The world is obsessed with classification and labels. We see it in terms of political party affiliation, sexual identities, gender identities, and pretty much anything else. These labels are sometimes vaguely defined and this can be true when it comes to labels about different generations such as baby boomers, generation X, and millennials.

I work for a college and interact with a lot of, well, college aged students. I also work with people older than I am. It’s a little odd to simultaneously interact with two very different generations. We all have different experiences which can shape our perspectives and opinions and our values. My older colleagues have decades of experiences that have impacted who they are as well as their perspectives, for good and for, well, not good. The students that I work with are just getting started and will learn a lot.

But this is normal. I have a different perspective on almost everything compared to when I was 18. My thoughts on relationships and gender and life/career balance and a zillion other things have been influenced by my experiences. And although not everything was easy or enjoyable, I am thankful for what I’ve lived through and the lessons I learned… even when I learned the hard way and had to learn something over and over and over.

As a bi-gender person I understand (as much as one can) the flexibility and fluidness and variety that gender can be. I de-genderize clothes and colors and cosmetics and I feel that a dress is just a piece of clothing and anyone can wear a dress no matter what your body has underneath it.

As someone who works with very two different generations, I also see the different perspectives on gender norms.

This can manifest when a male student has nail polish on and his instructor bitching in the staff room about him. The boy’s classmates and friends probably couldn’t care less about what color his nails are, but his instructor feels it’s the biggest issue the college and the world faces.

I am not trying to generalize any generation here. I am not saying that everyone older than me is narrow-minded and that everyone younger than me is more enlightened when it comes to gender presentation and gender norms.

If I had to define ‘crossdressing’ (oh, wait, I did), I would say that anything that is traditionally associated with one gender that someone from a different gender wears is indeed crossdressing. This could be a man wearing a nightgown, panties, or toenail polish. And yes, crossdressing almost exclusively applies to men wearing “girl things”. That’s just how it goes.

When I see a masculine presenting person from any generation wearing nail polish or eyeliner or even a skirt I think two things:

“That guy is crossdressing”

“That guy is wearing clothes or cosmetics that they want to wear”

As a crossdresser myself I have a very different perspective on clothes and obviously don’t think of crossdressing as taboo.

When I was in high school if a boy had long hair they were bullied mercilessly for “being a girl”. If a guy had their ear (and they could only have ONE pierced) it sure as hell better be pierced on the “correct ear”. I guess one ear was the straight ear and the other was the gay ear?? I don’t know. Gender norms are stupid.

Working on a college campus also means I see and talk to college students all the time. I know they probably think I am completely out of touch with everything (which is fair, I thought the same thing about people my age when I was younger) but they would be surprised if they knew about my non-cisgenderness.

As I wander around my campus I hear conversations between students about their teachers and homework and their jobs and yes, a lot of gossip about their classmates. But one thing I never, ever hear is any sort of criticism or teasing about the boy who wears eyeliner or the boy who would sometimes wear a skirt to class.

It’s like… no one cares.

And yes, I know that this isn’t the universal norm. I’m sure there are a lot of boys around the world that still get bullied if their hair is a LITTLE too long and would be beat up if they wore ANYTHING that is considered “for girls”.

Right now the world feels like it is going backwards in a lot of ways when it comes to gender but this is in contrast to the younger generation who care a lot less about gender norms than my generation.

And yes, I am sure this post is going to generate a lot of “millennials are lazy” comments so ahead and get it out of your system if you really feel that your perspective is a constructive contribution to this.

Every generation has lazy, entitled people. I know mine does.

But most of the students I interact with are working harder than I had to. They’re juggling fulltime college and working almost fulltime as well. 30 hours of class time, homework, and close to 40 hours of work? Burnout is real, bitches.

My first apartment had two bedrooms and cost $600 a month. That same apartment today is over $2000. And yes, inflation and things cost more today than they used to, but my students live and work in a world where minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Just a tiny bit more than what it was when I was that age when it was $5.15 an hour. A two dollar increase in 25 years is pretty pathetic.

Is this generation lazy? Absolutely not. They have to work much harder than I had to when I was that age.

Anyway, as we watch much of the world limiting our access to medical care and increasingly vilifying the transcommunity, I am also seeing the next generation (for the most part), not caring about gender norms.

It’s what I wish my generation would do.

I wonder what the younger generation thinks about crossdressing. Is it just not a big deal like it was when I was that age? Is it perceived as sexual as it was when I was in college?

I mean, I KNOW that any sort of non-cisgender wardrobe choices will always be a big deal to some, but it seems that crossdressing is less taboo for this generation and that nail polish is becoming less genderized.

Based on the emails I get and the responses my website generates, it seems that most of my readers are close to my age or older. If you are college-aged and have some thoughts on this I would love to hear them in the comments.

Love, Hannah

4 thoughts on “Generations

  1. I’m not college age, but I teach high schoolers in a performing arts high school. I have taught and worked with way more trans and gender fluid kids than the average person encounters and the vast majority of the other students self identify somewhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. None of my students bat an eye at anyone wearing or doing anything that “belongs” to the other gender which is really nice. Interestingly though we’ve only had 2 students who have gone “female to male.” Everyone else has gone, or is fluid between “female to male.” I don’t know if that is still due to the social pressure of presenting female or what. I’m generation X and I often wish that I could have been born in today’s generation with its openess and acceptance.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Hannah,

    Interesting article. I grew up on the 70’s. Long hair was considered cool. Unfortunately my dad didn’t feel the same way.

    You are spot on about millennial not being lazy. I was part of team from a large company doing mass recruiting from colleges. Their accomishments are spectacular. With my college resume companies wouldn’t have even looked at me today.


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  3. I went to college in the 70’s when the Vietnam War ( ridiculous, unnecessary war ) was raging and we demonstrated against it. Long hair for guys was typical, just like it is for many guys today. College professors were less Liberal then which was actually a good thing because nowadays most are teaching their students to not just criticize America, but to hate it and embrace Socialism and even Communism – not good. Anyway, cross dressers are accepted more today, which is a good thing. As long as one does not push their feelings, lifestyles, political views, etc., on others, then they can wear and be want they want to be – so far we are still a free society, although it would seem that the Left doesn’t like free speech. wants our country to be more like 1984, and this worries me.

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  4. Hannah, thank you for this article. It is a great comfort, during trying times, to think that these kids who are now in high school or college are so far beyond caring about things like gender expression. I don’t have nearly the amount of contact with Millenials that you describe, but when I have had those contacts — and I hasten to say, my experience is far from typical, since I live in NY in West Midtown, where there are at least six restaurants within walking distance advertise their “drag brunch” on weekends, and I see cross-dressers and MTF trans walking around on the street nearly every time I go out for a long walk — it has always shown that they are light-years ahead of the older generations when it comes to acceptance of others’ lifestyles. (It may also be true, however, as one your other readership pointed out, that they are NOT tolerant of one particular lifestyle choice, which is the one in which someone defines their own freedom in terms of their right to heap scorn and verbal abuse on those they don’t like (“free speech”), without fear of being criticized for it (“pushing their feelings and views on others”).)

    I’ve written to you before, pointing this out, as a counterpoint to the more negative trends that we read about in the news, especially where the GOP holds a lock on the local political situation. I think the younger generations, and especially the Millenials, are destined to lead us into an era of much greater tolerance. They give me hope for the future, even though I myself will likely not be privileged to see it in full flower (i’m 65, born in the heart of the baby boom).

    Liked by 1 person

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