How Gen Z is Redefining Identity

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Move over, Millennials. A new generation is pushing its way onto the scene. Born between 1995 and 2010, the oldest members of Gen Z turn 24 years old this year and are making their presence known in the workforce.

I’m a member of Gen X raising children of Gen Z, and while some generational generalizations can be unfair, overly broad and too sweeping, the core principle of this generation caught my eye while reading a McKinsey & Co. report. (You didn’t know that this intrepid Purple Guinea Pig was such a fancy-pants researcher, did you?).

“The core of Gen Z is the idea of manifesting individual identity,” the report states.

Manifesting individual identity? Sounds Princely, I thought. Tell me more, McKinsey consultants. I’m all ears (adorned with my crescent moon ear wraps).

I really like things that are unisex! I think it’s absurd that stores and brands split everything into “male” and “female.” After all, fabric is genderless.
—Female respondent to McKinsey & Co. survey, 22, Goiânia, Brazil

Sound like someone we know?

The report’s authors continue: “For Gen Zers, the key point is not to define themselves through only one stereotype but rather for individuals to experiment with different ways of being themselves and to shape their individual identities over time. In this respect, you might call them “identity nomads.”

Prince became an identity nomad in 1993. You could say he spent seven years in the identity wilderness as the Love Symbol (there is something to those seven-year cycles, isn’t there?). The report goes on to state that Gen Zers hold the right to morph their identity at will, that they will defend causes related to identity.

“Gen Zers are always connected. They constantly evaluate unprecedented amounts of information and influences. For them, the self is a place to experiment, test, and change. Seven out of ten Gen Zers say it is important to defend causes related to identity, so they are more interested than previous generations have been in human rights; in matters related to race and ethnicity; in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues; and in feminism.”

Something tells me that if Prince had been a member of Gen Z, his peers would hardly have blinked an eye when he became the Love Symbol. As it was, back in the Dark Ages of 1993, people judged and ridiculed him.

So far, Gen Z is shaping up to be one impressive generation. I don’t know how much credit Gen X can take, but I am proud of how we’ve raised them.

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