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A New Generation Overthrows Gender

Max, age 13, is agender — neither male nor female. When referring to Max, you don’t use “he” or “she;” you use “they.”

Once strictly a pronoun of the plural variety, “they” is now doing double duty as singular, too — referring to individuals, like Max, who do not see gender as an either/or option. (NPR agreed not to use Max’s last name, because the family feared the sort of online threats that have been made to other transgender families.)

If the whole he/she pronoun thing feels awkward to you, Max is sympathetic — and patient.

“I can’t expect anyone to use the right pronouns for me because it’s not a thing that people know,” Max tells me. “It’s been great being myself, but it’s also been really hard for people to get it, and for even family to get pronouns and stuff.”

We’re talking in Max’s room at home, where posters on the wall showcase the teen’s love of theater: Peter Pan, Tarzan, The Pirates of Penzance. Max is old enough now to enjoy using make-up — blush, foundation, lipstick — but still young enough to enjoy going with their mom to see “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory.” (The review from Max: Gene Wilder’s great!)

‘We are seeing more and more kids saying, ‘You know what? What’s with this either-or business? What’s with this boy-girl and you have to fit in one box or the other?’ ”
Diane Ehrensaft, psychologist, Child and Adolescent Gender Center, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital

From these surroundings, you wouldn’t think the room’s occupant is someone who has already poked and prodded at the most fundamental sense of who they are. Really, this is just a kid’s room.

So, what does “agender” mean to Max?

“What it means is I’m neither a guy or girl,” Max explains. “And that’s how I feel, which is different than terms like ‘gender fluid’ — which means you feel like a guy or girl at different times — because I don’t feel like I’m both guy and girl. I’m neither.”

Max sounds a bit didactic here, as if teaching Nonbinary Gender 101: a crash course for someone who never considered that gender didn’t simply mean male and female.

But outside Max’s room, out in the world, being nonbinary has meant having to do a lot of explaining.

When did you first feel different? I ask.

“I’ve been feeling different than just a boy for all my life, really.”

Max frames the transition from who they (that is, Max) were to who they are now as a journey of self-discovery. In elementary school, there was hanging out with girls and dressing in pink boas. That, Max says, was “awesome.”

But two years ago, someone at school called Max a “girl-boy.” Later, Max walked upstairs to the third floor of the house and stepped out onto the balcony, weighing whether or not to jump.

More than 40 percent of transgender or “gender non-conforming” people have attempted suicide, according to national surveys, with school bullying playing a significant role.

Why, I ask, did that particular insult hit so deeply that you would think about ending your life?

Max answers in spare, even-toned summation.

“I felt like no one loved me.”


Gender Vs. Sexual Orientation Vs. Biology

“Gender identity is different from gender expression, being different from biology,” says Adam Chang, a consultant with Gender Spectrum, a provider of gender identity resources and services in Berkeley, Calif. “Identity is what you know in your heart and mind, and expression is external — hair, makeup, the roles you take on in society.
“Biology, of course, means the physical attributes that have always been used as a proxy for gender,” Chang says. “And all of those are different from sexual orientation.”
“Gender is the way you express yourself to the world, and your sexual orientation is who do you go to bed with,” explains a 20-year-old I interviewed for this story who identifies as gender neutral. “They’re different things but they do cross paths a little bit.”
Chang puts it this way: “Sexuality is in and of itself not enough information to reveal a person’s gender identity.”


Transcending the gender boundary

That day on the balcony, Max found the strength to call a transgender hotline for help. A counselor there talked Max back into the house.

If same-sex marriage was yesterday’s battle to redefine gender roles and privileges, and transgender rights is today’s fight, American society may now be on the cusp of the most transformational shift yet — the end of categorizing people as either male or female.

Some people who are redefining gender identify as both male and female; others as neither male nor female, or as sometimes male and sometimes female. “They” is often the pronoun of choice. These individuals may use any number of terms to describe their gender identity: genderqueer, gender-fluid, gender-creative, gender-expansive. While definitions fluctuate, “nonbinary gender” has emerged as an umbrella description.

“I think we’re seeing a new gender revolution,” says clinical psychologist Diane Ehrensaft. “It’s erased boxes and created gender infinity instead.”

Ehrensaft is a child psychologist and co-founder of the Child and Adolescent Gender Center, a community collaboration with the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in San Francisco. At 70, she has been talking with young people for decades.

“We are seeing more and more kids saying, ‘You know what? What’s with this either-or business? What’s with this boy-girl and you have to fit in one box or the other?’ ”

How widespread is the nonbinary phenomenon? The results of the most recent survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality attest to how many transgender people are opting to identify this way. Out of almost 28,000 respondents, more than a third chose “nonbinary/genderqueer” when given a choice of terms to best describe themselves.

While the number of transgender clients seeking counseling and support has significantly climbed, Ehrensaft says, the number who want to transition from male to female or female to male has been steadily dropping.

A much greater percentage, she says, tell Ehrensaft they are ” ‘kind of the person that matches the sex on my birth certificate, but kind of not, as well. I’m going to use “they” instead of “he” or “she,” because those are not choices that fit me at all.’ ”

And there is growing evidence that even those outside the transgender community, especially young people, are accepting this new understanding of gender.

A January 2015 general population survey of 1,000 people age 18-34, conducted for Fusion media, found that just 46 percent agreed that “there are only two genders, male and female.” Fifty percent, meanwhile, said “gender is a spectrum, and some people fall outside conventional categories.” And another recent survey suggests the same trend.


Hanging out in ‘the in-between’

At 13, Max has already shed not only a gender identity of origin — male — but also one that turned out to be temporary — transgender female.

Max lives with their mother, father and brother in a roomy home across the bay from San Francisco. Two years ago, after first coming out as someone who identified as a girl, Max learned on Tumblr about terms like “nonbinary,” “gender neutral,” and “agender.”

“I was like, you know what? This describes me a little better than ‘girl,’ ” Max says. “I’ve been rolling with that for over a year.”

Max’s mother, Margaret, acknowledges she was clueless about gender issues when Max came out.

“Sexuality — no big deal,” she says, explaining the commitment she and Max’s father have always made to gay and lesbian rights. “We’re superlefties.”

But Max’s nonbinary identity took her “very much by surprise,” she says. “It came from left field, I knew nothing. I was scared.”

Even in the San Francisco Bay Area, a region that rarely meets an iconoclastic idea it won’t embrace, Max has felt painfully isolated.

“I think it’s a lot harder as nonbinary than trans,” Max says. “I’m not saying it’s not hard as trans, but you can’t really say ‘Oh I’m not a boy, I’m a girl.’ If you say ‘I’m not a boy, I’m not a girl’ — so what’s left? It’s hard to define what that means.”

It’s an existential quandary with real-world implications.

“I think we were at a mall somewhere,” Margaret says, “and there was the men’s room to the right and the women’s room to the left, and Max walked right into the wall, in the middle, to make a point. Because where do you go to the bathroom? Where do you feel comfortable?”

While the question of who can go to which bathroom may sound prosaic, about a third of transgender people have reported abstaining from eating or drinking in order to avoid using one, because of frequent harassment and confrontations.

At school, Max would use the boy’s room only during class, when it was less crowded, and only when desperate. The girls’ room was not an option.

“It would just feel like ‘I’m in the wrong place, I’m not supposed to be here,” Max says. “Something in your stomach — this just doesn’t feel right.”

The family lobbied Max’s school for a gender-neutral bathroom. It took a while, but the school converted a faculty restroom, which can now be used by anyone.

The other issue that comes up daily is being referred to in the wrong way — as he or she. Max says it hurts to be misgendered.

“It means I’m not passing,” Max says with some passion. “Especially when people use he/him, it really makes me feel like I’m not doing enough, and I’m never going to look the right way.”

Max’s father says pronouns have been difficult for him, too.

“It has taken a while to get those right,” he admits. “Max was born male. I’ve had 11 years of ‘he.’ ”

Dealing with other people is only part of Max’s struggle as a nonbinary youth. Max must also wrestle with the decision of whether to go through male or female puberty.

“Max is on this exploration, but it’s harder [than], like, ‘I’m absolutely a girl, I’m absolutely a boy,” Margaret says. “Being in the middle, what does that mean about your body?”

Right now, taking medication that prevent the emergence of secondary sex characteristics, such as breasts or facial hair, has bought Max more time to grapple with the choice.

Ehrensaft’s clinic now sees a growing number of people, mostly teenagers, who want to transform their bodies in ways that don’t fit a binary model. One client, Ehrensaft says, doesn’t want testosterone or a lower voice or facial hair, but doesn’t want a woman’s breasts either.

Legal protections are increasing, too

As more people redefine their gender identity in nonbinary terms, many schools, governments, workplaces and parents are beginning to adapt to the change.

In California, the California Healthy Youth Act, signed into law in 2015, requires comprehensive sex education for grades 7-12 to “teach pupils about gender, gender expression, gender identity, and explore the harm of negative gender stereotypes.”

A checklist from the California County of Superintendents, designed for school systems to evaluate their compliance with the law, includes this definition of gender identity: “One’s internal, deeply-held sense of being male, female, neither of these, both, or other gender(s). All people have a gender identity.” (The italics are ours.)

Phyllida Burlingame, the director of reproductive policy justice at the ACLU of Northern California, says the state’s law is the first of its kind in the U.S., and school districts are still working to come into compliance with it.

Elsewhere, in what transgender advocates believed was also a national first, a county circuit court judge in Oregon last June affirmed the legal change of 52-year-old Jamie Shupe’s gender from female to “nonbinary.”

And in September, a judge in Santa Cruz, Calif., issued an order recognizing “nonbinary” as the legal gender of 55-year-old Sara Kelly Keenan. Since then, California courts have granted nonbinary status to at least 11 more people, according to the Gendersex and Queer Recognition project.

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 179, which would make California the first state to routinely recognize “nonbinary” as a legal gender on official documents, is making its way through the state’s legislature. If passed, California would join a growing number of national and sub-national jurisdictions around the world that recognize genders other than male or female.


Schools on the vanguard

At the Oakland School for the Arts, I talk about gender with principal Mike Oz and creative writing teacher Jordan Karnes, who also runs the school’s Gender and Sexuality Club.

Karnes says she has one or two transgender or nonbinary students in each of her classes.

But many more have begun to reject the dichotomy of male and female, Oz says, simply to support their fellow students. That’s not something he saw coming. “That’s the most beautiful piece of this,” he says.

In addition to having a gender-neutral bathroom, the school accommodates both nonbinary and binary transgender students by changing their email addresses to reflect the new names they have chosen.

Parents are not always on board. Karnes has been at school events, she says, in which students and teachers call transgender students by their new name and pronoun, while parents do not.

Some people have suggested all this talk about nonbinary identity is just another trend — a passing fad.

“I really don’t feel like it’s a trend,” Karnes says. “I feel like it’s the future.”

‘Happier as a being and not hiding myself’

Charlotte Tate, a psychology professor and gender researcher at San Francisco State University, expects some degree of backlash against the acknowledgement of a nonbinary identity. Her research has shown non-transgender (cisgender, in the parlance), heterosexual people are more negative toward nonbinary people than they are toward transgender males and females.

“Looking at cisgender heterosexual respondents, they seem to exist in a world that has two suppositions,” Tate says. “The first is that everyone is static in their gender category. The other supposition is that there are only two of those gender categories.”

While transgender men and women conflict with the first notion, nonbinary individuals shatter both.

In the course of reporting this story, I interviewed a number of teens and young adults, and asked how their lives have changed since they came out as gender-neutral or nonbinary.

“Sometimes I feel like I don’t exist because I have to fight my way through the world,” one 20-year-old told me. “But I certainly feel happier as a being and not hiding myself.”

Max puts it this way: “It’s a journey and it’s fun. It’s rewarding but it’s also difficult. But it’s worth it.

Identity play: Edmonton high school musical celebrates LGBTQ students

Ross Sheppard High School’s theatre production is inspired by the real-life experiences of students

 

Mordecai Lazzer was grateful for the support of staff and students at Edmonton’s Ross Sheppard High School while exploring gender identity.

Now the three-year personal journey of the Grade 12 student, who identifies as ‘they’ or ‘them,’ is one of the stories in a musical revue called Identities, set to hit the stage at Campus Saint-Jean Theatre next month.

“It’s just me going through the name changes and the pronoun changes and where I felt comfortable and finding myself here at Shep,” said Lazzer, one of a few dozen students taking part in the production.

The collection of songs from well-known musicals and real-life stories of students told by others to protect their privacy could be a first for an Edmonton high school. The production explores themes of identity and, in cases such as Lazzer’s, gender non-conformity.

“When I get to tell my story and I get to say this is how I came to find myself, it makes me really happy to know that there are people out there who are going to know me and know my story and know that I’m comfortable with who I am, and this is who I am,” said Lazzer.

‘Beautiful stories’

It was hearing those stories that inspired drama teacher Kristen Forsyth, or just “Forsyth” as her students affectionately call her, to come up with the concept of Identities.

Forsyth asked auditioning students to share life-changing moments about coming to terms with who they are. Students opened up about their experiences at school, at home and coming out.

“After that audition process I thought this is the show: We’re going to take these stories, these real life events, and we’re going to explore them in a dramatic way, in a safe way for the students so that we can share these beautiful stories,” said Forsyth, who praised the school’s administration for their support.

She said the current political context, specifically the battle around transgender bathrooms and the ongoing fight over gay-straight-alliances in Alberta schools, makes this production especially timely for her students.

“I thought it was especially important now to give those students … a chance to express their story and celebrate who they are and feel safe and feel connected and feel validated for who they are.”

Starbucks has a new Unicorn Frappuccino that changes color as you drink it

 

The drink is first a sweet and fruity purple but then transforms into a tart pink flavor once you mix it.
Fans will be able to get the drink in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

The rumors are true, friends! We’ve been hearing buzz that Starbucks was about to launch a Unicorn Frappuccino , and now, we’ve just gotten the news that not only is the drink becoming an official reality, it’s even more magical than you could imagine.

Coming to Starbucks in the US, Canada, and Mexico tomorrow, April 19, and staying until April 23 (or while supplies last), the Unicorn Frappuccino is made with a dusting of pink powder blended into a crème Frappuccino with mango syrup, and layered with (get this!) a sour blue drizzle. Finished with vanilla whipped cream and a sprinkle of sweet pink and sour blue powder topping, these snazzy ingredients aren’t the only thing that makes this drink magical.

While the Frapp is initially purple with swirls of blue and a sweet & fruity taste… IT TRANSFORMS AS YOU DRINK IT! Give your bevvie a little stir and suddenly the color will change to pink. And the flavor? It changes to tangy & tart. The more you swirl, the more the color and taste magically change. Our Frappuccino-loving minds are blown!

We can’t wait to taste this IRL fantasy-like deliciousness in a cup.

Trump Quietly Went After LGBT Workers This Week

Trump proved once again that his loyalties lie with other businessmen like him

President Trump signed an executive order Monday that weakened workplace protections for LGBT individuals.

Fresh off a humiliating and high-profile defeat, Donald Trump has done what any bona fide bigoted bully would do: He picked on gay people. After failing to repeal Obamacare last week, the president succeeded in repealing an Obama-era executive order that helped protect gay people from employment discrimination. The order dates back to 2014, when President Obama – frustrated that Congress was doing nothing to protect gay workers from discrimination – prohibited the federal government from contracting with firms that discriminated based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Because this was an executive order, as opposed to legislation passed by Congress, it did not apply to all employers. However, it did apply to the huge number of firms that do business with the federal government.

In January, Trump reassured concerned LGBT-rights advocates that he had no plans to rescind this protection. On Monday, he technically lived up to his word – while at the same time taking a step toward seriously weakening what Obama did for LGBT workers.

You see, ten days after he signed that 2014 executive order, Obama signed another one, requiring firms doing business with the federal government to prove compliance with federal laws and executive orders. This was necessary to ensure companies were adhering to the rules about LGBT protections he had just implemented.

It is this order that President Trump rescinded this week – which means there’s now no requirement that firms certify they’re fair to gay employees. As Camilla Taylor, senior counsel at Lambda Legal, said, “It’s sending a message to these companies that the federal government simply doesn’t care whether or not they violate the law.”

Trump’s action does not completely eviscerate protections for LGBT people employed by federal contractors. What’s different is that now, LGBT people will have to take steps to enforce the law against the firms, as opposed to firms proving they’re not discriminating. So, the protections are still there, but the burden of coming forward has changed.

This matter is a presidential battlefield because Congress has abdicated its responsibilities and failed to change the federal law that protects workers from discrimination to include LGBT people. That law, Title VII, was passed in 1964, and prohibits discrimination against workers based on race, religion, national origin and sex. In many ways, it’s responsible for transforming the American workplace; by no means has it cured the workplace of all forms of discrimination, but it has opened up employment in myriad fields that had previously been closed to people based on these categories.

However, even though most people believe that LGBT people also should be protected from discrimination at work, Congress has failed to change the law to include sexual orientation and gender identity. There have been efforts to do so, but all have been stymied by recalcitrant legislators who are at best wary of more litigation – but who are more likely just bigots. So, today, in 2017, federal law does not state that it is illegal to discriminate against gay people.

That said, there are some protections for LGBT people at work: Many states prohibit discrimination, though not a majority of them, and not in regions of the country where such a prohibition is probably needed the most. And there’s a growing movement among federal judges to conclude that Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination also prohibits against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity – because, after all, both are closely tied to sex and sex-based stereotypes.

But Obama’s actions in 2014 were needed because these are still patchwork efforts. They didn’t go as far as what Congress needs to do, but they bolstered LGBT workplace equality more than any president has in the past.

By weakening these protections, Trump has once again shown that people who’ve been fighting for equal rights can’t take Trump at his word that he’ll protect them – and that his loyalties truly lie with other businessmen like him.

 

Vimy Ridge centenary through the eyes of a Vimy Ridge Academy student

‘You read it in a textbook and it’s not the same’

Student Josh Hidson and teacher Graham Fleming from Vimy Ridge Academy will be in France for the 100th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge. (John Robertson/CBC)

An Edmonton high school student going to France for the 100th anniversary of the battle for Vimy Ridge will share the experience with thousands of fellow students across Canada.

“In exploring history in this way, we are able to make it much more real and relevant to my peers,” said Josh Hidson, a Grade 12 student at Vimy Ridge Academy.

“You read it in the textbook and it is not the same.”

Hidson will record interviews and take video and photographs of events at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial and present the material at a video conference on April 6.

Edmonton plans major tribute for 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge victory
‘It helps us remember our roots’: Edmonton cadets head to Vimy memorial for centenary of historic battle.

The video conference, an initiative of the Centre for Global Education, will see classes from coast to coast sharing their own connection to the 100th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge through song, stories and poetry.

“Early discussions of a simple assembly led to a place where we are now connecting with thousands of students from across the country.” said Vimy Ridge Academy teacher Graham Fleming, who will accompany Hidson.

“It’s a pretty great opportunity to let everybody know exactly why our name is what it is, an opportunity to really appreciate why we are honoured with that name,” he said.

Hidson said he is excited to participate in the once-in-a-lifetime event.

“It is such a monumental event in Canadian history,” he said.

‘Giving the stories to the youth’: Young Canadians share story of Vimy on social media

The oaks of Vimy: One man’s mission to restore a natural treasure to the battlefield.

A special ceremony at Vimy Ridge Academy on April 6 will include the livestream from France. (John Robertson/CBC)

 

One Pride Many Voices

The 2017 Edmonton Pride Festival is fast approaching and we couldn’t be more excited. For many, Pride in Edmonton feels like the unofficial start of summer. We can’t wait to see many returning faces show up proudly to party and to protest, and to see many new faces experiencing the pride parade and festival for the very first time.

As we finalize our plans for this year we would like to give everyone that is invested in the direction of Pride in Edmonton some insight into our decisions regarding the participation and prioritization of entries in this year’s parade.

Outside of our local festival, developments locally, nationally and around the world have made Pride again feel very political. Here in Alberta, the rights of our queer youth to form and attend GSAs are being repeatedly threatened by close-minded school boards. Last year during our local Pride, a shooting at a Latinx event at a gay bar in Orlando took 49 young people and injured 53 more. The tumultuous 2016 US Election legitimized a hateful public discourse within the USA and, unfortunately, beyond its borders into Canada and around the world. Many hard won battles for human and civil rights now appear to be under threat again.

Last summer’s Black Lives Matter movement protest at Toronto’s 2016 Pride Parade was a wake up call to all Prides in Canada. Here at Edmonton Pride, we have taken this as an opportunity to reexamine how queer people of colour experience marginalization within our own city and festival. It has given us a chance to consider whether Edmonton Pride is doing enough to give marginalized members of our community meaningful opportunities to express themselves with their own voices. It has led to us engaging in a more deliberate dialogue within our own diverse queer community. It has led to us looking at the Edmonton’s queer community’s relationship with the police and the military and it has made us question the role of the police and the military in our parade.

Over the past year we have looked to our community for guidance on these issues. Over 400 people responded to our community survey after the 2016 Pride Festival, and identified many barriers to access in how our festival is run.

We also hosted several community meetings including a public town hall, collaborative meetings with other LBGTQ2S+ focused community organizations in Edmonton and a sharing and listening event exclusively for QTIPOC run by our POC board members. We have taken particular care in attempting to reach out to the voices that get heard and amplified least at Pride Festivals across Canada, such as those of our trans, indigenous, differently-abled, QTIPOC, religious and otherwise marginalized and underserved LGBTQ2S+ community members.

We recognize that there are voices we still have not heard and conversations that still have not occurred and we look forward to continuing to look to our community to guide this festival going forward.

After significant consultation from all sides, we have come to the conclusion that in Edmonton it would be wrong to ask the police and military to stay away from the Pride Parade in 2017. The Edmonton Police Service, RCMP, and Armed Forces have made significant efforts locally to work with our LGBTQ2S+ communities. We recognize that there is still work to be done and we want to provide encouragement for this work to continue by fostering relationships and understanding between these groups and our own community.

We will be asking these groups to reflect on how their entries can be respectful to the experiences of all attendees of the 2017 pride parade. Specifically, we are asking police and military parade applicants to reexamine their entries to remove all armoured, tactical and other enforcement vehicles and for all 2017 parade entries to refrain from the use of any type of siren. These changes are based on feedback from our community and they are welcome changes.

We will also be providing opportunities for the Edmonton Police Service, RCMP, Canadian Armed Forces and other entries that could be seen as controversial to provide space during the festival for listening and community building through festival booths, public meetings and other spaces for the LGBTQ2S+ community to provide feedback.

We want to thank you for your support of the Edmonton Pride Festival. This year we’ve begun to reframe the way we think of the role of the Edmonton Pride Festival Society. We are attempting to be a framework for supporting and engaging our community, not the one voice of Pride for the city. This means if you have feedback or ideas, we want to hear them. We know that this decision may not be the one you were hoping for but we hope it is a decision you can support.

If you would like to provide feedback, volunteer on a steering committee, find out about joining our volunteer board of directors, or just want to say hi, contact us at hello@edmontonpride.ca

In love and solidarity,

Edmonton Pride Festival Board of Directors

Gilbert Baker, creator of the rainbow flag, dead at 65

Gilbert Baker, the civil rights activist, Army veteran and self-taught tailor who created the symbol of the LGBTQ movement 39 years ago has died. He would have turned 66 this Pride.

His beloved friend, author and organizer Cleve Jones, shared the sad news on Twitter.

There was no word as to the cause of death. Baker’s website tells his story of how he taught himself how to sew and created flags and banners for marches and protests, including the rainbow banner flown by civil rights icon Harvey Milk in San Francisco on June 25, 1978. It’s a story he also told it to PBS in 2015.

 

Baker’s creation has been seen flown all around the world. He was 65.

Young People Are Queerer Than Ever, But They’re Leaving Traditional Labels Behind

They are also more likely to identify outside the traditional gender binary compared to older generations, according to a new GLAAD survey shared exclusively with BuzzFeed News.

Young people between the ages of 18 and 34 are twice as likely to openly identify as part of the LGBT community compared to the generation before them, according to a survey conducted and released by GLAAD today.

GLAAD’s third annual Accelerating Acceptance report, which was created in partnership with Harris Poll, surveyed 2,037 US adults (ages 18 and older) in November 2016. The survey found that 20% of millennials identify as openly LGBT, while only 7% of the baby boomer generation (ages 52–71) would openly label themselves as such. Acceptance of the LGBT community was also found to be at an all-time high.
“America is the most accepting that it has ever been. Having 20% of millennials identify as LGBTQ is pretty groundbreaking,” Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD’s president and CEO, told BuzzFeed News. “What I want to see is that they continue to flourish and blossom as their true and authentic selves.”

While the Acceelerating Acceptance survey questions shift each year, the goal remains the same — to measure how comfortable or uncomfortable the public is with the LGBT community.
“It’s important to understand how comfortable people are with certain situations – everything from how people feel about their neighbors being LGBTQ or having a transgender child on a sports team with their own kid,” said Ellis. “You can’t change what you don’t measure – and so this report is critical to the work that GLAAD does.”
The survey also found that 12% of millennials identify outside the gender binary, as either transgender or gender-nonconforming.

That nearly doubles the number of transgender and gender-nonconforming people reported from Generation X (ages 35–51).
“We’ve seen at GLAAD for years that youth are more and more identifying outside the binary — so the data itself isn’t surprising,” said Ellis. “But we are very pleased to see that more and more youth are feeling like they can freely express who they are.”

But although more young people openly identify as LGBT, the study found that non-LGBT millennials are less likely to know someone who identifies as simply “gay” or “lesbian.”

Older people in the LGBT community are more likely to use more traditional binary terms, such as “gay/lesbian” or “man/woman.” Young people have vastly expanded the vocabulary.
This could be due to the fact that labels outside those traditional categories (bisexual, asexual, queer, etc.) have become more commonly used, accepted, and understood.

“Youth now feel more free than ever to express who they are – and oftentimes that exists outside the binary,” said Ellis.
Additionally, millennials are the age group most likely to consider themselves allies to the LGBT community.

The study found that an overwhelming 63% of young people identify as allies to the queer community. While that age group was the most likely to be accepting, the majority (53%) of Generation X and the majority (51%) of baby boomers were also likely to consider themselves allies.
Ellis attributes the increase in both acceptance and the number of people openly identifying as LGBT to both representation in the media and overall visibility.

“When someone knows a person who is LGBTQ – whether it’s in real life or onscreen, they are more likely to be accepting of them,” Ellis said. “It’s important for people to see themselves reflected in the media.”

 

Paula Simons: Jason Kenney should go back to school on gay-straight alliances

Whatever possessed Jason Kenney to tell the Calgary Herald’s editorial board that Alberta schools should notify parents when their children join a gay-straight alliance club at school?

“I do however believe parents have a right to know what’s going on with their kids in the schools unless the parents are abusive,” Kenney told the board.

“I don’t think it’s right to keep secrets from parents about challenges their kids are going through.”

Clearly, Kenney learned nothing from watching former premier Jim Prentice fumble the Bill 10 debate. Why on earth does he want to re-litigate this issue now? And what is it about GSAs that makes so many otherwise sane politicians lose their minds?

A gay-straight alliance is not a sex club. It’s not a therapy group for LGBTQ kids. It’s not a program of homosexual brainwashing, designed to convert straight kids into queer or trans ones.

A GSA is just a student club, open to any and all who want to join it, gay or straight. That’s the whole point of a gay-straight alliance: to bring gay and straight kids together.

Jason Kenney told the Calgary Herald’s editorial board on Tuesday, March 28, 2017, that schools should inform parents when their kids join gay-straight alliances.

Certainly, a GSA can help gay kids, and kids who are questioning their own sexuality or gender identity, to cope with the weirdness of adolescence, to feel safe and welcome in their own schools.

But GSAs are just as much for their straight classmates — to help them to become more effective and respectful allies in the fight for tolerance, to help them build healthy, supportive relationships with their own queer or trans friends or family.

In a typical high school, I’d warrant, a GSA often has more straight students than gay ones. That’s the whole point — not to ghettoize or segregate, but to bring people together. GSAs aren’t just about political activism or social support — they can also be about dances and bake sales and bowling nights, about having a fun place to hang out at lunch with your friends.

That’s just one reason Kenney’s belief that schools have a duty to inform parents when their kid joins a school club is so disquieting. The last thing we should be doing in 2017 is encouraging schools to perpetuate the belief that being gay is somehow shameful or worrisome, something that should be reported for the child’s own good.

How many straight students will want to join a gay-straight alliance if they know the school will call their parents, insinuating, perhaps, that they’re both gay and emotionally troubled? A GSA doesn’t work without straight members. And how many will join if they worry their own teachers or principals will “out” them — erroneously? All kids — straight as well as gay — should be able to join a social club without that kind of embarrassment.

If Jason Kenney wants to be premier some day, he’d be better off focussing on his relations with the Wildrose, or on rebuilding depleted Progressive Conservative Party coffers, or, say, on critiquing NDP economic policy.”

Still, that’s far from the most troubling message in Kenney’s position. Schools, he says, should let parents know if their kids join GSAs — unless those parents are abusive. But how are staff always supposed to know, definitively, which parents are abusive — especially in a huge urban high school? How are staff to guess which parents could become distraught or dangerous on hearing the news that their kid might be gay? When we privilege parents’ “right to know” ahead of a child’s right to be safe, we genuinely put some students at real physical and emotional risk.

I don’t believe GSAs should be mandatory. They must evolve organically. If the students themselves aren’t interested in forming a club, holding meetings, hosting events, they won’t work. Even GSAs that start with a burst of enthusiasm and goodwill can fizzle if course work gets too heavy, if the founding students graduate, if the kids get bored and lose interest or find other extracurricular things they’d rather do.

But why should publicly funded schools treat GSAs differently than they’d treat any other student-led club? Why, that is, unless deep deep down, we still do believe that it is, in fact, a shameful, dangerous thing to be gay — or to associate with gay friends.

If Kenney wants to be premier some day, he’d be better off focusing on his relations with the Wildrose, or on rebuilding depleted Progressive Conservative party coffers, or, say, on critiquing NDP economic policy. Then, maybe, he could leave the business of who joins which clubs to high school kids — who seem to have the maturity to manage this issue with more tolerance and social aplomb than most of the adults around them.

#EraseHate, Not People

MSF Supporters:

We have had some really amazing wins lately. The ACA is still in place, keeping some of the most vulnerable members of our communities safe and healthy. The travel ban has been halted, ensuring our Muslim brothers and sisters are not unrightfully discriminated against. And the FBI is finally probing Trump’s associates to really get to the bottom of Russia’s involvement in his administration and election.

Unfortunately, there is another side to that coin. Just this week, Trump struck LGBTQ data collection from the 2020 census. He is trying to erase us, and we will not have it! We are supposed to be erasing hate, not creating it or erasing populations of people.

He also signed an Executive Order today that reverses one that Obama put into place. And that order protected certain workers from being discriminated against. Lambda Legal called it a “very disturbing” order that will give federal contractors a large loophole through which to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

The Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order required that companies receiving large federal contracts be able to demonstrate that they have complied for at least three years with 14 federal laws, several of which prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender stereotyping, or gender identity.

We can’t stand for this. Today, can you donate $10, $25, or $50 to help us continue revving up our hate crimes work and help us get the message to Washington: We will not stand for hateful executive orders. We will continue to work towards erasing hate and not erasing people or workers.

As always, thank you for your support. Keep resisting. It’s working.

Onward,
The MSF Team