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Does Generation Z Really Defy Gender Norms?


A study by the Innovation Group has media outlets buzzing about how Generation Z—those born between 1995 and 2012—utterly defies the gender binary. Only 48 percent of the marketing research group’s respondents said they identified as 100 percent heterosexual, compared with 65 percent of millennials.

A previous study by FTI Consulting found that voting-age members of Generation Z are incredibly far-left when it comes to “equal rights,” with 75 percent favoring gay marriage and 83 percent favoring “equal rights” for transgender people, with this new survey finding that 70 percent of Generation Z believe it’s “important for public spaces to provide access to gender neutral bathrooms.”

Reason’s Hit and Run blog interpreted the data as meaning Generation Z is “queer as f**k.” But are they really?

The Results Contradict Relevant Data compiled the criticisms of several experts (comments originally gathered by LifeSiteNews) who called the newest survey’s conclusions into question.

As any student of introductory statistics should immediately realize, the sample size for the Innovation Group’s study was tiny. We’re talking 300 respondents from Gen Z, and a roughly equal number of millennials. Total Gen Z respondents listed under the results for sexual orientation was just 203.

The sample size may be one reason the data is at odds with relevant data previously gathered. One professor, Paul Sullins, cited the National Survey of Family Growth (2011), which reported that between ‘06 and ‘08, 96% of men and 94% of women “identified as exclusively heterosexual,” compared to 2002 data, which pegged the percentage of heterosexuals at about 90%. That number has remained steady for around 60 years, if you use the Kinsey Institute’s 1948 study claiming the same percentage as a benchmark.

As Sullins noted, “The idea that [these numbers] are rapidly changing, based on a small marketing survey, is not convincing.”

The National Survey for Family Growth also reported the percent of men aged 18 to 24 who “reported only opposite sex attraction” at 88.6 percent, and three-quarters for women the same age.

Designed for Perception, not Reality

After reading the Innovation Group’s survey questions, I quickly realized many were, in a word, “puffers.” Meaning, they read like they were intended to puff up the perception that Gen Z is a radically different demographic, without gathering hard behavioral data to support that theory. (Reading the gender-bending bios of those who presented the Innovation Group data in a South by Southwest panel earlier this month reinforced this suspicion.)

Word gets around quick in school when a peer decides she doesn’t want to be identified as ‘she.’

A prime example is this question: “How much do you agree or disagree with the statement ‘People are exploring their sexuality more than in the past?’” Or “How much do you agree or disagree with the statement, ‘Gender doesn’t define a person as much as it used to.’”

As one of the critics, Dr. Philip Harold, pointed out to LifeSiteNews, how much do Gen Zers really know about what sort of sexual exploration was going on “in the past?” Or how much gender “used to” define a person?

“For someone who could remember the 1960s and 1970s, unisex clothes were all the rage. No pink toddler clothing was allowed during a period in the 1970s in the Sears Roebuck catalog, but nobody young knows that,” said Morris.

Another survey question asked respondents whether they had heard (not used, or identified with) certain terms, such as “asexual,” “demisexual,” or “genderqueer,” and another asked whether respondents knew someone who used, “They, them, or ‘ze’” in lieu of gendered pronouns “he,” “she,” “him,” and “her.”

How do answers to these questions shed any light on whether Generation Z is really rejecting the traditional sexual binary? Answer: nothing. Nothing at all. In fact, one would expect a high percent of respondents to answer “yes,” to the latter question based on the novelty of the behavior, not its commonality. Word gets around quick in school when a peer decides she doesn’t want to be identified as “she.”

Androgenization, or Status Quo Feminine and Masculine?

But lack of academic rigor in the survey design doesn’t end with tiny sample size and puffer questions. One of the Innovation Group’s most puzzling survey questions was whether respondents “always buy products that are geared specifically toward my gender, rather than non-gendered products, when it comes to: shoes, clothes, deodorant, fragrance, sports equipment, accessories.” (Emphasis mine.)

Only 44 percent responded that they always bought clothes geared toward their gender, the highest percentage out of any listed category.

Only 44 percent responded that they always bought clothes geared toward their gender, the highest percentage out of any listed category.

Such data and the supposed embrace of the whole gender identity spectrum by Generation Z has led some experts to predict non-gendered clothing lines to be the biggest trend since patterned leggings. Is this a sign we should panic, because Gen Z girls aren’t dressing and smelling like girls, and Gen Z boys aren’t dressing and smelling like boys?

Not if you really think about the question instead of simply reacting to it. What do they mean by “non-gendered” products? What shoes, clothes, or fragrances do you see in the big box store that aren’t gendered?

Some of Tom’s deodorants could easily be classified as non-gendered (“Original Care,” “Long-Lasting”). Non-gendered fragrances have been on trend for at least a decade (note this New York Times article from 2006, and this Cosmopolitan piece from last summer, both attributing the popularity of non-gendered fragrances to taste, not statements on sexuality). $5 pairs of flip-flops are easy to snag at the superstore or Old Navy, and ball caps look good on everyone who looks good in hats. You can easily swing certain styles of sunglasses either way.

My Generation Z sister suggested some t-shirts, sweatshirts, and jackets might fall in the non-gendered category, drawing many teen girls especially, since oversized clothes are in vogue (heck, even I wear my husband’s old, non-gendered high school sweatshirt sometimes.)

But none of these purchases have androgenized the teenage masses. Take a look around any school campus, and the gender norms for apparel are strikingly consistent: teen girls wear long tops and leggings and maybe a long, flowy sweater, usually accompanied by stylish boots or dainty flats, and boys wear t-shirts and jeans.

As another millennial pointed out, it wasn’t too long ago that millennial high school boys were wearing pants designed for girls before clothing designers came out with skinny jeans for men. Yet millennials polled as subscribing to the gender binary more so than the Gen Z respondents. Rest assured: bland and boxy androgynous clothing won’t be flying off the racks at your local Penny’s any time soon.

Young People Don’t Know What They Want Yet

Let us also not forget to put the results of this survey in the context of youth—a time when idealism, curiosity, openness to change, and raging hormones muddle together with inexperience and underdeveloped reasoning skills.

The LGBTQ++ assembly has always employed pressure tactics and indoctrination to achieve their goals.

The Innovation Group’s conclusions are way out of left field when compared to relevant data gathered on a larger scale with more rigorous methodology. So could this supposed generation of gender unbelievers be a pressure narrative exerted on the older generations who are less accepting of the growing diversification of gender identities encapsulated by the (LGBTQ++) alphabet soup?

The LGBTQ++ assembly has always employed pressure tactics and indoctrination to achieve their goals. The beliefs of Gen Zers fresh out of high school, or still in it, would certainly reflect this. Presenting their views in a survey layered with perception-puffing soft data could be a shot across the bow at older generations: get in line, because the genderless future is here.

So take the hype with a healthy pinch of salt. Whether it’s pressure from the Left, poor methodology, or both, the survey doesn’t represent the end of humanity. Until more and better quality data come out in support of this tiny marketing survey’s conclusions, we have good reason to believe that Generation Z, despite their political acceptance of a wide range of gender identities and behavior, will continue to populate the earth the old-fashioned way and reinforce the natural gender binary in the process.