How are LGBT+ People Portrayed in the Media?

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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How gay men and lesbians are presented in the media has been one of the most abundant areas of analysis and research within homosexual studies as well as a queer theory since the 1970s (Gudelunas). Although in a relatively recent area of study, this work is considered essential for a better understanding of how a modern gay and lesbian identity was shaped, reflected, and at times ignored by mainstream media (Hoffman). In the United States and soon to be everywhere else, the media has become widespread with the beginning of every day, we are now living in a global world where information is essential (Ayoub).

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A Few shifts in public opinion have been rapidly going widespread as attitudes about lesbian women and gay men are being put everywhere as more and more come out (Ayoub). In recent studies, people have explored deep into the media and how it has contributed to this major change. The studies have shown that the media can play a transnational role in shaping political attitudes towards sexuality and minorities in general, especially affecting the views of younger individuals (Ayoub). On every popular media source we look at, we cannot avoid the subject of homosexuality, it is in the in the movies, magazines, television shows, books, in the news and in politics. Most of the responses to homosexuality as well as gay and lesbian people are not always positive across the nation and homosexuals are seen as very different in every society, and are portrayed a different way in everyone’s eyes because of the media (Lin, et al.).

The main sources of information all have an important role as an information provider and a social model to the whole world, it also has a strong influence over individuals beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors, especially for those who don’t have wide access to other information sources or are just beginning to shape and form their identities and opinions. “The word homosexuality Comes from the Greek word “homos,” meaning “same,” and not from the Latin “homo,” meaning “man,” the term refers both to sex between males and sex between females” (Gale). The perspective of homosexuality has a special history in the social, medical, and religious sources in the media. This perspective usually balances the personal identity, sexual orientation, and behavior of a person in a very negative manner. Moreover, since about the eleventh century CE, “homosexuality has been seen as antithetical to Western ideas of church, family, and state; this attitude generally reflects a traditional Judeo-Christian cosmology” (Herdt, G, 2007). Homosexuality doesn’t just have history from decades ago it has recently fully come out until the increase in gay people in news, television, and movies which started in the 1990s (Ayoub). This was all [brought by Ellen DeGeneres coming out on the mainstream American television show called Ellen] (Ayoub, 2018).

The next big TV show to come out was the first reality TV show to demonstrate a homosexual’s life was MTV’s “The Real World” in 1992, which was a shock. Media portrayals of homosexuals have continued to increase over theist few decades since they were featured in popular shows like Will and Grace and Modern Family. These portrayals have also recently spread to shows for teenage audiences such as Glee and Teen Wolf. There may not be a lot of history on homosexuality, but many are aiming to study and to understand better how homosexuality is framed in the public press, and how religion and economic development may combine to shape this debate. The media is typically seen as being part of two different but interrelated processes, while the media may be viewed as influencing individuals attitudes and it can also be understood as expressing a nation’s values or its “collective consciousness” (Edelstein). In recent years, homosexuality has been a very large part in all the media platforms. Politics and elections in the United States have also been playing a very large role in the way homosexuality or gays are represented trhoughout not only the media but peoples lives. Between January 2012 and July 2015, “ten countries, including the USA, began to legally recognize same-sex marriages” (Lin K, 2016).

This meant everyone in the country had the choice to vote and legalize homosexual marriages or vote against it to not allow it and they allowed it. The media doesnt just give information about anything it has helped a lot in the debate over homosexuality by educating more and more people every day about it, it has gone further in developing the perception that homosexuality is a significant ethical and moral issue that needs to be addressed. The professionals who help create the media coexist with their constituents in the same cultural systemThe constant coverage of the media concerning the rights of gay activists among other persons made the issue of homosexuality a highly contested subject. Besides, homosexuality has ended up being the main piece in politics, along with several other moral issues. A few years ago, the media brought different changes to this world, and since people did not know much they created a world where homosexuality had been considered as a touchy topic, which sometimes is still the case. One of the best reasons it was like that is due to the rise of new television shows and movies featuring homosexual or gay and lesbian people. Media organizations are interested in attracting advertisement money, so when something is going on around the world they incorporate it into shows to make more people watch, and due to the acceptance of “gays” and “lesbians” as seen in television shows, the homosexuals casting in different reality TV shows has increased. Currently there are so many shows and movies coming out on popular stations with a cast with a homosexual as the main show characters, this just comes to show that homosexuals are on their way to being accepted by everyone, and in addition some individuals are ready to celebrate them for their bravery and openness while others would rather not do such a thing and still stereotype with them.

Although now a days, many are becoming tolerant of all this “gay” media. Entertainment is one of the few where some of the discussions about homosexuality were said to be tolerable or at least undeserving of negative comments. These negative comments can include stereotypes such as “characters lacking stable relationships, being preoccupied with their sexuality, and being laughable, one-dimensional figures” (Gonta, G., Hansen, S., Fagin, C. and Fong, J. 2017). However, throughout years of extential growth of the media as a platform of social expression, there is a notable development in representations and attention to homosexuality. Along with all of the current media coverage on gays and lesbians and how they are portrayed, it comes as no surprise that many more gay-themed movies and characters that accurately describe the homosexuals today are coming out from Hollywood. “The open display of affection between same-sex couples displayed on cable television was the catalyst which prompted this research in an effort to answer the question of whether or not Americans are being forced to accept homosexuality as the new norm” (Mitchell, A., & Fries, M. (2016). Mainstream movies in years before now normally did not have many gay characters. With including many homosexual characters, numerous stereotypes flooded the mainstream movies. These people that still stereotype homosexuals are usually religious people against gay marriages, “From the evidence, it is possible to conclude that those with negative attitude towards homosexuality are more likely to be religious, politically conservative, and less well educated” (Kite & Whiteney, 1996; Herek, 1986; Hort, Fagot & Leinbach, 1990).

Previously, mainstream movies emphasized the negative stereotype that had been created through society, therefore enhancing the effect they have on the individual’s views towards homosexuals. The center of the movies then focused on homosexuals’ manners in which they talk, act, and look. Along with all of these labels on homosexuals in movies, it is very important that people take a large step back and observe the bigger picture, people must look at some of the movies with homosexual themes so they get a truer look at homosexuals. In most cases, people stereotype homosexuals as people that like acting out in one or multiple ways, and in some movies still today people carry on that stereotype which causes all different ideas of homosexual. Although it is not right for people to think of people that are “different” to set them apart from “normal” people because of those they choose to sleep with. Homosexuals are not different from other people, they are simply normal people. Now these days, main well known magazines on homosexuals are great sources to truly show how homosexuals represent themselves in media, it is also very important to understand that some magazines are aimed towards creating an accepting image for homosexuals and are sometimes produced by homosexuals. There is a very large range of homosexual magazines that can range from talking about “how one may have known they were gay” to ones where they give advice from a homosexual themselves. Just like other kinds of mainstream media though, homosexual magazines can generate terrible stereotypes.

On some sources of media, homosexuals are being perceived as wild, and partiers, and on another hand, they are being portrayed as cultured intelligent political motivators. Such labels on occasion are actually how a few people of the homosexual community may want to be portrayed as, some may want to be portrayed as a party animal just for the popularity. However, such stereotypes may be true in certain people of the homosexual community, but they do not portray the entire homosexual population. Radio media airs its own views which negatively portray homosexuals as being human, but then again there are people on the radio that will step in and have their own opinions. Everyone looks at all the sorts of different mass media in order to learn details about anything, which have various portrayals and stereotypes created through the different media channels, which can cause us to sometimes understand things better, and we can see the influence media has on things such as homosexuality. We are constantly being fed completely different information on the views of homosexuals on all media, which makes many people wonder which perception and portrayal is the correct one or the best. There may even be faultiness in all the portrayals and they all could be wrong we truly don’t know. People may see homosexuals through different media sources and each of them may give different opinions where one can say gay women are very masculine and gay men are very feminine while another may say gay women are still feminine and gay men are still masculine.

Although some of these sources of information have mainly portrayed a negative image of homosexuals and presenting them to others as “weird”. To conclusion, homosexuality was has been around for a very long time, as well as there have been studies done in the 1970s on the queer theory, so we can better understand homosexuality. Nonetheless, if we look at any other group of individuals, we can yet see all the different behaviors and personalities that are present in a given group. It is illogical and normally harmful to stereotype a group as particularly being different in one or more ways. The facts remain that we are all different individuals and stereotypes are just small pieces for each individual to create as something that it is not. As a society, we should overlook these negative views and stereotypes if we will really appreciate everyone in the world.

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How Are LGBT+ People Portrayed in The Media?. (2020, Jul 23). Retrieved from