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Seeing LGBT+ people in media really does change hearts and minds

Seeing LGBT+ people in media really does change hearts and minds

A dad teaches his trans son how to shave in a Gillette advert from 2019.

Straight cisgender people are significantly more likely to be open-minded and accepting if they see LGBT+ people in the media.

That’s according to a new study by US media organization GLAAD.

Researchers surveyed non-LGBT+ Americans – both those who had seen LGBT+ people in the media and those who say they have not seen LGBT+ media representation recently.

And they found 80% of those who had seen LGBT+ representation are more supportive of equal rights for our community. That compares to 70% of those who haven’t seen LGBT+ people in the media.

Moreover, 85% of straight, cisgender Americans think that companies who include LGBT+ peole in their advertising are showing their ‘commitment to offering products to all types of customers’.

Sarah Kate Ellis is president and CEO of GLAAD. She said:

‘The findings of this study send a strong message to brands and media outlets. Including LGBTQ people in ads, films, and TV is good for business and good for the world.

‘During the COVID-19 pandemic, when media consumption is up and when media outlets serve as lifelines for LGBTQ people in isolation, companies should recognize that now is the right time to grow the quality and quantity of LGBTQ people in advertising.’

However, she warned that there was a ‘history of bias’. Traditionally, LGBT+ people are massively underrepresented in TV, film and other mainstream media. And that continues today.

Given that, Ellis says media and brands still need to do ‘significant work’ to overcome this bias.

Seeing LGBT+ people in media makes people more accepting

The researchers surveyed 2,031 non-LGBT+ US adults aged over 18 from November and December.

They split them into two groups – those who had seen LGBT+ people in media recently, and those that hadn’t.

The major findings are:

Those who have seen LGBT+ representation are more accepting of gay and lesbian people than those who haven’t (48% to 35%).

Similarly, they are more accepting of bisexual people (45% to 31%). And it’s the same patter for non-binary people (41% to 30%).

The researchers also found those who see LGBT+ people on their screens are more comfortable with them in their daily lives.

For example, 72% of those who see LGBT+ representation are more likely to be comfortable with an LGBT+ family member. That compares to 66% who don’t see that representation.

Likewise, they are more likely to be comfortable if an LGBT+ family with children moves into their neighborhood (79% to 72%).

Moreover, they are also more likely to be comfortable starting a conversation with someone who is not straight (81% to 76%).

And 73% of the first group would be happy if their doctor is gay, lesbian or bi. That’s against 67% of those who haven’t seen recent LGBT+ representation.

The survey also asked specifically about gender identity.

And researchers found 69% of those who saw LGBT+ representation were comfortable starting a conversation with someone ‘whose gender is unclear’. That’s compared to 60% of those who don’t see LGBT+ people in the media.

LGBT+ inclusive advertising has a wider impact

LGBT+ people traditionally haven’t been depicted in advertising. Moreover, most brands and companies still spend less on targeting LGBT+ consumers than the community is worth.

However, the research shows that the pioneers who do include LGBT+ representation in their marketing campaigns will benefit.

It found that non-LGBT+ people also looked favorably on companies who include LGBT+ people in their ads.

Unsurprisingly, 86% thought including LGBT+ people shows a company supports LGBT+ rights.

Equally, 85% thought it indicates the company is committed to offering products to all types of customers. And 82% think it reflects the fact a company values all kinds of diversity.

One company which has included LGBT+ people in advertising for some of its brands is Proctor and Gamble.

It’s ad about a dad showing his transgender son how to shave for the first time became a viral hit in 2019.

And the company, the world’s largest advertiser, funded the GLAAD study – LGBTQ Inclusion in Advertising and Media.

Marc Pritchard is P&G chief brand officer. He said they were committed to understanding including LGBT+ people without stereotyping or misappropriating our culture. 

And he said: ‘We all have a lot to learn and we are truly at the beginning of our journey to master LGBTQ inclusion in our brand building efforts.’