LGBTQ Community and Entertainment Industry

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Updated: Aug 21, 2023
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In the last few years, our nation has become increasingly progressive, especially in regard to gay and lesbian rights. The ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy was repealed, there are over 450 openly gay elected officials serving across the country, and the Supreme Court granted same-sex couples equal marital rights as heterosexual couples. This progressive push has also been noted within the entertainment industry.

‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’ is back and better than ever, and the majority of highly viewed television shows feature homosexual characters.

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Unfortunately, while homosexuality has become better accepted, there is still a lack of understanding and representation of bisexual individuals. Bisexuality is most often described as a romantic or sexual attraction to both men and women. However, one’s sexuality is not so easily categorized or defined, and it is often perceived differently by each person. This oversimplification, in combination with poor mass media representation, leads to inaccurate stereotypes. Just like most categorized groups, there are positive stereotypes as well.

Bisexuals are often thought of as being more open-minded and flexible in interpersonal situations. While these favorable stereotypes exist, they are often overshadowed by damaging misconceptions which perpetuate negative stigmas about bisexuality. Mass media representation, or lack thereof, perpetuates negative stereotypes and misconceptions about bisexuality and works to erase the sexuality altogether. This damaging effect can be traced to how LGBT news is reported and how the entertainment industry portrays bisexuality. These factors culminate in damaging stigmas associated with the bi-community and impact how these individuals are perceived internally and externally. In the United States, it’s estimated that bisexual individuals account for half of the LGBT community (Gates, 2012).

In a Gallup poll, more adults than ever are identifying as LGBT. This rise can be seen most clearly among millennials, who “are more than twice as likely as any other generation to identify as LGBT … and now account for 58% of LGBT-identified adults” (Gates, 2017). These numbers show that LGBT visibility is improving. However, this recognition is not being shared among bisexual individuals particularly, in mainstream media coverage. Despite LGBT being a common term for the queer community, bisexuality is being erased both through terminology and a passé focus on journalistic style. Many news headlines use phrases like “gay rights” to describe stories and fights that affect the LGBT community on a wider scale. A notable example of this was the 2017 Masterpiece Cake Shop Court Case. This case was publicized as a “gay rights” case, despite being a decision that affects any queer or same-sex couple. This example is coupled with several other examples that mislabel LGBT stories and downplayed because they become associated exclusively with “gay rights”. Many issues related to the representation of bisexuals originate from this binary thinking, wherein things are classified as either purely heterosexual or purely homosexual.

The erasure of bisexuality is a very “pervasive problem in which the existence or legitimacy of bisexuality (either in general or in regard to an individual) is questioned or denied outright” (GLAAD, 2014). Clarifying and having intent with terminology is an important process that ensures the mass media isn’t discounting a group of people or erasing them altogether. A study conducted by PLSO discovered a “lack of positive attitudes toward bisexual individuals among the general population of adults in the U.S. and highlighted the need for developing intervention approaches to promote more positive attitudes toward bisexual individuals” (2016).

Authentically representing multiple viewpoints and people is becoming an important factor in reporting. Having the media represent issues more objectively and discussing how they affect a group can have a significant effect on how these proposed groups are perceived. Media can have a huge impact on shaping public opinion, particularly in the entertainment industry. Television and movies provide individuals with a vessel to empathetically relate to another person through a narrative structure.

Consider Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, which shaped public opinion about discrimination and made viewers more aware of U.S. race relations. Similarly, Brokeback Mountain accomplished a similar feat, addressing issues about closeted homosexuality and its portrayal of love in an industry that prizes traditional ideas of masculinity.

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LGBTQ Community and Entertainment Industry. (2021, May 27). Retrieved from