Kids seem to understand that sexuality isn’t always black and white
In past generations (and sadly still today, but less so), those who didn’t fall into the cis-gendered and heterosexual buckets of identities were expected—for the most part—to reject or push down those parts of themselves and live out the roles of being cis-gendered and heterosexual. In other words, they stayed in the closet. And, if they wanted others to know they identified as anything BUT those things, they needed to say so plainly and overtly. Out loud. And over and over… and over.
I think the norm might be changing. My fifth grader already has friends who identify as a sexuality other than heterosexual. And there wasn’t some statement or “coming out,” they just have always been that way. I suspect that today’s kids won’t experience the same timeline of ‘before coming out’ and ‘after coming out’ like we did. Sure, the environments in which they’re raised GREATLY impact their emotional safety in this process… and I’m simply talking about my own child and the kids she knows. Those with the privilege of being able to openly be something other than straight.
People in their 30s and 40s today were the first generation to hear the term ‘gender isn’t a binary.’ While above I’m discussing sexuality (not gender), the concept of a range of identities remains the same. My child—without me telling her—seems to understand naturally that the concept of sexuality isn’t rigid or black and white. And those who identify as hetero have only had sexual feelings about the opposite gender. Not to indicate I think everyone is bisexual, nor does my daughter or her friends… I am simply stating what I observe: the realities of the complexities of sexuality seem to be naturally apparent to them. This is opposed to humans learning one correct way to be, and when faced with the idea that they or someone they know falls outside of that way, having to adjust to “accept” or “tolerate” it.
Additionally, I am observing kids these days do not make one identity of a person the overpowering or all-encompassing one. When they do have a friend who’s gay, it’s not their “gay friend.” Just this morning, my daughter said about her friend (whom I have known for years), “well, she’s gay.” I said, “Since when?” and my daughter responded with a side eye and “uuuhhhh, since…. forever?” I was surprised I didn’t know this basic thing about this girl. But also proud that it meant so little it hadn’t come up in conversation.
It’s true that “youth today” get a bad rep no matter what year it is. People hated “kids these days” in the 50s, 70s, 90s, and we do today, too. It’s also true that the younger generations are making the world a better place. And, I, for one, am here for it.