I hear a lot of grumbling these days about shiftless millennials: about their laziness, their narcissistic tendencies, their “failure to launch” into adulthood. While I could make an easy joke here that most of these complaints seem to be coming from the generation that raised them (coincidentally, a generation not noted for its introspection), I won’t. Not because I’m not above a little mud-slinging, but because of all the things that can genuinely be said to have been true since the beginning of time, older folks complaining about “damn kids these days” has to be the top contender. While it is true that the quote widely attributed to Socrates (“The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise”) is actually from a 1907 dissertation about how ancient Greeks complained about kids, my point still stands. Humans = kid haters.
But you know what? I actually think kids these days are a pretty kick-ass generation who are making the world a better place, especially for queer folks and queer expression. The fact that old farts are getting freaked out (see: Edmonton Catholic School Board) is a good thing: they can see their old world crumbling around them while a sparkling, post-gender-binary utopia rises from the ashes. I jest, of course—the world is still unsafe for most people who live and love outside of the gender binary. But the people I see making the most progress on the issue are kids: the ones who casually paint their fingernails and cut off their hair and are therefore beginning, very slowly, to normalize non-traditional expressions of gender.
Consider the University of Alberta, which has just announced that students who apply next year will have a third box to check when asked to disclose their gender: “Another/prefer not to disclose.” It’s not a perfect system: presently this option will only be available to those who fill in a paper application (how many people fill in a paper application for university these days?) but the administration has indicated that this is a first step along the path to changing the university’s current reliance on gender as a key data point.
The campaign emerges from the Student Union’s political policy on gender, championed by Cody Bondarchuk, VP Operations and Finance. The policy also advocates for gender-neutrality in other areas, such as washrooms, university documents and building codes. In an interview with Metro, Bondarchuk said that the change “makes the point to say ‘we really include you.’ Talking to students who felt like they didn’t feel included was really heartbreaking.”
Bondarchuk is not alone in feeling this way. As the policy was a cornerstone of his election campaign, one can assume that the student body (or at least those who showed up to vote) also supports the third gender option. And while the U of A is not the first university to adopt such a measure, it certainly helps to remind the country that Alberta’s not entirely a queer-hating backwater.
So if you’re in the under-30 set and you’re reading this, I just want to tell you that I think you’re great, and the next time some old fuddy-duddies get hot under the collar and start ranting about kids these days, just remember that they are scared. They are scared of you. They are scared because you are powerful and you’re going to change the world. I can’t wait to see what you do with it.V