‘Most closeted’ state in America, revealed

US states

Research has found that Utah is the most closeted US state from analysis of nearly 20 years of Google search data. 

Florida, Nebraska, Montana and Tennessee have all made headlines for passing repressive anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in 2023.

However, research from the Cultural Currents Institute (CCI) has found that Utah is the state where users are most likely to Google questions about their own sexual orientation. 

In light of so many states becoming increasingly unsafe places for LGBTQ+ people to live due to the decisions of lawmakers, the findings on LGBTQ+ exploration from the CCI, a Texas-based global market research firm specialising in technology, are particularly timely.

The CCI examined Google Trends data from 2004 to 2023 and found a significant increase in American users searching questions related to personal sexual orientation and gender identity. This “steep rise” saw surges increase by more than 1300 per cent. 

Data was collected for the search terms ‘am I gay’, ‘am I lesbian’, ‘am I trans’, ‘how to come out’ and ‘non-binary’ for all 50 US states and DC. Utah topped three out of five search term categories. 

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The Republican-controlled state is home to the largest population of Mormons in the US and has traditionally conservative social values. 

It became the first state to ban gender-affirming care for trans youth in 2023, after Republican governor Spencer Cox signed a bill into law that places an indefinite moratorium on access to life-saving puberty blockers and hormone therapy. 

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According to the CCI, search data may indicate “a significant underlying questioning of identity among its internet users, possibly driven by the conflict between personal feelings and societal expectations”. 

Top five states for the search term ‘am I gay’:

  • Utah
  • Iowa
  • Indiana
  • West Virginia
  • New Hampshire

Top five states for the search term ‘am I lesbian’: 

  • Utah
  • Connecticut
  • Kentucky
  • Washington
  • Colorado

Top five states for the search term ‘am I trans’: 

  • Utah
  • Kentucky
  • Colorado
  • Michigan
  • Washington

Top five states for the search term ‘non-binary’:

  • Vermont
  • Oregon
  • Maine
  • Montana
  • Washington

The data suggests that the term ‘non-binary’ is most searched for in states that are more politically and socially progressive. 

Top five states for the search term ‘how to come out’:

  • Oklahoma
  • West Virginia
  • Mississippi
  • Louisiana
  • Kentucky

High levels of searches for ‘how to come out’ perhaps indicate a “more challenging environment for self-disclosure of identity”, the CCI notes. 

In Oklahoma, the top state for the ‘how to come out’ search term, Republican governor Kevin Stitt has argued that his party will win the 2024 elections on anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric. The state passed a bill banning gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth in April. 

Kentucky, which scores in the top five for three of the five search terms, including for ‘am I trans’, was slammed by the American Civil Liberties Union for passing “the worst anti-trans bill in the nation” in March. Kelly Craft, a candidate to become Kentucky’s governor, made a chilling pledge earlier this month that under her administration “we will not have transgenders in our school system”. 

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The CCI explains that the data is relative, representing “each term’s share of all Google searches for the region or time period being examined”. The data does not “simply reflect the reality that more people are using Google today than in 2004”.

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