Last year, GLAAD published its Accelerating Acceptance 2017 survey, which showed that Millennials (people ages 18-34) are 20% more likely to identify as LGBTQ+ than older generations. This younger generation also appears to identify more outside of traditional binaries, such as gay/straight and male/female.
We’re growing up in a time of increasing openness and understanding of LGBTQ issues (as well as other minorities) and this openness is creating a greater sense of safety for young people to be themselves from an early age. Queer people in previous generations faced much more discrimination growing up, which made openly identifying as LGBTQ more challenging. Homosexuality was considered a mental disorder until December 1973 and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policies were enacted across the country, which kept many queer folks in the closet whether they wanted to be or not.
Today, same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states and social media has created a helpful platform to talk about and see queerness represented. While our society is not perfect and we still have a long way to go in terms of gaining equality for all, we have made significant progress towards accepting people who might not have been considered “normal” a mere fifty years ago. Queer people have faced countless challenges, but we have persevered and proven that we deserve to be here just as much as our cis-hetero peers.
“It is heartening to see the future of this country loosen the shackles of traditional identities and unapologetically embrace who they are,” Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President and CEO said in an email to NBC Out last year. She also “absolutely” expects the percentage of LGBTQ people to “continue to rise in future generations,” which I believe as well. If we are at such a good point already with openness and acceptance in the Millennial generation, there is only room to grow.
Social media has provided a powerful platform for connection amongst queer youth and young adults. It has made a huge difference in recent years of making queer representation accessible to LGBTQ youth and it is a great place for young people to follow their queer icons, to see queer people succeeding and making positive change in the world.
With everything going on in the world right now, it is important for queer folks to focus on the positive and to continue fighting for our rights. The younger generations are crucial in this fight for equality and it is important we use all the platforms we can access to advocate for and represent ourselves. Our fight is not over, but we have reached an amazing point of openness and acceptance in society that will hopefully only grow.