Here we present members of our younger generations, from Millennials to Generation Z, in their own words.
San Francisco Bay Times: Where do you see yourself a few years from now? What would be your ideal career?
Jay Lykens: In a few years I’d love to be even more immersed in LGBTQ research. I’d like to move the medical and psychological field forward when it comes to transgender and genderqueer health. So that would probably be a career in the research or public health field. Within the next five years I’d like to get more experience heading research projects, and hopefully make my way to UC Berkeley’s social psychology PhD program.
Samukezi Ngubane: I see myself continuing with my grassroots activism. My goal has always been to work with marginalized communities that are often invisibilized. In South Africa, I based most of my work in rural areas, attempting to create awareness of, and advocacy for, issues affecting rural communities. I believe that rural spaces require more activist attention. Not to generalize, but I found that in such communities, conversations about gender and sexuality are often taboo. People are also not aware of their sexual and reproductive rights, or their basic rights to health care, water, and shelter. My ideal career is just starting these conversations with the rural communities, engaging in dialogues, sensitization workshops, and awareness programs.
Nicolette Gulickson: Once I complete the Sexuality Studies Graduate Program at San Francisco State University, I intend to work for an organization that advocates for and provides resources to transgender communities. My ideal career would situate me to make a tangible, positive impact on the life chances of trans people in my community and beyond.
Enkhmaa Enkhbold: Geographically, I see myself in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. I hope to work in academia, particularly in the Global South. I am interested in researching Human Rights issues, International Relations, with particular attention to the influence of institutions and organizations such as The United Nation, World Bank, and Peace Corps, etc. in relation to their impact on reproducing global inequalities. Also, I hope to work towards change in patriarchal structures in Mongolia by particularly addressing the representation of women in politics, sexist language/proverbs that promote gender inequality (so naturalized) and representation of LGBTQI communities.
Miglio: Ideally, I will continue on in school to get a Master’s Degree. My ideal career would be working inside a queer space that feels safe and productive probably doing work inside queer communities and/or environmental justice inside queer communities. I identify as transgendered so it would be great to remain in the transgender community and help do necessary reparative work there.
Lexus Killingsworth: I would like to be close to finishing a PhD program a few years from now! My ideal career would involve studying visual representations of queer black women, especially pornography. I would also love to study anime and manga.
Jillian Salazar: My ideal career would involve working with activists, academics, and researchers to eradicate racism, sexism, ableism and state violence. A few years from now I see myself working for a non-profit that serves those affected by domestic and sexual violence.
San Francisco Bay Times: What are you doing now to prepare for that ideal career?
Jay Lykens: Right now I’m working at a great organization called YTH in Oakland, and doing my best to move forward some projects related to transgender health care access. I’m also working with Dr. Allen LeBlanc over at SFSU on his study, Project AFFIRM, focusing on transgender identity development and resilience. Overall I think I’m preparing by pursuing research studies that really focus on the positive aspects of what it means to identify in the transgender spectrum.
Samukezi Ngubane: Besides engaging with academic texts and learning constructive ways in which praxis can be effective, I volunteer at Magnet, a clinic that offers health care services for gay, bisexual and transgender men. I am also working on traditional dance scripts based on theories that I am learning from my program such as intersectionality, theories of difference, and disidentification. I am writing these scripts in isiXhosa (my home language) and I hope to use their performance as part of grassroots awareness building.
Nicolette Gulickson: To be the best ally that I can be and to gain the knowledge necessary to not only complete my thesis research, but also to equip me with the skills I will need once I join the workforce. I am volunteering at the Transgender Law Center (TLC) in Oakland. My work there has given me insight into the discrimination and bureaucratic negotiations faced by trans people on a daily basis. It has motivated me to conduct thesis research on the efficacy of state-level protective legislation. I also attend community events and demonstrations to stay abreast of the issues the community is facing as well as to keep me connected to the community I work to serve.
Enkhmaa Enkhbold: I have been doing quite a lot, actually. Education is a vital aspect of my ideal career. I am a senior student of Women and Gender Studies (WGS) at SFSU. The fact that the WGS program at SFSU was originally designed by Angela Davis makes me feel that I am going in the right direction in my ideal career. Davis is a scholar and activist; one of my favorite works is her book, Are Prisons Obsolete?
Practical work is vital to my ideal career; I have been volunteering and interning all around the Bay Area. With genuine modesty, I list the NGOs that I’ve been associated with: Optional Recovery Center, Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, Bay Area Legal Aid, Project Homeless, Asian Women’s Shelter, Refugee and Human Rights Clinic at UC Hasting, Mongolian Women’s Association, and the Mongolian Student Association at Laney College.
This summer, I had an opportunity to volunteer in three different NGOs in Ulaanbaatar for three months: National Center Against Violence, LGBT Center, and the Young Women’s Club. Although short, my experiences with these NGOs were rich, as was that of living as a local in Ulaanbaatar, because I left Mongolia when I was sixteen years old. All of my experiences with these NGOs have a profound affect on me as an individual. Also, they have helped me to grow and identify my strength and areas where I need to improve. Of course, I have not volunteered for these organizations just for personal gains; I stood with their mission and vision.
Currently, I have been thinking about doing ethnographic research in the Mongolian community, hoping to contribute to creating an archive for the next generations of Mongolian Americans.
Miglio: In order to prepare for my ideal career, I am looking to apply for a Master’s Degree as well as looking into internships and job opportunities that could prepare me for a career in my desired field.
Lexus Killingsworth: I am in the beginning stages of writing a thesis that discusses visual representations of queer black women in the films The Color Purple and Daughters of the Dust. This has allowed me to read numerous sources on the subject. Outside of academia, however, I just enjoy consuming anything with representations of queer black women. I currently love How to Get Away With Murder.
Jillian Salazar: I am enrolled in a M.A. program is Sexuality Studies and reading everything I can get my hands on about different approaches to trauma and sexual violence. I am also applying to be a rape crisis counselor at a local non-profit.
San Francisco Bay Times: Do you think that your chances for future success are better in the Bay Area, or do you plan to leave this region, or perhaps even the U.S., to pursue your goals?
Jay Lykens: I think overall that my chances are much better in the Bay Area. I grew up in the South, so the relative progressiveness here allows me to pursue a lot of opportunities I didn’t have. I still think a lot of work needs to be done here, but the queer community is so close knit, and I think this lets us have strength in numbers when it comes to making real change.
Samukezi Ngubane: My chances of turning my dreams into reality are not in the U.S. Though I admire the Bay Area, its diversity and “freedom” (if I can put it like that), the people I want to work with are not here; the change that I am aspiring for is not here; and most definitely the issues that I want to engage with are not here. Not to say there are no issues here, but I feel I am needed back in South Africa more than I am needed here.
Nicolette Gulickson: While San Francisco is a hub for trans folks, there are many resources already available to trans communities here. My immediate plans for the future include moving to Minneapolis, after graduation, for both personal and professional reasons. There is a large trans community in Minneapolis, and the local government appears to be directly focusing on improving the lives of trans Minneapolitans as well as focusing on combating racial inequality. For example, just this year, the mayor of Minneapolis hired a Black trans man as a senior policy aide and advisor. I would like to be a part of this effort.
Enkhmaa Enkhbold: My plan is to leave, although I love the Bay Area. Let’s face it: it is ridiculously expensive. I can only wait tables for so many hours of the week while being a student. To succeed, it is a necessity for me. Vocational choice is a life choice, so I heard somewhere! Plus, part of my ideal career goal is to work in Mongolia. I want to continue my education there and live as a local. It has been almost fourteen years since I left the country. I’ve changed and the country has changed!
I believe that diverse experiences keep me on my toes and help me make critical analysis of coexisting. They also keep my values and beliefs at hand to be challenged. I plan to go all the way to PhD. For me, it is a necessity. (Don’t ask me why! Okay, you can ask me why! Because I want to make my parents proud! Little humor!) But with all seriousness, I identify with the Global South, aka “the third world,” so I feel like in order to enter the global Academic World, a PhD is a must, and I hope and plan to make my career somewhere in the Global South.
Miglio: I would love to leave the U.S., but finically, that is not an option right now. Ideally I will work in the Bay Area until I can leave the U.S. because that is a goal I have.
Lexus Killingsworth: I do feel as though my chances are better here. While I plan to move away for a PhD program, I would definitely like to be back in the Bay Area soon after. If I am going to make a career out of studying pornography, the Bay Area feels like the best place to do so.
Jillian Salazar: The Bay Area would be an amazing place to further my career. However, if I felt that my skills could be used in a region with fewer resources for those affected by sexual violence, then I would consider relocating. I’ve often felt that my work may bring me back to the Central Valley of California where I grew up because I witnessed a severe lack of services for survivors of sexual violence when I lived there.
San Francisco Bay Times: What are some of your biggest concerns now about meeting your education and career goals?
Jay Lykens: I think it’s rough being a graduate student and working full time. My biggest concerns are juggling my finances with my future educational goals. If I could be a fulltime student and dedicate all of my free time to my studies I would, but that’s unrealistic with how expensive it is to live here in the Bay Area.
Samukezi Ngubane: I guess my biggest concern is to be the best that I can be, and to meet my own expectations, both personally and academically. I am not concerned with the work I want to do. I will do whatever it takes to reach out to the communities I want to work with, even if it means I start these conversations alone with no funding.
Nicolette Gulickson: My main educational concern lies in the applicability and practicality of the Sexuality Studies Master’s Program. As such, I will be incorporating my work at TLC with my program coursework through SFSU’s community service learning program next Spring. This allows me to receive credit for my volunteer work with TLC and provides practical experience working with an organization that mirrors my career goals. Additionally, I have made connections through my program that will help me to find work in Minneapolis when the need arises.
Enkhmaa Enkhbold: Money, Money, Money!!! Educational institutions are capitalist entities in the majority of the world. I’ve always been a student and an employee. For me, there is no escape, and it is quite evident that it will continue to be the case. I have no means of independent financial support, so to be a student means to be an employee, regardless of where I end up in the world. Yes, there are grants and scholarships, but when you are a fulltime student and working, it’s not easy to earn A’s in all your classes. Plus, if the language is not your first language, it makes it even harder. But somehow I’ve always managed.
Miglio: The biggest concerns I have about meeting educational and career goals would have to do with money and safety. It is expensive to stay in school, and I don’t know how long I can maintain that. I was in community college for ten years while I worked retail jobs and survived in the Bay Area. I’m 30 years old and am graduating this year. School is just not sustainable all the time for me, but I’m going to push for a Master’s Degree because I believe it will help me live a life that is more stable.
I also really hope to work in a space that feels safe to me as I continue with my career. As a queer individual, I want to go into a work space where my gender pronouns are respected and I can feel comfortable in the bathroom and so on. It’s hard to find that kind of atmosphere, and without a college degree that was impossible.
Lexus Killingsworth: My biggest concern is money. I do currently live in the Bay Area. Do I even need to say more? However, another big concern is whether I’ll be taken seriously because I want to study pornography and anime and manga.
Jillian Salazar: Trying to balance work and school while living in one of the most expensive cities in the world is a constant concern. If my job were in jeopardy because of school, I would have to choose my job over school to continue to live in the Bay Area. But my studies have become the driving factor in my love of San Francisco, so it would really be a lose-lose situation.
San Francisco Bay Times: Do you believe that job prospects for students such as yourself are better or worse than they were a decade or so ago?
Jay Lykens: I think they’re undoubtedly better, especially with some of the non-discrimination acts that have been passed. But it’s still difficult to determine if you’re safe in certain areas, especially when it comes to the workplace. I always struggle with deciding to “come out” or not to employers and colleagues. But in regards to the past decade and where I used to live in the South, my job prospects are much better.
Samukezi Ngubane: I think things are slowly changing. From my experience, I have been given chances to work in organizations where I might not have had experience in their field, but they saw my potential and/or they believed I was someone that they could invest in, so they gave me a chance. I have been given platforms to learn, to make mistakes, and eventually to excel. Things are changing, slowly, but something is moving.
Nicolette Gulickson: Trans visibility in popular culture and political discourse is at its apex, so job prospects for a student like me, who is focused on contributing to the movement, are sure to be plentiful. Ten years ago, the needs of trans folks were not even on the radar of legislators in the U.S. Now, there are so many more trans advocacy organizations, increased trans activism, and policy discussions happening all over the country. There is still much work to be done; I have no doubt that my skills and passion will find a home within the trans movement.
Enkhmaa Enkhbold: For students like me (those whose career goals are similar to mine) I believe that job prospects are getting better because I think that the academic world has been advanced since the World Wide Web became available to the public in 1990. I believe that before 1990, access to the academic world was limited for those in non-western contexts. There were limited spaces to discuss and critique the dominant mainstream ideologies and imbalance of knowledge production. I feel that in this era, the space is expanded dramatically, which has tremendous effect. However, there is much to do and my hope is to take part in it.
Miglio: I believe that the rift between wealthy and the poor is getting larger and thus affecting the job market in drastic ways that are only getting worse. The options for good paying jobs, even inside non-profits where I might find community or safety, are slim. There are tons of opportunities on Craigslist to work with youth in inner cities and such, but all the jobs start at $13.00 an hour. I could apply for a job at FedEx and make twice that amount as a starting wage. The reason I am pursuing a Master’s Degree is so that I can have a skill that guarantees a living wage—but who knows if that will work? I have little faith in the job market, which means I have to work twice or three times as hard to develop a good resume. Even then, I could still end up not using my degree. That’s a reality I have to live with.
Lexus Killingsworth: Both. Better because it feels like people in the U.S. are becoming more aware of the importance of visual representations and the need for the further development of that type of scholarship. Worse because it seems as though jobs want candidates to have travelled to the moon, cured cancer and have been President for two consecutive terms before they even think about considering you! It’s hard to apply for jobs when you feel as though you’ll never be qualified enough, even if you just graduated with a degree in that field.
Jillian Salazar: I believe job prospects for students are much worse than they were a decade ago. The only advice parents and mentors give students nowadays is to stay in school for as long as they can, take out student loans, figure out a job when the economy is better, and not to worry about paying back the loans later.
San Francisco Bay Times: What do you think makes your generation unique, and how do you hope it will make its mark on history?
Jay Lykens: My generation is extremely connected by social media and other technology. It’s easy for me to see what’s going on in other parts of the country and the world, and I feel like we can all make a bigger difference than ever before. It’s also really easy to spread the word about social movements and get more people involved. I think this generation has the greatest potential to really kick-start change from the ground up.
Samukezi Ngubane: Hmmm, unique? I guess technology makes our generation unique. In a sense that activism now happens online: job opportunities, networking, and campaigns now have a platform online that they previously didn’t have. Look at all of the hashtag anti-prejudice, discrimination and awareness campaigns that started online. It is just amazing how our generation is engaging with technology.
Nicolette Gulickson: As I said above, acceptance of the LGBT community has advanced so much in recent years. I’d like to think that my generation would be the one to break the silence on the social justice issues our society has ignored for so long with regards to trans people. I hope that my generation will end the stigma surrounding membership in the LGBT community. I’ve read conflicting research about whether or not millennials are truly more progressive than our predecessors, but I think the shift in cultural attitudes towards the LGBT community speaks for itself.
Enkhmaa Enkhbold: Uniqueness is definitely the advancement in technology. I hope our generation will make its mark on history as the beginning of a transnational paradigm. In my Utopia, I hope that our generation will be marked as a generation that is disloyal to civilization. This would be awesome. But it is only my Utopia.
Miglio: I’m not sure if I qualify as “this generation.” Like I said, I’m thirty years old so I’m a different generation. I think that the youth of this generation will have to join their parents and grandparents to rise up against the environmental injustices that are occurring and reclaim this planet from corporate destruction. I don’t think there is any choice left. I think the mark that the “youth” will make is finding solidarity within their peers and other generations in order to fight racism, white supremacy, classism, homophobia, water shortages and climate change. There is always such a push for “a different or upcoming generation” when so much of that idea is constructed and created. Power lies within human solidarity that values all generations together—not separate and not hierarchal. If there is anything that makes “this generation unique,” I would say it’s the short amount of time this generation has to reject capitalism and take action to save a planet that is not yet dead.
Lexus Killingsworth: My generation feels really connected to technology. I feel as though we have really excelled in taking this new technology and expanding it in order to help others.
Jillian Salazar: My generation is unique in the sense that we’ve been coddled more than prior generations. Most folks may see this negatively, but in a way it makes this generation less willing to put up with things that prior generations would have accepted as “just the way things are.” I think this generation expects the world to bend over backward for them, and if that means expecting the world to become more equal and less hateful, then I see that as a positive thing.