Issue 30 | Winter 2021
MATT NEWBURY EXPLORES THE BRAVE NEW WORLD OF THE SEX EDUCATION GENERATION, FOR WHOM SEXUALITY AND GENDER ARE NO BIG DEAL
The 2021 census, which took place
back in March, was the first one ever
to ask questions about sexual
orientation and gender identity. We
will have to patiently wait until March 2022 for the results, but they are very likely to reveal that there are a lot more LGBTQ+ people in the UK than previously thought.
The statistics will probably mirror the results of a Gallup poll recently released in the US. It revealed that more Americans than ever now identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer. The number who self-identify this way has
increased by a staggering 60% between 2012 and 2020, according to Gallup, with an estimated 18 million Americans now identifying as LGBTQ+.
According to researchers, these findings are partly driven by an emerging generation of
young people, who are choosing to live openly with an identity other than cisgender or heterosexual. Looking at the statistics, about one in six, or 15.9%, of Generation Z respondents (those aged
18 to 23), identified as LGBTQ+, with the
identification gradually declining with each
generation. Just 2% or less of Americans born before 1965 identified as being LGBTQ+. Out of interest, 54% of respondents identified as bisexual, 24.5% as gay, 11.7% as lesbian, and 11.3%
as transgender. A further 3% said they used another term to describe their identity, such as queer or pansexual.
Although it can still obviously be a difficult
journey for some, many Generation Z and
Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) don’t see “coming out” as being a big deal. This is also increasingly the case with younger people in the public eye. There is now a whole generation of celebrities and influencers who have come out and now do a lot of amazing work for LGBTQ+ acceptance.
Popstar, actor and gay rights activist, Olly
Alexander is a perfect example of a new
generation of celebrities who use their influence to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. At the 2016 Glastonbury Festival he took to the stage with
his band Years & Years in a rainbow ensemble in
celebration of Pride Week and made headlines
for his spur of the moment speech reacting to
the appalling Orlando nightclub shootings.
During the band’s 2019 appearance, he gave
another speech promoting LGBTQ+ rights and
calling for the end of racism, ableism and sexism.
Olly Alexander has also taken part in several
interviews and charity campaigns promoting
safer sex, HIV screenings and anti-LGBTQ+
bullying initiatives. He was bullied at school
himself and has spoken openly about his own
struggles with depression, self-harm and eating
disorders. In 2017 he fronted a documentary
where he investigated the link between being gay
and the development of mental health disorders.
At the start of this year, Olly also starred in
the remarkable Channel 4 drama, It’s a Sin.
Written by Russell T Davies and depicting a
group of friends growing up in the shadow of
AIDS in the 1980s and early 1990s, the show and
Alexander’s performance won critical acclaim. It
became Channel 4’s most watched drama series
in its history and led to an increase in people
getting tested for HIV/AIDS and raised
awareness about preventative medication (PrEP)
and the effective treatments now available for
people living with the virus. Although just a
rumour, it has also been suggested that Olly
Alexander could be the next Doctor Who. Now,
wouldn’t a Gaylord Time Lord just be amazing?
Another singer who has made a huge impact
recently is Arlo Parks, whose 2019 EP Super Sad
Generation saw her become the voice of Gen
Z’ers everywhere, with lyrics that took in mental
health, queer identity, friendships, first love and
breakups. Naming both Sylvia Plath and Joni
Mitchell amongst her influences, the openly
bisexual signer doesn’t like to be seen as a
spokesperson for a generation and sees herself
more as a young person writing about the
experiences of being an adolescent in what are,
let’s face it, quite trying times.
Having been forced to cancel her first
headlining European tour midway last year,
Parks has since thrived during lockdown,
releasing two singles, followed by her critically
acclaimed debut album, Collapsed in Sunbeams.
Not bad for someone who says they spent most
of their time in secondary school “feeling like
that black kid who couldn’t dance for shit,
listening to too much emo music and crushing
on some girl in her Spanish class.”
Across the pond, Lil Nas X is still riding high
on the success of Montero (Call me by Your
Name) which has been a number one hit across
the globe. The accompanying video, which first
premiered as a Super Bowl LV commercial, sees
the artist play both Adam and God in anunabashedly queer interpretation of
Michelangelo’s, The Creation of Adam.
On the day of the single’s release, Lil Nas X
shared an open letter with his 14-year-old self on
social media, reflecting on his choice to come
out at an early age (he came out when his country
rap hit Old Town Road was number one) and his
nervousness about the themes of the song and
video. However, he muses, it “will open doors for
many other queer people to simply exist.” While
other artists like Frank Ocean and Troye Sivan
are equally as bold about their sexuality in life
and their music, Lil Nas X is now one of the most
successful stars on the planet. And what is
remarkable is that he has unabashedly stood
astride two of the most traditionally
homophobic genres in music – hip hop and
country music, whilst still being authentic to himself.
Whilst the music industry currently has a
healthy number of LGBTQ+ performers,
Hollywood still remains remarkably closeted.
Thank goodness for actors like Elliot Page, who
has “come out” twice in his career – he came out
as gay in 2014 and then disclosed that he is
transgender in a heartfelt letter posted on
Instagram in December of last year. At a time
when gender identity issues have become
increasingly politicised thanks to the unwelcome
involvement of everyone from Donald Trump to
J.K. Rowling, the announcement by the Juno and
The Umbrella Academy star couldn’t have come
at a better time.
The statement made him the most famous out
trans person in the world, trending on Twitter in
20 countries and gaining more than 400,000 on
that day alone. Fortunately he is also an excellent
role model for the trans community, who says he
was inspired by trans trailblazers like Janet Mock
and Laverne Cox, both of whom found success
in Hollywood while living authentically. He also
received several letters from Hollywood
producers thanking him and offering him roles in
It’s not just in the more traditional spheres of
entertainment where young LGBTQ+ people
seem to be thriving: it’s in the digital world as
well. Recently fans of trans TikTok star Bella
Misandria Wardle Fitzpatrick, who goes by the
name of Nosebleedfitz, raised enough money to
fund her entire transition, including hormones
and any surgeries she chooses to have.
The 19-year-old came out as trans earlier this
year and has been sharing her journey with her
546,000 followers on the platform since then.
She told the Daily Star that there was “never a
question” about whether her gender identity
wouldn’t be supported by her fans or her family.”
The support of her followers has allowed her to
begin her transition process, bypassing NHS
waiting lists, which are currently estimated to be
between three and six years. It also shows that
there is now a two-way relationship between
celebrities and fans, thanks to the dynamics of
the digital world
Another social media star who is using his
platform to forward LGBTQ+ rights is Irish-
Iraqi writer, YouTuber and broadcaster Riyadh
Khalaf. He is probably best known for fronting
the ground-breaking BBC docuseries Queer
Britain, or for winning Celebrity MasterChef in
2020. However for many younger people he is
known for his comedy and LGBTQ+ YouTube
videos, where he became a “gay big brother” to
millions, who were looking for inspiration and
help with their identities.
His channel has 381,000 subscribers, while his
videos have been streamed more than 50 million
times. In his debut book, Yay! You’re Gay! Now
What?: A Gay Boy’s Guide to Life, he shares
honest and frank advice for young queer guys.The
book deals with topics like coming out, handling
bullies and homophobia, labels, sex education and
finding your tribe. It’s the sort of book many of us wish had existed when we were younger.
There is also a younger generation of queer
politicians who are changing the dynamics of the
House of Commons. There are currently 56 out
lesbian, gay or bisexual MPs, although sadly Britain
is still without its first transgendered MP.
Interestingly, the average age of an MP is 52, but
the average age of a queer MP is 45. Out of the 650
MPs, 9% identify as LGBTQ+, but this number
goes up to 21% of the MPs aged under 40. When it
comes to the MPs who were in their 20s when they
were elected in the 2019 general election, the
percentage is one-third. Mirroring the Gallop poll
we mentioned at the start of this piece, only 5% of
the MPs over 50 identify as queer.
Labour MP Nadia Whittome (Nottingham
East) came out in December 2019 at the age of
23, alongside Charlotte Nichols (Warrington
North) and Olivia Blake (Sheffield Hallam) who
were both under 30. She became known
somewhat patronisingly as the “Baby of the
House” although she certainly isn’t afraid of
using the tools of Gen Z’ers, like TikTok, to
boost engagement amongst younger people.
Whittome, who identifies as queer, has also
ruffled the feathers of Piers Morgan when she
wrote an opinion piece about the Gender
Recognition Act (GRA) after Stonewall reported
that 41% of trans people had experienced hate
crime in the past year. In particular she attacked
unsubstantiated claims that that the GRA would
create a loophole for violent men to pose as
women, despite statistics showing otherwise.
Whittome says this argument harks back to a
time when “in the past there were debates on
allowing openly gay and bisexual people in the
military”, which she says are now very much seen
as homophobic and unfounded.
What all of these public figures have in
common is that they represent a growing number
of young people who feel both comfortable with
and empowered by expressing their identities.
They also represent a new Britain who can
eloquently advocate for
LGBTQ+ acceptance using social
media to share their principles,
challenge bigotry and fight for
equality. It’s certainly refreshing
to see a generation who can be
completely open about who
they are, without bowing to the
pressure of behaving in a certain
way, because society tells them to
Perhaps this is the ‘new
normal’ that everyone is always going on about.