(Facebook now offers custom gender options in their settings page, designed to include a variety of gender identities.)
Millennials are the most tolerant and diverse generation, as well as dedicated to implementing social change. They came of age during the fight for gay rights and acceptance and are no strangers to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues. Recently, we have seen more and more Millennials raising awareness regarding the struggles of those who do not fit into the gender binary. They are:
- becoming allies to the transgender community by educating themselves and peers
- calling out unfair portrayals of trans people in the media
- creating welcoming spaces for other Millennials to come out as transgender or gender non-conforming.
The media plays a large role in this increased awareness. Our panelists have brought up actress Laverne Cox (from Orange Is the New Black) in conversation; she is by far the most famous out trans celebrity at the moment. In fact, Cox will host and executive produce “Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word,” a one-hour documentary airing on MTV and Logo TV on Friday, October 17, 2014 at 7 p.m. ET/PT that will take viewers inside the lived of seven transgender youth.
We asked college students if they have been noticing or sharing more articles regarding gender and trans news.
High schoolers seem to be engaging with gender non-conformity and trans issues in more intuitive ways; meaning, they are growing up with a certain level of awareness and sets of resources set in place for them so they’re a little more used to having these conversations. More and more of our high school panelists have a peer or classmate who identifies as trans.
A few ways the Millennial trans community is being supported by peers, colleges and society:
- Sharing stories: Trans youth are becoming more comfortable sharing their stories, and peers are increasingly supporting them and helping them share these stories. One of our panelists shared an article from her Texas high school’s newspaper featuring an interview with a student who came out as a transgender young woman. It allowed room for this student to address what she was experiencing and come out to her fellow students, and the author refers to her with correct gender pronouns throughout.
- One of our panelists shared an article from her Texas high school’s newspaper, an interview with a student who came out as a transgender young woman. It allowed room for this student to address what she was experiencing and come out to her fellow students, and the author refers to her with correct gender pronouns throughout.
- Another panelist shared a Youtube channel, TRANScend, to which her trans friend contributes. It was started by six young transgender men who wanted to document their transitioning while also educating cisgender viewers on trans issues, offensive language, etc.
- Surgery Fundraising: Several trans youth have been successful crowdsourcing their surgeries, though it’s important to note that not every transgender person elects to have surgery. Fraternity members at both Rutgers University and Emerson College have raised money for brothers’ surgeries.
- Welcoming colleges: More and more rising college attendees are entering schools where work has been done to make the necessary space for transgender and genderqueer students – whether that’s providing gender neutral bathrooms or student ID of preferred gender pronoun in class. One high school panelist said that this link on Gender Pronoun usage at college campuses was shared a lot in her feeds late last year.
There are many resources available on transgender / LGBTIQ vocabulary, including MTV’s own Look Different campaign. GLAAD also has a helpful guide for people working in media on how to portray/talk about trans lives and issues. Here is a brief primer on some acceptable and unacceptable terms:
Transgender – Describes a person whose gender identity differs what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.
- A transgender identity is not dependent on medical procedures. Many transgender people are prescribed hormones, but not all. Only 33% of transgender people undergo some form of surgery.
- A woman who was assigned male at birth is a transgender woman or a trans woman. A man who was assigned female at birth is a transgender man or a trans man.
Cisgender – describes people who are not Transgender
Genderqueer – A term used to describe a gender identity that falls outside the category of “man” or “woman”
Not acceptable terms: Transvestite, Tranny, Hermaphrodite, Sex-Change Operation
Research by Stephanie Monohan
By Matt Cohen, MTV Insights
For previous gay generations, “Coming Out” was one of the most significant things you would do in your life as a gay person. For Gay Millennials, “Coming Out” is increasingly “no big deal” – to use the words of one Millennial we interviewed. In honor of National Coming Out Day, today we’re taking a look at how this generation of gay youth is redefining this rite of passage…
When we began studying Gay Millennials earlier this year, we started by asking ourselves what the major challenges and tension points are for this particular subgroup of Millennials. “Coming Out” seemed like a natural place to begin our discussion. After all, rites of passage on the road to adulthood are often tough, and “Coming Out” has long been treated as one of the scariest and most risky acts of self-definition. For previous generations – where gay men and women often didn’t come out until their 20s, 30s, or later (if it at all) for fear of rejection or persecution – simply revealing one’s sexual identity was, perhaps, the ultimate challenge for a gay person. However, that seems to be changing.
For Gay Millennials, who have grown up in a culture with high gay visibility, “Coming Out”, seems to be increasingly less of a tension point for many gay youth today. When we talked to Gay Millennials over the course of our research, many of them shared “Coming Out” stories that were surprisingly positive, drama-free, and — in some ways — a bit anti-climactic.
With more supportive friends and schools than ever before, for many, “Coming Out” as a teenager is no longer the dreaded nightmare it once was. Domenic, 19, explains “When I came out in high school when I was 14, it was no big deal. I was the only gay kid in my high school, and my high school was really liberal, so within a week I was like a celebrity.”
Tom, 23, expresses a similar sentiment: “When I was a freshman in high school, I told my best friend and she decided to tell the entire school. Technically, I was outed. At that point, I was accused of being gay for so long that finally when I came out, everyone was just like ‘OK.’ High school was super, super easy for me.”
We also heard stories that suggest “Coming Out” at home is becoming increasingly easier as well, with many parents taking the news surprisingly well. Jennifer, 23, was surprised by how enthusiastically her parents responded: “The weekend after my girlfriend and I put a title on our relationship, I told my parents at dinner. They were so supportive that they called the rest of my family and had me tell them that night. It was funny and tiring, but I guess all my hard work is over!”
Other parents offered reactions that were more muted but equally supportive. Allie, 23, recalls “One day my mom asked me why my friends had boyfriends and I didn’t. “Do you even like boys?” she asked. I said “no,” and then she told me that I can get diseases too. Ha! Ever since then she’s been completely supportive of me.”
With Gay Millennials coming out so early in life (the average “Coming Out” age is now 16), often prompting reactions from friends and family that range from gushingly supportive to benignly blasé, the process is becoming less scary. Furthermore, young people are coming out in record numbers. A New York Times article from last week ( http://nyti.ms/QZJNWv )cites a recent study on LGBT teens by the Human Rights Campaign in which 64% of high school students and 54% of middle school students report that they are out at school. While there are, of course, still many areas and communities in the U.S. where “Coming Out” is extremely difficult, stories like the ones mentioned above are increasingly common.
We’re starting to see this new reality reflected on TV as well. Whereas TV shows in the ‘90s introduced gay characters and storylines via tearful and dramatic “Coming Out” scenes (see Jack McPhee’s emotional reveal to his father in the second season of Dawson’s Creek or Buffy’s metaphorical “Coming Out” as the slayer to her mother in the second season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer), today’s young gay characters are more often embraced than rejected by their on-screen friends and family. On the first season of Glee, car mechanic Burt Hummel offered a warm and heartfelt reaction to his son Kurt’s unsurprising admission that he is gay. Similarly, on the first season of Pretty Little Liars, Aria, Hannah, and Spencer unflinchingly welcomed their friend Emily’s admission that she was in love with their former best friend, Alison. Even more recently, some shows are forgoing “Coming Out” storylines altogether by introducing viewers to characters who are openly gay right from the start (see Glee, Happy Endings, Smash, and The New Normal to name a few) – reflecting the rising Millennial notion that being gay shouldn’t be a source of conflict.
As “Coming Out” becomes less of a tension point for this generation, new tension points are emerging center stage for Gay Millennials. The conversation around gay youth is now shifting from “Coming Out” to what comes after: navigating the complex world of Millennial relationships and sex, forging unique paths while planning for somewhat conventional futures, forming gay identities that are not exclusively gay – to name a few.
In this series of posts on Gay Millennials, we’ll share some of our findings on these new challenges for this generation of gay youth…