No, we’re not how we are because “it’s trendy.” Queer people have always been around, but it’s evident that people feel more comfortable with their queerness than ever. In fact, 1 in 6 Gen Z adults identify as a part of the LGBTQ+ Community, with that number very likely to grow.
Sure, terms like “gay,” “lesbian,” “bisexual,” and “transgender” are relatively known, but newer terms, such as “pansexual,” “cisgender,” “nonbinary,” or “genderfluid” are lesser known, often causing confusion and ridicule about the queer community. Considering the diversity within the queer community and how often new terms and identities come into play, it is very important to keep an open mind and be sensitive to how others may identify. This is easier said than done.
I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by people of many different identities. I have bi, gay, pan, trans, nonbinary, genderfluid, and asexual friends. So, I’m fairly accustomed to many terms used by the LGBTQ+ community. However, the same cannot be said for everyone. I remember when a friend of mine came out as nonbinary, I adjusted fairly easily to using their pronouns. However, I remember explaining to my dad why my friend didn’t use “she/her” pronouns anymore and opted for “they/them” pronouns instead. Seeing as he came from a generation where being non-cisgender was not really a thing, the adjustment to my friend’s pronouns was difficult. However, I approached this topic with compassion and now he uses their pronouns correctly a majority of the time. Educating others about the LGBTQ+ community and showing compassion is one of the easiest ways to be an ally. By spreading awareness and understanding about our community, we destigmatize being non-cisgender or not straight.
Another way to be a better ally to the queer community is by standing up for the community. Unfortunately, many people still do not see being queer as “normal.” Instead, it is seen by many as something negative. Others may even say that there are so many queer people in Gen Z because “it’s trendy.” These negative ideas being pushed about our community are harmful. So, if you ever hear someone say something negative about the community, speak up. Perhaps, if someone says that so many Gen Z’ers are queer because it’s trendy, mention how much more accepting people generally are now than they used to be. Little things like standing up for the community can go far and do matter.
One great way to be an ally to the LGBTQ+ community is something so simple. Don’t assume everyone you know is straight. I found it particularly harmful to my mental health growing up queer when everyone assumed I was straight. I would panic any time someone would ask me what girl I was crushing on. The reality is that there is a fairly good chance your friend isn’t straight. Instead of asking your friend if they have a girlfriend or boyfriend, ask them if they have a “partner” or “significant other.” This can relieve the stress of trying to fit into the heteronormative agenda.
Lastly, one of the best ways to be a better ally to the queer community is by breaking stereotypes. Not all gay men are feminine, not all lesbian women are masculine, and not all nonbinary people are androgynous. There is no “man and woman” in a gay relationship. These stereotypes pushed by media can be harmful to the queer community because no two queer people look or act alike. We are all unique in our own ways, and that needs to be recognized.
If you or someone you know is struggling, reach out. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7/365 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also call The Trevor Project, an organization which specializes in suicide prevention and crisis intervention for LGBTQ+ youth, at 866-488-7386. You are never alone.