Who would have thought decades ago that the traditional norms of relationships would evolve into what we experience and enjoy today?
Think about it. Several decades ago, this is how relationships unfolded. Boy meets girl; boy dates girl; boy and girl fall in love; boy proposes marriage and girl accepts; boy and girl live happily ever after. And every romcom we watched followed this same pattern. It’s what we grew up to believe was the normal progression of things.
Welcome to the 21st Century
“The Times They are a ‘Changin’” is the title of a Bob Dylan song of the 60s, but it could not be any more relevant than it is today. We are in a new era of the definition of relationships, largely as the result of Gen Z and its influence on our societal norms, values, and principles.
What are the Values and Principles of Gen Z?
While older generations tend to criticize Gen Z as the coddled and lazy generation, this is not the reality. In fact, a recent study by Stanford University concludes that Gen Z’ers are self-drivers; they care about all people; they are social and collaborative; they want people to be authentic; and they accept all people no matter what their status, racial, or gender identity; and they are happy and willing to work on their own terms and willing to work on the challenges and issues they have inherited from previous generations.
How refreshing actually.
How Gen Z Values Translate to Relationships
One of the key things about Gen Z is this: they have grown up in a digital world and they have exposed themselves to people the world over – their cultures, their values, and their ways of life. This has given them a valuable perspective on diversity, and that translates to their perspectives on relationships in general.
Gen Z’ers generally have this view – everyone has the right to whichever relationships they want and need. And all relationships are valid and to be equally accepted, tolerated, and valued. Further, no one has the right to judge anyone else for their gender identity or preferences in dating or romance.
How Older Generations Will Respond
Probably not well in many circumstances. Let’s have a look:
Millennials: By and large, millennials, aged 26-42, hold many of the same views as Gen Z’ers. They too have grown up exposed to a much wider world than their parents or grandparents and as a group tend to be far more progressive in their viewpoints. Excluded from this are those millennials who continue to hold to traditional and conservative political, Christian, and societal beliefs regarding love and relationships. This generation is not largely represented in government, at least not at the state or federal levels, so how they will ultimately impact laws and policies is not yet known.
Gen X: This generation (aged 43-58) is heavily in the workforce and many of them do hold government offices, at local, state, and federal levels. They are more conservative than millennials and Gen Z, but they tend not to be as hard-core in their criticism and disdain for the gay movement, unless, like in other generations, they are parts of social and religious communities that condemn that lifestyle.
Boomers: People in this age bracket (59-77) grew up without a digital window into the world. They were latecomers to the Internet, and they grew up in a time when gay activity was illegal and considered a mental illness. Many of them still hold to these beliefs, and they make up more than half of the U.S. Congress. Despite federal laws and court decisions that have codified gay rights in America, they are not likely, as a group, to press for greater equality.
The Far-Right Conservative Movement in the U.S.
Between January and April 2023, 417 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced at the state level – more than double the number during all of 2022. And that number continues to rise as we get closer to the end of the year.
The two largest categories of bills have been focused on health care for transgender youth and education. And seriously restrictive laws in these categories have been passed in eleven states.
A third category of laws has specifically targeted the transgender population, banning performances in public venues and the popular activity of trans holding story-time for young children in public libraries.
Here are some more specific laws in each of these categories:
Education: It began with the infamous phrase “Don’t say gay” out of Florida. These laws now forbid teachers from discussing gender identities in classrooms, require teachers to inform parents if their children begin to use different pronouns to identify themselves, and require that their classroom curriculum be made publicly available, including all books and other literature that will be used.
Now, there is nothing wrong with the public revelation of curricula – school districts have always had policies of transparency in this regard. The problem comes when districts allow a parent to object to any specific part of the curriculum and to have that deleted because it might “encourage” their child to be influenced to become gay. The end result is that all children (and their parents) must live with the objections of one or a few parents.
Book banning has become the norm in many school districts, including many children’s books that have been classics for years. Again, individual parents have the right to object to a book, and it is pulled from the school library, restricting access to other students whose parents prize that book.
Healthcare: Most of the laws passed this year regulate or ban access to gender-affirming care for minors, even if their parents consent to such treatment. Gender-affirming care is anything that helps a person transition from their birth gender to that of their new, preferred gender.
Even though the majority of Americans oppose laws that criminalize gender-affirming care, they are being passed in many states. This forces minors and their parents to travel to other states to receive such care.
Anti-Trans: There are about 2 million trans in the U.S. They hold regular jobs; they pay taxes; they live normal lives according to their gender identity; and they engage in Taimi trans dating online. A certain portion of this population engages in entertainment – singing and dancing in shows. In recent years, they have come under the scrutiny of conservative lawmakers.
Anti-trans laws now restrict everything from participation in sports to the use of bathrooms in public schools.
And for the adult trans population? Laws in several states ban them from performing in public, especially where children might be present. The justification is that this might result in “grooming” of children to become transgender themselves, despite all of the medical and scientific evidence to the contrary.
So, Where Are We Now?
The verdict is still out. In many ways, the LGBTQ+ community has made great progress in the areas of tolerance and acceptance in the past 50 years. And Gen Z will ultimately foster greater tolerance, equality, and acceptance as it comes of age and begins to take control.
In the meantime, however, the community must face the scorn and repression of highly conservative lawmakers, as well as religious groups, who continue to make their lives more difficult and challenging.