I’ve written about racism and ageism, so now I guess it’s time to write about ‘generationism’…if it’s even an ‘ism?’ Even if not, the so-called ‘generation gap’ is one of those things that seems to get some people really going…so what of it? Does the gap exist? And, if so, how so?
I remember the first time that the generation gap suddenly whacked me on the head: it was 2005 and I was standing at a bar when suddenly that year’s hit song by Depeche Mode started playing. A young kid of no more than about 20 or so smiled at me and said, “Jeez, this Depeche Mode are really a cool new band, hey?” Horrified, I remember thinking to myself, ‘New?! I remember when Depeche Mode had their first hits in 1983 – that’s more than 20 years ago!’. It wasn’t about feeling older – it was about suddenly realizing that your pop culture references were not the same as the gay guy next to you. And I know that every guy reading this article that’s over 30 has had that traumatic moment.
So, is the generation gap real? You bet. In fact, I’ll even go further – forget it being only a generation gap, it’s a generations gap, as in plural. It wasn’t always like that. Nowadays, it’s not just about the ‘younger’ and the ‘older’ generations. Now it’s about various generations, all jostling side by side and for position. Sociologists have had a field day, giving out catchy names to successive generations: those born in or before 1945 are the ‘Silent Generation’; people born between 1946 and 1964 are the famous ‘Baby Boomers’; those born between 1965 and 1980 (including yours truly) are ‘Generation X’; and anyone born between 1980 and 2000 are dubbed Millennials.
Corporations, and especially branding and advertising people, get into a real lather about Millennials. After all, they’re the current ‘youthful adults’ – the ones with new jobs, increasing spending money and enormous clout in all things merchandised and branded. It’s also claimed that they tend to leave home later than any previous generation, are less likely to own a car or even have a driver’s license (a big deal in car-obsessed cultures like the U.S.) and are more interested in job satisfaction and being respected in the workplace than they are about career status or even fat salaries. I say bless them for most of these attributes, because in those things they’re an improvement on earlier generations. How much better than the hypocrisy of Baby Boomers who went from Flower Power in the 1960s to all-out materialism in the 1980s, not to mention my generation of Gen-Xers who don’t know what the hell we want most of the time and who gave the world Nirvana and grunge (may we forever be damned for that!).
Then again, Millennials are also sometimes rightly referred to as the ‘Snowflake Generation’ because of how damn precious and fragile they can be. This is the generation that has given us ‘safe spaces’ in universities where students can feel ‘safe’ by not being exposed to controversial ideas or words (gag!), as well as ball pits, where students can roll around in big coloured balls (you know, like the ones found at McDonald’s for young children) to give them a place of non-confrontational ‘sanctuary’ – Jesus wept! I know older generations are shouting out, ‘what a bunch of wimps!’. And they are. This is the same generation that has foisted those horrible feminazi Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) upon us – may they forever be damned for that! Then again, Baby Boomers have given us horrors like Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Angela Merkel. So they should be damned too! And my lot gave you grunge music, remember.
I write all of this tongue in cheek, of course. How can such clear distinctions be made between people simply because of the year in which they were born? So a person born in 1980 (a Millennial) will be that different to someone born in 1979 (Gen-X), right? Of course not. And sociologists do (rather conveniently) point out that generations do overlap, and that other factors make generations less distinct. But don’t be too dismissive – whether we like it or not, our tastes, our outlooks in life and our worldviews are contextual. We do not exist in a vacuum. We are social beings and we are shaped by what prevails around us. So, yes, we will have a tendency to better relate to those within our generation than those of another. The exceptions do not negate the rule.
I say: embrace generationism. Make fun of the others for some of their awful music, not to mention their ridiculous fashion trends. Trust me, there is not a generation that cannot be ridiculed on those grounds alone. I say treat the gap of generations as yet another fascinating facet of the gay universe. And then embrace the best of each generation, because each of them has contributed and keeps contributing to who we are. Just don’t be surprised if I kick you in your ball pit.