February 16, 2021

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg openly identifies as gay. He has been married to his husband, Chasten Buttigieg, since 2018. (Tara Connick)

There has been a notable increase in LGBTQ+ acceptance in recent years. According to the Pew Research Center, 51 percent of Americans believed that homosexuality should be accepted by society in 2002. That number increased to 72 percent by 2019.

Senior Hayden Patrick believes that Americans should accept others and hopes to see the percentage increase even more in the future.

“I think we all just need to keep in mind that we’re all different people, and that’s the great thing in life,” Patrick said.

UNT alumni Gabby De Lima Rosa believes that this greater understanding of the community, both by society and by the legal system, has played a role in the increase in young LGBTQ+ community members.

“If you think about Baby Boomers, your grandparents’ generation, and then the generation before, there was always open persecution against LGBT people,” De Lima Rosa said. “So even if you were, you didn’t want to talk about it.”

According to De Lima Rosa, teens today are seeing changes in LGBTQ+ acceptance in real time, often becoming leaders in the fight for equality. Although slower, adults seem to be becoming open to the LGBTQ+ community as well, as seen in recent elections.

Many teens celebrated when same sex marriage was legalized in 2015. Five years later, a historic Supreme Court decision that said workers could not be fired for being gay or transgender dominated headlines and caught the attention of the younger generation. Most recently, LGBTQ+ teens watched as Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg was sworn in on Feb. 3, making him the first openly gay Cabinet member.

“They’re understanding that the status quo is no longer as strong as it used to be,” De Lima Rosa said. “That there’s a lot of opportunity for change.”

UNT professor Jara Carrington, who has been teaching for four years and graduated from UNT, said that students are more comfortable identifying as LGBTQ+ than they were when she was going to school.

“I would say that I see people more comfortable expressing their gender and their sexuality in different kinds of ways around campus, just generally speaking,” Carrington said. “So you see lots of people kind of gender nonconforming walking around or people holding hands.”

The instance on the UNT campus is a small part of a broad cultural shift. Carrington said that in addition to a change in gender roles in the past few decades, many parents and peers are more open to having conversations about being LGBTQ+ with kids.

“I think all of those things together just kind of make it a safer cultural moment to kind of come out,” Carrington said.

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