DOMA: Why Millennials Are Way Ahead of Their Parents on Gay Rights
The Millennial generation is often referred to as the ‘screwed generation’ thanks in large part to our debt and inability to get a job. Articles have been written about our waning optimism for the future and the utter hopelessness it holds for us, but that’s not the Millennial generation I know. We have broken away from our parents in astonishing numbers on the issue of gay marriage. Our influence on American politics has been felt, we have helped to shape the debate on marriage equality.
Seventy-percent of Millennials support same-sex marriage. Politicians cannot ignore those numbers. They know that our use of social media creates a critical mass that is responsible for what the media chooses to talk about. No longer can public policy makers ignore the voices of young Americans. Individuals born between 1980 and 1991 made up 64 million potential voters in 2012, that’s a hard number to ignore.
Why do Millennials feel so differently than our parents do about gay marriage? We were part of the first generation to see positive gay role models reflected in our media. TV shows now are more likely to depict gay characters alongside straight characters with more realistic story lines. Meaning story lines where gay characters are not trivialized and over stereotyped. Beginning in the early 1990s TV shows like My So Called Life and Real World, sought to explore gay teens in America which helped Millennials to identify gay culture as part of a normal adolescent experience.
We saw the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard which taught us about the destructive and deadly force of hate; the majority of us have rejected that narrative. We are a generation that believes vehemently in the power of self-expression and change. We are more ethnically and racially diverse, less religious and we will be the most education generation in American history.
Our self-expression and willingness to share who we are with social networks means that we have a more complete understanding of the diverse culture that surrounds us. Our generation saw the first LGBT Student Alliances and our schools adopted more progressive attitudes before our very eyes. We also saw that we could affect change using social-media and that knowledge is powerful. It means we are more likely to speak out and in favor of the things we believe in. Our idealism is our strength.
The connection we have to social media, our peers, and popular culture encourages us to be more open and receptive to social changes. We see gay culture as part of our culture. It is more of a social-norm for Millennials than it is for our parents. Millennials positive views on gay marriage largely coincide with our relationship with a close friend or family member who is gay.
Millennials are just distinctively different from our parents and elders when it comes to the issue of gay marriage. The way we were raised and the images that we saw growing up helped to normalize the gay experience. There is still much work to be done but hopefully our children will know a society of even greater inclusivity and diversity.