Are LGBT millennials out of touch with their history? This can be a difficult question to quantify, for a portion of such a small portion of the population. However, millennial LGBT popular culture, is one of the things reflective of what this generation of community members prioritize.
As a lesbian, this reporter can attest to two growing trends among millennials throughout popular LGBT culture: one, a positive, is the discovering and honoring of historic, LGBT community members, such as recognizing the founders of the Stonewall movement: Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. The other trend, however, is frighteningly detrimental, and is that many LGBT millennials are forgetting the history of crucial movements throughout LGBT history, such as the AIDS crisis.
Samata Allen, a bisexual UNCG freshman, noted that he believes that LGBT millennials such as himself, are heavily influenced in their knowledge of LGBT history, by the LGBT media that they consume.
“The only thing I really know about our history is what I hear from movies. Like, for example, I didn’t know about the Stonewall riots until “Stonewall,” came out; I didn’t know about any of the activists in that. I didn’t know about a lot of activism in the UK, until I watched this movie called, “Pride,” so, a lot of information I get, is from the movies I watch. And, I think a lot of the reason millennials don’t know don’t know much about our history, is because we’re not taught that. It was taboo for a while, and non-straight sexualities are slowly becoming more accepted, but it’s still not taught. We don’t know a lot about the activism of a lot of previous generations,” said Allen.
The way in which the media does and does not cover LGBT history, is a concern that
Katherine, a bisexual UNCG student, (who wished to only be referred to by her first name) believes affects LGBT millennials’ knowledge of their history.
“I feel like, with Stonewall, we need to remember that, first of all, a majority of black trans women and black lesbians led the movement, it was an incredibly diverse movement, but, I feel like, because of what we see so much in media, because there’s a lot of coverage, mostly focussed on white lesbians or white gay people — and while there are prominent black, trans women in the media like Laverne Cox — because media has a tendency to only focus on white gay people, some of the history of that diversity is whitewashed,” said Katherine.
The activism of older generations of LGBT people, Allen noted, is something he was not aware of, specifically in regards to the AIDS crisis.
“I just knew AIDS existed, I didn’t know how bad of a situation was. I understood that there had always been contraceptive, but, one thing I didn’t understand was that people didn’t always use it, so, a lot of people were affected by it [AIDS]. It’s just, something you know, but it never hits you until you hear about someone else’s experience with it. And I guess, since a lot of people died who had it [AIDS] and a lot of young LGBT people don’t know much about it now, it doesn’t hit you very hard. Going bareback — where you don’t use a condom — is coming back with a lot of popularity now, and it’s really concerning, because, the AIDS crisis was not too far behind in the past for it to potentially start up again.”
The root of LGBT millennial ignorance about their history, Katherine believes, is that they are not taught LGBT history in the formative years of their education.
“First of all, I feel like a lot of people, due to education, you know, we have public education, aren’t taught these things. I didn’t know about the Stonewall movement until I got to college, and I was taught it during my college course, I knew about the AIDS crisis, just from being taught by my parents, but I had never really learned about that in school. I feel like, as this generation progresses, and we create a generation of teachers, and, people who are LGBT, and will go on to create amazing careers, we’re going to have more of that awareness in schools. I feel like, this generation of racist and homophobic baby boomers is fading now, I mean, there’s always going to be racist and homophobic people, but, they’re definitely going to be minimized, at least, in comparison to the generation our parents were raised by. I have hope about it, I feel like things are getting better, I feel like, there have been a lot of setbacks, but, we’re also improving [and] creating a more open-minded generation. And as millennials, you know, we’re kind of, we’re questioning what we were taught, and we’re learning to trust one another, and rely on each other as allies, but, at least for right now, I think all we can do is try to teach that history, and to spread awareness,” said Katherine.