In recognition of Pride Month, this edition’s Millennial Pulse is about those among our generation who identify as LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning/queer). And, compared to the number of out individuals in prior generations, that goes for a lot of us.
The estimates for just how many among the Millennial generation – which includes those aged 22 to 37 – identify as LGBTQ vary wildly. For example, GLAAD published a survey by Harris Poll in 2017 that found as many as 20% of Millennials identify as LGBTQ. The national polling organization Gallup posted an estimate in May that found 8.1% of Millennials identify as LGBT. That’s quite a difference, so which is closer to the truth?
There are a number of factors to consider, including the number of individuals surveyed in each poll. GLAAD surveyed 2,037 U.S. adults, while Gallup surveyed 340,000. However, also consider that Gallup significantly limited its rainbow by not including “questioning” or “queer” as a possible identifier. Queer is a term often used by individuals who feel other LGBT identifiers are too limiting or do not quite describe them accurately.
In any case, both surveys agreed on one major point – that there are more Millennials who outwardly identify as LGBT/LGBTQ than among older generations. Gallup found that, in 2017, 3.5% of Generation X and 2.4% of Baby Boomers described themselves as LGBT.
“I would venture to say that there are not more LGBTQ Millennials now when compared to previous generations, but there are more openly LGBTQ Millennials because people are coming out younger,” said Porter Gilberg, executive director of The LGBTQ Center Long Beach. The nonprofit provides free and low-cost resources to Long Beach’s LGBTQ community. “As we make more social and legal advances, and as there’s more visibility in the world of people who are openly LGBTQ, it creates a more robust and safer environment for folks to come out.”
For a brief moment, it looked as though the federal government might step in to collect more definitive data around the LGBTQ population in the United States. During the Obama Administration, at least four federal agencies queried the Census Bureau about collecting more data on LGBTQ Americans in its 2020 American Community Survey, according to NPR.
In 2017, under the Trump administration, the Census Bureau ultimately decided only to include questions about LGBTQ people in relationships, which will leave a large swath of the community unaccounted for. No prior Census has included any LGBTQ-specific questions at all.
For Gilberg, the limited decision equates to erasure of an entire community. “That is really an issue that I [feel] has to do with erasure, because if the data isn’t there then people don’t exist,” he said. “The erasure, from my view, is part of a broader agenda to reduce resources for our community.”
Research shows that LGBTQ people experience greater social and economic disparities, including higher rates of homelessness and poverty, and an increased likelihood to be the victim of hate crimes and domestic violence, Gilberg explained. “When you don’t have [federal] data that empirically substantiates that, there’s not a need for funding to support those communities to increase equity and reduce negative life outcomes,” he pointed out.
Recent studies by TD Bank and TD Ameritrade found that LGBTQ Millennials experience greater financial instability than their peers. A 2018 survey found that LGBTQ Millennials earn on average about $8,400 less per year. The same report found only 29% of LGBTQ Millennials felt financially secure. Meanwhile, the popularity of wealthy LGBTQ individuals in the media has created what Gilberg referred to as the “gay money myth,” or a perception that LGBTQ individuals are wealthier than others. “However, the reality is when you look at the LGBTQ community broadly, there are significant income disparities,” he said.
Gilberg said that many of the core issues the LGBTQ community has faced over the generations still exist. Hate crimes against the community have increased in the past year, and in L.A. County LGBTQ people were the second-most frequently targeted group for hate violence, he emphasized. Fear is still being used as a rallying tool to enact discriminatory policies, Gilberg said, citing the Trump administration’s military ban on transgender individuals as an example.
While the entire community is contending with these challenges, the different generations among the LGBTQ population bring a different set of life experiences to them. Those in the Stonewall generation, who came of age at or before the time of the 1969 Stonewall uprising, grew up prior to any social or legal protections for LGBTQ people, Gilberg said.
“When we think of the Stonewall generation, we are talking about a generation who by virtue of our culture was very often subjected to really intense trauma and oppression,” Gilberg said. Millennials, on the other hand, were born when the first laws to protect LGBTQ rights were being written. “We’re talking about people who grew up and maybe had to wait 20 to 30 years to see marriage equality, whereas our older generation has waited two or three generations to see that,” Gilberg noted.
Some elders in the LGBTQ community do feel, perhaps because of these differences, that the Millennials among them aren’t doing enough, Gilberg observed. “But there are just as many Millennial LGBTQ people and younger who are very active in their communities, that are leaders in their communities making great strides,” he said. “Every generation has people who ride on the coat tails of the people who are leading a movement. . . . But every generation also has a significant number of leaders who step up to the plate and do good in their communities.”
Of interest to Long Beach LGBTQ Millennials: The Center has a social group called 20-Somethings that meets regularly to help connect post-high school adults with others in their community. Joel Gemino, The Center’s youth services manager, noted that the program helps young adults to connect and make new friends outside of a school setting, which can be difficult for any person transitioning to adulthood. For more information about The Center’s programs, visit centerlb.org.