Young People Are Queerer Than Ever, But They Aren't Using Traditional Labels

By Sarah Karlan, BuzzFeed News Reporter

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 Accelerating 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."

Read the full report by clicking here.