The Story: A new report on adolescent sexual activity in Minnesota has produced some seemingly counterintuitive findings: Lesbian and bisexual females were three to five times more likely to have been pregnant than straight females, while gay males and males who are questioning their sexuality were four times more likely than straight males to report getting someone pregnant.
The Background: The survey was taken among 9th and 11th graders and yielded 77,758 respondents. Out of those only 2.4 percent of straight males had gotten someone pregnant, and only 1.5 percent of straight females had been pregnant. For gay males, 9.9 percent had gotten someone pregnant, while 6.6 percent of lesbians had been pregnant. The same percentage of “questioning” males (9.9 percent) had also gotten someone pregnant, while 2.8 percent of “questioning” females had been pregnant. Out of bisexual males, 8.9 percent had gotten someone pregnant, while 8.2 percent of bisexual females had been pregnant.
Part of the reason for the high rates is that the LGBQ teens claimed to have sex much more often than straight teens: 50.9 percent of lesbian females and 48.7 percent of gay males have ever had sex compared with 23.5 percent of straight females and 25.9 percent of straight males
One contributing factor to the higher pregnancy rates may also be that LGBQ have higher levels of substance abuse before having sex. Questioning, bisexual, and gay males had the highest rates of alcohol or drug use at their last sexual encounter (36.5 percent, 26 percent, and 29.3 percent respectively), while straight males and females had the lowest (18.8 and 14.5 percent).
Other studies have uncovered similar findings. A study done in Canada surveyed adolescents in 1992, 1998, and 2003. Compared to heterosexual youth, LGB youth were more likely to be sexually experienced, and more likely to either have ever been pregnant or have gotten someone pregnant (pg. 6).
According to the study, sexually experienced LGB youth were both more likely than their heterosexual peers to report first having sexual intercourse before 14 years old and have used drugs or alcohol before their last sexual encounter (p. 20).
Almost half of gay males (45 percent) reported having had sex with a girl in the past year, while almost three-fourths of lesbians (71 percent) reported having had sex with a male during the same time period (p. 22).
A more recent survey in New York also found higher rates of pregnancy among LGB youth. Earlier this year the American Journal of Public Health published a study that data from “nearly 10,000 ethnically and racially diverse New York City high school students from 2005, 2007 and 2009.” They included only students who reported having sex with a member of the opposite sex.
According to the study, about 13 percent of heterosexual females and about 14 percent of females who only had male sexual partners had been pregnant, compared to about 23 percent of lesbian or bisexual females and about 20 percent of girls who had male and female sexual partners. About 10 percent of heterosexual males and those who only had female sexual partners experienced a pregnancy, compared to about 29 percent of gay or bisexual males and about 38 percent of males with female and male sexual partners.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that LGB youth are also at increased risk for certain negative health outcomes. For example, young gay and bisexual males have disproportionately high rates of HIV, syphilis, and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Why It Matters: Over the past few years evangelical churches have made great strides in learning how to minister to those with same-sex attraction. But there is much more we could do for teens who identify as gay, lesbian, and bisexual. The fact that LGB teens are engaging in sexual activity with both sexes at a higher rate than their straight peers may be a symptom of loneliness, an unmet need for intimacy and connection, or unresolved emotional problems.
In this video Sam Allberry explains how Christians can minister to a same-sex attracted men and women who may be experiencing loneliness.
For more Q&A videos by Allberry visit the webpage for Equip, a joint project between TGC and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Commission. Equip provides a broad range of resources on homosexuality and same-sex marriage issues to prepare your church for a changing culture.