With states pushing back on LGBTQ rights with bills like Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law and restricting access to gender-affirming hormones, Generation Z is worried.
But previous generations paved the way for them, and Gen Z is fighting for their rights. Here’s how they’re doing it.
1. Social Media
As one of the most connected generations to date, it’s no surprise that Gen Z plays a large role in fighting for LGBT rights. The generation has taken to social media platforms such as TikTok, YouTube and Instagram to highlight and spread awareness of LGBTQ-related issues. They’ve used their platforms to support LGBTQ activists, encourage people to sign petitions and host walkouts to express their disapproval of discriminatory laws in countries such as Uganda, Nigeria and Russia.
This activism has been fueled by a series of cultural developments and political events that have impacted the lives of young LGBTQ people. Gen Z grew up amid the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage and shifting attitudes toward sexual orientation, but this is largely because previous generations paved the way (Gencarelli 2014).
For instance, Baby Boomers lived through the rise of home computing and the booming digitalization of media; Generation X was on the front lines of the LGBTQ liberation movement, beginning with the Stonewall uprising in 1969 and watching their parents struggle with accepting homosexuals and acknowledging that their treatment may have been unkind or immoral.
As a result, Gen Z has grown up with the notion that being gay is a normal part of life, and they are likely to continue to identify as LGBTQ+ into adulthood. A recent Gallup poll found that one in five Gen Z adults self-identifies as LGBTQ, and this number is expected to rise as the generation grows into adulthood.
Generation Z has the advantage of learning from activists who came before them, especially baby boomers and Gen Xers. These previous generations fought for rights such as gay marriage, which was first recognized by states after the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. They were also on the frontlines of the fight against the AIDS epidemic, which helped shape sexual and reproductive rights.
In addition, many members of this generation grew up in an era where LGBTQ people started to appear more frequently on television, and laws banning homosexuality were repealed in the United States and other countries. This shift in attitude toward sexual and gender identity has given Gen Z “a new relationship to their identities,” says Westengard.
“It has made them more willing to stand up for those identities, and that’s what they’re doing right now,” she says. They are leading the charge against a host of anti-LGBTQ bills, including efforts to ban conversations about gender and sexual orientation in schools and reintroduce religious exemptions for LGBTQ people.
They’re rallying around groups like Planned Parenthood Gen Action, which works to expand LGBTQ rights and abortion access, as well as queer-serving organizations that help people navigate the system. They’re not just fighting for their own rights, but the right of every person to choose how they live their lives, no matter who they are.
Generation Z is a political generation with clear views on social justice issues. The generation born between 1997 and 2012 supports progressive policies like racial equity and sustainability and is one of the most politically active generations to date.
In fact, a recent survey by Cosmopolitan and YouGov found that 1 in 5 Gen Zers say protecting abortion rights is a top priority that would motivate them to volunteer for a cause. And with groups like Planned Parenthood Gen Action based on more than 350 college campuses, it’s easy for Gen Zers to find opportunities to advocate for reproductive rights.
They also support LGBTQ rights, and many believe their faith communities should do the same. In fact, a 2018 study by PRRI shows that majorities of all religions support laws that protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination. But despite their growing support for LGBTQ+ rights, many Gen Zers don’t feel that their faith communities are doing enough to protect them.
As a result, a growing number of Gen Zers are turning away from traditional houses of worship in favor of democratized spaces that offer spiritual belonging and nourishment. Offering anything less than full support of LGBT rights runs the risk of alienating this generation that is already looking to the future and trying to do good in it.
A recent spate of anti-LGBT bills in states like Florida has prompted a new generation to take to the streets and speak out. For the first time, young people — Gen Z, which spans those born between 1997 and 2012 — are using their voices to push back against proposals to ban teachers from discussing gender identity and sexual orientation in public school classrooms.
In contrast to previous generations, they have fewer societal roadblocks when deciding how they want to live their lives. And many have seen their parents and older siblings struggling with their own issues of identity, making it easier for them to understand the confusion and fear that LGBTQ+ identities can bring (Vaccaro 2009).
Gen Z is growing up in a world of sexual freedom and access to information, but they’re also facing life-altering threats. They’re watching hate crimes and climate change unfold, and they’re worried about their personal finances, mental health, and physical health.
Those fears are driving them to take action. They’re rallying for racial justice and sustainability. And they’re looking for employers and companies that make a commitment to addressing these concerns. As a result, Gen Z is more likely to choose brands that support the fight for LGBT rights and other social causes. This group has the power to transform our culture for good.