The generation known by the popular buzzword “millennials" is giving us a taste of a world in which gender and sexuality are no longer put into a box with two options, but are fluid, ever-changing identities. The New York Times recently released information from a GLAAD survey, displaying that 20% of millennials now identify as something other than exclusively straight or cisgender. The GLAAD is an LGBTQ+ advocacy organization. Their survey directly contrasted the 7% of baby boomers who identified as something other than straight or cisgender. This trend towards gender exploration and a need for authenticity without regards to society is deconstructing the previous assumption that we live in a society governed by a binary sex system.
According to the 2014 United States Census, the millennial generation makes up a whopping 28.7% of the US population, with numbers reaching 75.4 million people worldwide. Monroe Community College student Jessica Schwarz explains the trending number of millennials who actively pursue hyper-individuality in their gender and sexuality. Jessica Schwarz comments that “it’s more accepted than it ever has been," explaining that if we see it as more accepted, more people are going to openly identify with it. Schwarz is one of many young people who supports the intensifying number of millennials that are challenging and transcending the existence of a world where gender and sexuality merely come in two forms.
Photo: Jessica Schwarz Car
An Interconnected World’s Impact
How did this wide spread social deviation come to be? Popular opinion suggests that diverging from a gender and sexual binary system is more accepted than it ever has been. Schwarz believes that pop culture and the media are the leading factors that are responsible for this shift in our attitudes. Schwarz says that “media is so important in this transition."
Internet and social media have only increased early exposure to different types of individuals within the millennial generation. Facebook, a social media outlet reported as having approximately one billion users, now has approximately 60 options for a user’s gender. Now that the media can put a face to these infinite identities, the process of normalizing them will come sooner than ever. This transition can also be seen in classrooms. Monroe Community College’s Pride Alliance Club member, Denise Kinsella agrees with this, stating that “we’ve been learning more about different genders and sexual identities." Kinsella expands, saying that “millennials are frequently exposed to this because they are still in the education system." Consistent with the United States 2014 census, 40% of millennials are still in school and 90% of those millennials plan to pursue a higher form of education, thus making them one of the most educated generations. The number of people who identify as LGBTQ+ has increased because there is more knowledge available on the LGBTQ+ community, allowing more people to recognize and identify as something other than cisgender and straight.
A Step Towards a Supportive Society
Looking at criticisms, it’s interesting when people speak poorly of the LGBTQ+ community, because the sheer size and volume of the responses only makes the voices of LGBTQ+ members and allies even louder.
By breaking our heteronormative lens, we can encourage future generations to deviate from institutionalized constructs and be authentic to themselves. This transcendence above a world where gender is definitive helps convey the message spoken by LGBTQ+ ally Jessica Schwarz. “We are all on a spectrum more than we know."