Dear Gen Z,
I’ve always hated labels. I find the word so taxing and intrusive. But then again, I grew up in a generation where labels were for gender and sexuality, not designer clothes and pre-packaged kale salads. See, I spent more than a decade struggling inside the closet—masking my giggles with grunts and pushing my (rather) excitable hands into the dark recesses of my back pockets every time someone as much as cocked an eyebrow during a conversation. Coming out, for me, wasn’t a spontaneous whim; it was a 12-step program. There were best-by dates and worst-case scenarios, friends on speed dial, and anxiety in slow motion.
And then, the millennium turned and so did our youth. I realise that it isn’t really that difficult anymore—because now, queer isn’t alien. Queer is cool. Coming from a generation where being different meant that you had to be a brain, a basket case, a princess or a criminal, your Breakfast Club of non-binary folx has made sure that no one has to conform anymore, or for that matter, write an essay about it to explain themselves. You see the world the way you see yourself—in the simplest of terms, in the most convenient of definitions. And these definitions are not bound in a book, but constantly evolving, changing, transforming, subject to change. When we were teenagers or in our early 20s, being queer meant attaching the simplistic labels of gay, lesbian or bi to our identities, but you guys have realised how sexuality is a lot more complicated than that. And you explore this in a way that’s casual.
The internet may have played the largest role in shaping this journey of self-discovery for you, opening doors to gender and sexual identity. For a generation that has meet-cutes on Snapchat and flirts entirely with memes, technology has revolutionised the coming out experience. Coming-of-age isn’t a celebration, it’s a Tumblr reblog. There are fewer stares, more shares.
You changed the queer language, kid (raise your hands if you think language is a construct). Thanks for making the queer lexicon, a queer lex-ICON. I say that because you didn’t just make the future fluid. You made it intersectional. You made it identifiable. But most importantly, you made it inclusive. Whoever called you Generation Z, and not Generation We?
Maybe you won’t be the generation that rids the world of sexual and gender binaries completely. Our world is still far too young for that. But that said, you are definitely on to something—and it’s phenomenal. Borrowing words from the Generation Z icon Ariana Grande, I can only say one thing: Thank U, Next (Generation). I’m looking at you to make this a whole lot easier for the generations that come after you. Make it worthwhile, because they really shouldn’t be putting their hands in their back pockets.
Because unfortunately, that fad will never be in fashion.
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