The rise of genderqueer youth in popular culture

benji bubble pix

Benji

Recently, the British television show Skins introduced a new character, Franky Fitzgerald, who is not a lesbian but part of a new generation of youth who identify as genderqueer. Yet while the presence of youth who identify as genderqueer has increased in popular culture, that is not the case among ethnic minorities and communities of color living in the U.S.

There are many definitions of what it means to be genderqueer, however, it’s mainly used to describe people who don’t prescribe to the socially constructed gender binary of male or female that society dictates, and rather see gender as a spectrum where one can express both feminine and masculine characteristics and identities.

There is no doubt that teens are coming out at a younger age, especially as gay and lesbian characters have received national visibility through shows such as Glee, Skins and Pretty Little Liars.

As a result, LGBTQ youth across the country are pushing for more awareness about gender non-conforming people and are demanding change in all areas of their lives, including within the LGBTQ movement.
Such is the case of Benji Delgadillo,a 16-year-old who identifies as a genderqueer, transgender, pansexual male whose choice to use such identifiers just made sense.

As president and founder of the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) at an Orange County high school, Delgadillo has already seen improvements at his school after it adopted the “Model School District Policy Regarding Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Students”, a policy the GSA Network, a network of GSA’s throughout California, recommend.

Benji

“My school is a better place after it adopted a policy to address the issues for transgender and gender non-conforming youth,” said Delgadillo, who started a campaign at his school to end games such as battle of the sexes and school dances that vote for king and queen according to gender.

People can come and be who they really are without worrying about being harassed, he added.

However, comparatively, not many LGBTQ youth of color identify as queer compared to their more affluent counter parts.
Dulce Garcia, an HIV prevention and Spanish language manager with Outlet, an LGBTQQ youth organization in the Bay Area, has seen this firsthand while working with youth. She notes that people of color tend to identify less as genderqueer compared to their Caucasian counterparts.

“Words like queer, genderqueer, cisgender are academic terms that are not accessible to everyone,” said Garcia who noticed that people of color (POC) are less likely to identify with terms other than LGBTQ.

With a large population of queer youth of color being homeless, their access to computers and shared knowledge is limited. A nationwide report by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found that while only about three to five percent of the population is estimated to be LGBTQ, 42 percent of homeless youth are LGBTQ and an estimated 65 percent of homeless people are members of racial minorities.

As for Delgadillo, he was introduced to the term genderqueer by conducting his own research online and through his involvement with peer support groups such as the GSA Network.

“It’s not that people are moving away from LGB because we do have youth that identify as LGB, but what is happening is we are having conversations about sexuality and gender more openly,” Garcia added.

The intersection of gender identity and sexuality is what has revolutionized the conversations youth are having when describing themselves.

Informational websites and support groups for the genderqueer population have begun popping up such as genderqueer.tumblr.com and fuckyeahftmsofcolor.tumblr.com, which promotes the visibility of transmasculine-identified people of color. On these social networking websites, where people write empowering stories about their identity and the intersections of race, culture and class, genderqueer youth are able to speak openly and comfortable about their gender identities.

“I always felt that I was in the body of a girl but in the mind of both a girl and boy,” wrote one individual on genderqueer.tumblr.com. ”Today I am comfortable with deciding NOT to choose sides. I think this describes me perfectly.”

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About the author

Jacky Guerrero

Jacky decided to ditch a career in mainstream media and dedicated her free time towards launching xQsí which has become her passion. Her interests are anything queer and running wild on summer nights. She currently lives in South Los Angeles with her genderqueer cat Leon.

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  • http://Www.Facebook.com/treavoralvarado Treavor

    I wonder what the percentage of this group is within the GLBT community! And us his more off a rating how how fem or masc one is?

    • Jacky Guerrero

      Treavor, good question. I looked and looked for research that gave me any clue but nothing exists out there. Thus, why I spoke to activists and professionals directly working with genderqueer youth.

    • http://twitter.com/KarariKue Danny Olvera

      I’m sure it’s similar to statistics of LGBT people as whole: no real hard statistics exist.

      Gender identity and sexuality are hard to document, because unlike race and ethnicity, it isn’t counted by any federal agency.

      That doesn’t mean that genderqueer isn’t a real lived experience. Gender non-conforming people have always been a part of history. The Muxhés of Oaxaca, the three-spirited Lakota, Eunuchs of India; It’s just that now we are finding contemporary ways of understanding how our sexuality and gender intersect.

  • http://www.rhspride.org Adam Price

    love love this guy so inspiring!!!!!

    Adam Price
    Pesident/Founder
    P.R.I.D.E. GSA
    Redlands, CA

    • Jacky Guerrero

      Yes Benji is awesome! I really enjoyed talking to him when writing this article.