st century with minimal environmental pressures (aside from social factors such as peer influence and family), there are significantly less forces working to shift the normal distribution toward heterosexuality. Practically speaking, the normal distribution of sexuality has likely shifted over to the middle (or more to the middle than it was before). With complete heterosexuality and homosexuality on either side, environmental factors aside, most people would theoretically fall somewhere in the middle.
Essentially, since we don’t need to be heterosexual to keep the human species from going extinct like we used to, it would follow that sexual orientation is now largely determined by genes that produce an array of sexualities, rarely ever landing on 100 percent heterosexual.
So sit back, relax, and welcome to the Bitopia — it’s coming whether you’re about it or not!
Note: This perspective on the development of sexual identity does not take into account additional variables such as interest in sex, emotional connection and other biological factors.