The 21st century student is queer and trans


America is in the midst of another culture war. Currently, the American Civil Liberties Union is tracking more than 480 anti-LGBT bills1. In Oklahoma alone, legislators introduced 54 anti-queer and anti-trans bills in early 2024.2 Nearly all of them addressed being queer or trans in K-12 schools.

Proposed bills sought to 1) censor curriculum, in some cases eliminating sex education altogether; 2) not allow students assigned female at birth from participating on male sports teams; 3) forcibly out students by prohibiting school employees from referring to students by their chosen pronouns without the consent of their parents; and 4) deny gender affirming health care to people under the age of 18.

Even in California, a state considered to be relatively queer-friendly, the animus against queer and trans people appears to be rising. A San Fernando library canceled a drag story hour in October 2023 after protestors blocked the entrance.3 More recently, in March of this year, Huntington Beach voters banned the flying of the rainbow flag in front of government facilities and other buildings.4 A recent Orange County hate crimes report found a 126% increase in hate crimes against members of the LGBTQ community in 2022 over the previous year.5

As much as the above appears to be the evidence of an increasingly homophobic and transphobic America, it could in fact signal the opposite. History in fact shows that backlashes occur when societies are in the midst of achieving greater equality. John Huntington and Lawrence Glickman call it “America’s most destructive habit.”6 Thus, louder voices seeking to squash queer and trans well-being could signal the vast extent to which queer and trans people have become integrated into American society. Indeed in the case of aforementioned example of Oklahoma, only three out of the 54 anti-queer/anti-trans bills progressed out of chambers to the next level.7 For the Huntington Beach ballot measure as well, the ban of the rainbow flag was approved with a little over half the votes in favor.8

Nationally, numbers show that more people in the U.S. are finding it easier to be out. A recent Gallup Poll revealed that LGBTQ identification at 7.1 % in 2022, had increased by 50% from 5.6% in 2020, and nearly doubled from 2012 when it was just 3.5%.9 More than half who identified as queer are claiming to be bisexual, also known as pansexual among Generation Z. And, according to the Trevor Project, 10% of queer youth are identifying as “ace” or asexual.11 In fact, Pew Research found that 10% of the general population is identifying as non-binary and trans.12 Moreover, the Gallup Poll noticed a striking generational difference in how many people identified as queer.13 Roughly 21% of Generation Z 10 Americans who have reached adulthood — those born between 1997 and 2003 — identify as broadly queer.

There’s an undeniable rising percentage of the American population that is identifying as queer. And what that means in the most obvious sense is that not just the workplace but also schools have been readying themselves for this growing self-identification. Universities across California have enabled students to easily change the first name on their school records with a tap on their device. Sophomores and juniors running orientation on campuses across the nation declare their pronouns as well as their names when introducing themselves to incoming students. It’s been close to 30 years since programs in queer studies began forming in colleges and nearly 20 years since women’s studies programs began changing their name to gender studies to include transgender identities and issues. Many colleges in fact offer major and minor degrees in LGBT studies, women and gender studies, or sexuality studies.

Thus, as deeply troubling and hopeless all of the anti-queer and anti-trans rhetoric appears, we must remain steadfast and hopeful in protecting the gains that queer and trans community and their allies have already won in creating a vast cultural change in America.

Nichi Bei News columnist Amy Sueyoshi is provost and vice president of Academic Affairs at San Francisco State University., where she previously was the dean of the College of Ethnic Studies. She holds a Ph.D. in history from UCLA and has authored two books titled “Queer Compulsions” and “Discriminating Sex.” She is also the founding co-curator of the GLBT History Museum in San Francisco. She can be reached at The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei News.














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