Gen Z is the queerest generation of all time.
According to a Gallup poll from February 2021, an unprecedented 15 percent of Gen Zers identified as LGBTQIA+ — and the poll only interviewed people between 18 and 23, so the actual percentage could be much higher.
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Gallup editor Jeffrey Jones told NBC News that he sees those figures as a sign that Americans feel safer to come out, due to the increasing acceptance of LGBTQIA+ identities. Part of that acceptance, Jones added, is attributed to the rise in social media use and how often people share their personal lives online.
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From YouTube to Instagram to now TikTok, there are easy ways for teenagers to research and understand sexuality and gender — and to interact with people with identities other than their own.
As much as this newfound openness should be celebrated, it’s important — especially as LGBTQIA+ Pride Month comes to a close — for younger generations to remember what it took for society to get here.
Toby Duff identifies as a gay conservative on TikTok, where he has over 165,000 followers. On June 1, he posted a video that has since drawn almost 6 million views, in which he questioned why Pride Month even exists.
“As a gay man, I’ve never understood why Pride Month is a thing,” Duff says in the clip. “Those who have died for the freedom of our country should be the ones we should be celebrating all month long. Being gay is just that — it’s just being gay.”
Duff is only 22 years old. He was born in 1999, 30 years after the Stonewall Riots. The riots, which took place in New York’s Greenwich Village, occurred during a time where the legal system and establishments were openly anti-gay.
That era, as well as the AIDS epidemic of the ’80s and early ’90s, is before Duff’s time. However, TikTok user, John Blake, who goes by @blackfluidpoet on the app, lived through it. Blake posted a duet with Duff’s video, which started with him taking a long, patient drag of his cigarette.
“It’s because you don’t know the history or choose to ignore it,” Blake says. “See, I was alive in the ’80s when the government was dragging their a**es about AIDS, [and] there really weren’t that many gay people to be worried about. Many Americans had to come out in order for the country to recognize just how many people in this country were actually queer. They came out and lost their jobs, they came out and lost their families, they came out and lost their homes. You weren’t here for the bashings and beatings, you wouldn’t be making a video if it wasn’t for them.”
“We need Pride because while I survived, others did not,” one user commented in agreement.
“We lost our elders, collectively and individually,” another added.
“I came out in 1991 at 6 years old,” another wrote. “My grandma fought so hard for my equality she lost jobs, we lost family, and she never stopped fighting for me.”
As this year’s Pride Month — which coincides with the 52nd anniversary of the Stonewall Riots — comes to a close, Blake’s message to Gen Z is clear: “You wouldn’t be making a video if it wasn’t for them.”
John Blake’s recommended reading:
Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements by Charlene A. Carruthers
Transgender History by Susan Stryker
Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg
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