Gen Z is the queerest generation ever, according to research. Almost 16 per cent of Gen Zers in America identify as being queer or trans in a Gallup poll, so it’s not really a surprise that there are so many young and talented stars that are part of the LGBTQ2S+ community.
From singers such as Willow Smith and Lil Nas X who are making waves in the music industry, to actresses such as Yasmin Finney who are bringing much-needed trans representation to the small screen, these are 10 Gen Z queer icons you need to know this year.
Actress and singer Willow Smith came out as bisexual in 2019, and also expressed her interest in polyamorous relationships on Red Table Talk: “I love men and women equally and so I would definitely want one man, one woman. I feel like I could be polyfidelitous with those two people. I’m not the kind of person that is constantly looking for new sexual experiences,” she said. “I focus a lot on the emotional connection and I feel like if I were to find two people of different genders that I really connected with and we had a romantic and sexual connection, I don’t feel like I would feel the need to try to go find more.”
Madison Bailey is best known for playing Kiara on the Netflix show Outer Banks, and the 23-year-old actress is openly pansexual. “I feel zero shame, and I don’t feel that way because nobody’s ever really shamed me for it and I know a lot of people have had lot of hate and lack of support,” she said of coming out. “I know so many, countless stories of queer people that did not have support,” she said on Instagram Live. “But if you’re asking me personally, that’s just my experience with it. It was worth it. I feel lighter, I feel happier that I can just be so open and honest. It feels nice.”
Social media star and influencer Bretman Rock has been making millions of his fans laugh for years with his hilarious videos. He’s been outspoken about what matters to him, not only with issues affecting the queer community, but also racism, environmental issues and more. In Nylon‘s Manila edition, he shared: “For me, I really believe that if you really want to see a change in the world, you have to do something about it. And for me, there’s so many things that I’m very passionate about, whether it comes to me speaking about turtles and why we shouldn’t use plastic straws to me talking about sexual gender expression and the difference between what you’re attracted to and how you express yourself,” he said. He also made history in 2021 as the first openly gay man to appear on the cover of Playboy.
Related: 11 ways to be a respectful LGBTQ2S+ ally.
Actress Yasmin Finney is trans, and she is best known for charming viewers on the Netflix series Heartstopper as Elle. She first gained recognition on TikTok, where she openly shared stories of her experiences being a Black British trans woman. “It would have meant so much to a younger Yasmin to see an Elle on screen who is living authentically and unapologetically as herself. It’s about time that we have young, Black queer representation on screen,” she told Elle Magazine. “Hopefully, with the increase of queer-focused projects over the years, the younger generation won’t feel pressured to fit a certain mould or live up to society’s expectations anymore.”
The 21-year-old British singer was nominated for a Grammy earlier this year for Best New Artist, and although she didn’t win, we’re still obsessed with her. Parks is openly bisexual, and has spoken about it in interviews, such as in The Line of Best Fit: “Coming out as bisexual was freeing in a way, because it allowed me to talk about experiences and feelings about certain things and people that I didn’t feel able to before. Obviously there’s still judgement and it’s still taboo, and I didn’t want to pigeon-hole myself as the bisexual artist, that’s just a part of who I am.”
See also: The richest LGBTQ2S+ celebs in 2022.
Actress Auliʻi Cravalho is best known for voicing Moana in the hit film of the same name, but she has starred in other projects, including All Together Now and The Little Mermaid Live!. She came out as bisexual in 2020 on TikTok, and a year later, opened up about the different roles she can take on in Entertainment Weekly. “If you’re playing someone who is part of the LGBTQ spectrum, that isn’t just the story line,” she said. “There’s so much more to them. We are straight-A students. We are avid readers. We have these wild imaginations. We don’t know what the heck we’re doing, but also don’t just show us in the light of ‘My sexuality is this burden,’ because it’s not. It is so joyful.”
Actor Amandla Stenberg has come a long way since playing Rue in The Hunger Games, starring in a number of coming-of-age films. Stenberg uses she/they pronouns, and they came out as gay in 2018 after previously identifying as bisexual. In an interview with Wonderland, they said: “I was so overcome with this profound sense of relief when I realized that I’m gay — not bi, not pan, but gay — with a romantic love for women. All of the things that felt so internally contrary to my truest self were rectified as I unravelled a long web of denial and self-deprivation.”
You may also like: YouTuber Rowan Ellis on LGBTQ+ advocacy and authoring a book for queer girls.
Singer-songwriter King Princess (who, fun fact: used to date Amandla Stenberg) identifies as being gay and genderqueer, and uses she/they/it pronouns. They released their critically acclaimed album Cheap Queen in 2019, and opened up the same year about their identity: “What I love about the time we are living in now is that you can express gender queerness, that you’re gay, that you’re a lesbian, a girl dating girls,” they said in After Ellen. “Because I am a girl who dates girls and I have been for a long time. So I am a lesbian. But sometimes I feel like a gay man, you know? Just in my spirit. I’m learning how to be comfortable in between,” they added.
See also: 10 signs you are probably asexual.
Aside from starring in Girl Meets World, actress Rowan Blanchard has become known for her feminism and activism in the queer community. She came out on Twitter when she was 14, which sparked a myriad of reactions online. She later opened up to Wonderland about coming out as queer in such a public way: “I’m okay with it now, but I still realize that I was allowing people to comment on something that’s very personal,” she said. “The first day I tweeted about it, it was definitely scary to see people commenting about things that literally have nothing to do with them.”
Lil Nas X
Lil Nas X has been open about some of the challenges he’s faced as an openly gay Black man in the music industry. The Grammy winner got candid about coming out by writing a letter to his younger self on social media: “I know we promised to never come out publicly, I know we promised to never be ‘that’ type of gay person, I know we promised to die with the secret, but this will open doors for many other queer people to simply exist,” he wrote in the touching post.