In their new book “When Millennials Rule: the Reshaping of America,” David and Jack Cahn, 20-year-old, identical twin journalists and undergraduates at the University of Pennsylvania, investigate what will happen to the political culture in the United States when their generation is in charge.
The Cahn brothers spent five years investigating the “political identity” of the millennial generation, those born anytime from the early ‘80s to about 2000. They traveled across the country and talked to more than 10,000 young people about their views. The Cahns, both straight, drew interesting conclusions about LGBT millennials as well.
But do their conclusions about LGBT millennials and their allies ring true? The answer seems to be yes.
A large focus of the Cahns’ book is how technology has shaped and defined the millennial mindset. David Cahn says that technology has also made the process of coming out easier because you can inform a larger group of your LGBT status rather than having to spread the news by word of mouth.
Sultan Shakir, executive director of Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders (SMYAL), an organization that works with LGBT youth, says technology is largely responsible for the way millennials view the world.
“What we’re seeing with millennials is a desire for equality and a voice that is amplified more than other generations due to social media and other technology,” Shakir says.
Soleil Solomon, a 21-year-old transgender woman and Cinema Studies major at Oberlin College, agrees. She says that technology has empowered millennials, making them more open minded.
“With the rise in use of social media and methods of communication, we’re able to understand experiences that have formerly been seen as completely foreign to us,” Solomon says. “As a result, when we consider our identities within a greater societal framework, we have more breathing room to consider why we hold certain views.”
Cahn also notes that social media has made the question of LGBT rights a more personal one.
“Seeing photos of LGBT friends online makes this a personal issue for many straight Americans,” he says. “[This has] helped accelerate the rate at which our generation has welcomed and been supportive of the LGBT community.”
Nora Bess, a 20-year-old, queer communications major at the University of Texas, Austin, points out how dating apps like Tinder and Grindr have helped normalize LGBT relationships and dating.
“As problematic as they might be, Tinder and Grindr bring non-heteronormative sexuality out of the dark,” she says. “Before, there was this whole mentality that LGBT sexuality was OK as long as it wasn’t on display.”
She says the upcoming election makes this more crucial than ever.
“We’re in a time when LGBT folks, people of color and other minorities have never had such visibility and such legal protections,” she says. “That scares a lot of people. Donald Trump is a businessman by trade. His biggest strategy so far has been getting people to buy in based on fear.”
In their most recent research, the Cahns found Trump extremely unpopular among millennials.
David Cahn also sites a recent USA Today and Rock the Vote poll that shows that voters under 35 would choose Hillary Clinton over Trump by 52 percent.
“A big reason Trump is failing so spectacularly to attract millennial voters is that his divisive rhetoric about gays, blacks, Hispanics and immigrants is repulsive to a generation that believes so fundamentally in the importance of diversity and accepting people for who they are,” he says.
Frankie Yara Colon, a 22-year-old queer, gender-non-conforming, musician and artist from Amherst, Mass., agrees with Cahn’s analysis about Trump, but as a Latinx person, Colon thinks his popularity represents something far more sinister than just a violation of millennial values.
“Trump [represents] millions of people actively condoning murder and displacement of marginalized peoples,” Colon says. “[He is] a clear mirror of the most warped parts of the American consciousness surrounding the treatment of bodies that have been historically and [are] currently contested.”
Colon has been heartbroken by Trump’s success, but despite having grown up in a largely white and conservative community, Colon has seen very few millennials supporting Trump.
But could Trump’s failure among millennials be because they are generally more accepting than Gen Xers or Baby Boomers, the two generations preceding them?
The Cahns certainly think so. They concluded that the millennial generation is the most LGBT-friendly generation in history. A recent Reuters poll finds 54 percent of Americans and 56 percent of millennials think that businesses should not be able to refuse services to LGBT people on the basis of religious beliefs.
Shakir agrees with the Cahns. In his experience at SMYAL, he’s seen that millennials are generally more accepting of LGBT people. Colon also agrees.
“During the Bush era, I remember there being so much resistance toward LGBT people,” Colon says. “‘Gay’ was still all the kids’ favorite word to throw around at something slightly uncomfortable or odd. Dialogue around trans people was non-existent.”
Colon says within the last five years they have seen a lot of their peers have a change of heart as they enter the world.
The increase in acceptance is also due to the fact that, according to David Cahn and a poll conducted by the Williams Institute, 7 percent of people aged 18-35 identify as LGBT, as compared with 4 percent of Americans overall.
Shakir says these statistics ring true. He says there’s no doubt that more millennials are more out than previous generations.
“Some of that is due to increased acceptance … and some is due to an increased spotlight,” he says.
Solomon agrees. She says that because information is readily available to more people than ever before, millennials are able to read about and understand their identities more fully.
“Instead of suppressing their feelings, they are able to reach out to others and confide in them,” Solomon says. “This confidence allows for a bigger and more accepting community.”
With this information, Colon thinks millennials have potential to reform the actions of the previous generation because their “failings are so clear in front of us.”
“A lot of [progress] can be accredited to social media and increased visibility, bringing realizations that they already know, love and could be hurting LGBT people in their lives,” Colon says. “A lot of it is stepping into a world that no longer belongs to our parents and realizing there’s so much to reckon with.”