Understanding Generational Gaps in LGBTQIA+ Communities

The LGBTQIA+ community has existed across generations and diverse cultures. This community is not a new societal development, although they may have used different language to describe themselves, their sexual orientations, and their gender identities in the past.

Over the past couple of decades, society has made dramatic progress when it comes to accepting and celebrating LGBTIA+ individuals for who they are. While there is still progress to be made, there’s no doubt that societal acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community has improved significantly. However, these cultural shifts have created a generational gap within the LGBTQIA+ community. Older individuals had wildly divergent life experiences compared to those who have come out in recent years, and this can lead to misunderstandings within the community. Here are a few reasons for the generational gaps in LGBTQIA+ communities.

Reduced Prejudice and Discrimination in Society

Today, LGBTQIA+ individuals still face prejudice and discrimination. But older generations dealt with a culture that was far more hostile to their mere existence. Many LGBTQIA+ individuals were rejected or disowned by their families, stayed in the closet for decades because coming out could mean an imminent threat to their physical safety, or struggled to find stable employment or housing due to their identities. They may feel that younger people in the LGBTQIA+ community simply do not grasp their experiences or understand how drastically circumstances have changed.

Importance of “Gay Neighborhoods” and Physical Communities

Gay neighborhoods, sometimes referred to as “gayborhoods,” still exist today. However, they do not have the same status within the community. In the past, LGBTQIA+ people who were not accepted in their hometowns and had the means to leave often flocked to specific neighborhoods where other LGBTQIA+ people had already congregated.

In these neighborhoods, they found a more welcoming atmosphere, as well as spaces dedicated to their own community where they could meet other people who truly understood them. Today, young LGBTQIA+ people may be more likely to turn to online spaces to find community. Meanwhile, some historically gay neighborhoods are shrinking or even disappearing.

The Ability to Safely Question Your Identity

Nowadays, it’s more acceptable for young people to question their identities. They may have several trusted adults in their lives who they can share their feelings with. In the past, this situation was much rarer. Many people felt that they could never express their doubts about their orientation or identity. If they did, it would be dismissed as a “phase” at best. At worst, it could result in familial abandonment or forced conversion therapy.

Memory of the AIDS Crisis

The impact of the AIDS crisis on the LGBTQIA+ community cannot be understated. This community’s suffering was dismissed for a long time. The response to the crisis also set back LGTQIA+ acceptance. Lots of LGBTQIA+ individuals lost many of their closest friends. Some were forced to come out when they discovered they were HIV+. Younger LGBTQIA+ individuals did not share in this experience and may not realize how much was lost during the crisis.

Acceptance of Gay Marriage

When gay marriage became legal nationwide, LGBTQIA+ individuals suddenly had the freedom to marry their partners. This changed the approach to family formation in the LGBTQIA+ community. It was far easier to gain legal protections for partnership, seek fertility treatments to have children, or pursue adoption. In the past, many LGBTQIA+ people remained stuck in loveless marriages, stayed single, or were unable to form families of their own after being rejected from their families of origin. This change may have diminished the importance of “found families” of friends, which were previously integral support systems within the community.

Are you questioning your sexual orientation or gender identity? Working with a therapist can help you gain clarity. Reach out to us to learn more about our services for LGBTQIA+ individuals.