Millennials have a bad reputation with just about everyone who isn’t a millennial. By now, the complaints about my generation are like a song by the Chainsmokers—I know exactly how this goes and I’m tired of hearing it. We’re lazy, we’re entitled, we think we deserve a trophy just for showing up, yadda, yadda, yadda. However, for once, there’s a new study about millennials we can all be proud of. We’re the queerest generation ever. And, oh yeah, we’re also the most LGBTQ-accepting. If you’re going to label my generation something, start here.
According to GLAAD’s new Accelerating Acceptance report, 20% of millennials identify as LGBTQ. This is compared to 12% of Gen Xers and 7% of Baby Boomers. Looks like the kids who grew up listening to the “We’re Here, We’re Queer” chant took it to heart.
But it’s not just the sheer number of queer millennials that’s impressive. It’s also our open-mindedness. In that same report, 63% of non-LGBTQ millennials surveyed said they’d willingly be our allies. That’s compared to 53% of Gen Xers, 51% of Baby Boomers and a dismal 39% of senior citizens.
At a time when our hard-earned visibility and human rights hang in the balance, this is encouraging news for LGBTQ people. It’s also great news for millennials, who finally have a win to celebrate in the culture wars against older generations.
Yet the question remains. What is it about the digital generation that lends itself to such openness?
Maybe it’s just a natural progression. A 2015 MinnPost article suggested that each generation was growing more tolerant than the last. Its findings were based on a study published by trade journal Social Forces. The younger the person surveyed, the higher the level of tolerance was.
Millennials came of age after a lot of public struggles. Many of us were born during or after the AIDS crisis. As we grew old enough to understand our own sexuality and that of others, the media and people around us were speaking openly about homosexuality. We’ve lived through an era of unprecedented progress. We’ve seen gay characters take up posts on primetime sitcoms. We’ve witnessed the Supreme Court’s historic decision to legalize gay marriage. We haven’t grown up in perfect times by any means. But for the most part, we’ve been raised in a more accepting world than the one our parents and grandparents were raised in.
It could be argued that we’re more in tune with tolerance because we’ve experienced it more. It could also be argued that, in an age of intense information exchange and remarkable technological advance, we’ve had more exposure to worlds beyond our own. Our parents and their parents came of age in communities with much less knowledge of the outside world. Not to say that they were trapped in bubbles with no awareness of other cultures. But compared to the immediacy of our Facebook feeds and Twitter timelines, we’ve seen more. And that must count for something.
What does this 20% queer, LGBTQ-accepting millennial population mean for our future? Hopefully, it means trans people won’t have to worry about which bathroom they’re using in 2037. Hopefully, it means gay couples can feel just as comfortable holding hands in the middle of Kansas as they do in New York City. More acceptance now will certainly beget more acceptance later. The GLAAD report offers a promising glimpse of the future, one in which we can stop focusing on difference and start working together.
So what if we’re a little whiny sometimes? America needs us and our tolerance for a better tomorrow.