Eckburg: Generation Z started the gender discussion

Bella Eckburg

A Pride flag is waved outside the Colorado State Capitol in Denver Nov. 7. (Lucy Morantz | The Collegian)

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Generation Z, or Gen Z, is characterized as any person born between 1997 and the early 2010s and, therefore, Gen Z is representative of the majority of current college students in the U.S.  

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In the past, many have identified sex and gender as synonymous terms, but we now know that sex is biologically determined while gender is differentiated and influenced by social factors

Gender identity exists on a spectrum, with both ends being male and female.

Gen Z has been crucial in the normalization of that definition and in freely discussing gender identity. Millions of college students are currently working to find themselves, their gender identity and the expression of that identity, which are crucial factors in shaping the perception of self that is needed for a well-balanced life.

Gen Z has put in the work to make exploring one’s gender identity an experience that is far from lonely.”  

LGBTQ+ youth should not have to feel as though they have to keep their gender identity a secret, and Gen Z has repeatedly asserted the fact that having a gender identity that differs from your assigned sex is not wrong whatsoever. Even scientific research asserts that normalcy.

According to research done for Science Daily, the brains of transgender people, seen on both the activity and structural levels, resemble the gender identity that they assign themselves as opposed to the gender norms associated with their assigned sex.

Adding to the normalization of differing gender identities, LGBTQ+ people have found themselves represented in the mainstream media more often. Gender identity is being portrayed more accurately instead of being used to create caricatures that contribute to the reinforcement of negative stereotypes about the LGBTQ+ community.

The LGBTQ+ community has worked tirelessly toward progress in attaining equal rights and representation, along with the overall acceptance of their respective gender identities.

Exploring your gender and sexual identity can be extremely difficult, especially if you feel alone in that exploration. 

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “LGBTQ+ individuals are three times as likely to experience a mental health disorder in comparison to individuals that identify as straight. Approximately 40% of LGBTQ+ adults had a mental illness in the past year, in comparison to the 18% of total adults who faced a mental illness in the past year.”

This is telling of the experiences of the LGBTQ+ community regarding discrimination and harassment due to their gender and sexual identity.

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Gen Z has put in the work to make exploring one’s gender identity an experience that is far from lonely.  

Thanks to the vastness of social media, those who are questioning their gender identity are able to reach out and contact people who are going through the same thing or have experienced something similar. 

Gen Z is more likely to report their mental health, which allows for a peer environment that is more inclusive, honest and willing to listen. Our generation has allowed for the discussion of mental health to move away from being a taboo and into something that is widely recognized as a shared experience.

You are not alone in your search to better understand yourself in every aspect of your life and especially in your gender identity exploration and how you express that identity.”

There have been a lot of attacks on LGBTQ+ rights, and especially transgender rights, from Donald Trump’s administration, but Gen Z has been extremely vocal in supporting LGBTQ+ youth and advocating for the equality of all people, regardless of their gender or sexual identity. 

@hannahslxan

Gen Z memes are my favorite #humanrights #genz #transrightsarehumanrights #lgbtqia #gettinshitdone

♬ original sound – Kenzie

Although a lot still needs to be done to ensure the rights of members of the LGBTQ+ community are protected under law, Gen Z makes sure that members of the community know that they are protected in their social and personal lives. 

It has been said before, but I’ll gladly repeat the sentiment: You are not alone.

You are not alone in your search to better understand yourself in every aspect of your life and especially in your gender identity exploration and how you express that identity. 

There is still so much more to be done to ensure the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, but with the help of Gen Z, members of that community can have the knowledge that our generation will stand behind them in their journey to equal rights and protections under the eyes of the government.

You are seen, you are heard and you are loved. You are never alone, and your gender identity is completely valid, regardless of your assigned sex. The fight for equal protection and rights is not over, but with the recognition given to the community by an entire generation, you can feel secure in the knowledge that you are backed by a generation attempting to put love and equality over traditional ideals created by prior generations.

There is still work to be done, but Gen Z is imperative in the normalization of exploring one’s gender identity, and future generations will only grow more accepting as they learn from Gen Z’s actions.

Bella Eckburg can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @yaycolor.