Most Teens Aren’t Straight; Did We Not Already Know This?
A new study finds that most teens aren’t straight. Duh?
Specifically, it’s a survey from the J. Walter Thompson Innovation Group that looked at Gen Z’s attitudes toward gender and sexuality. It asked 13 to 20-year-olds to rank where their sexuality lay on a scale of 1 to 6, 1 being “exclusively heterosexual” and 6 being “exclusively homosexual.” Fifty-two percent of the respondents chose something other than 1, meaning that over half of teenagers “aren’t straight.”
Which I put in scare quotes because people are what they say they are and my opinion has always been that even straight people aren’t exclusively straight. Remember that old Ron White bit about being a little bit gay?
Also, 56 percent of Gen Z-ers know someone who refers to themselves as, well, “them” or “they” or some other variation on gender-neutral pronouns. And that’s a good thing, because trust me, it’s easier to get people to start using gender-neutral pronouns when you’re a teenager than it is when you’re twenty-eight.
Compared to millennials, Gen Z is substantially more progressive: 43 percent of Gen Yers know people who use gender-neutral pronouns, and 65 percent identify as exclusively straight (or are in denial, IMHO). That’s saying a lot, though, because you may recall that millennials are yet more progressive than Gen X, and so on.
This all being said, allow me to suggest that there’s a lot of paving-the-way that’s been done for Gen Z to get to this point, from the Stonewall era straight through SCOTUS. Millennials, Gen X, and our parents have created an atmosphere in which it doesn’t feel totally ridiculous for a teenager to ask their friends and family to call them “they,” in 2016. I don’t feel like I can do that, regardless of my gender identity — I feel like I will spend the rest of my life being referred to as “she” and “her,” because the Gen X-ers I looked up to didn’t have a gender-neutral language. Millennials accepted the premise that gender-fluidity and -neutrality existed, so Gen Z has a supportive culture set up for them.
Or, in other words, they didn’t just arrive into their adolescence already accepting the premise of gender neutrality; they didn’t come to these conclusions without guidance and without millennials shaping the conversation. But I’m happy for them — hopefully it means that by the time Gen Whatever-Comes-Next comes around, the whole idea of “coming out” will be obsolete.