Despite increased visibility and public understanding, LGBTQ individuals are at increased risk of discrimination, according to GLAAD’s Accelerating Acceptance study, published Wednesday.
GLAAD found that 70% of LGBTQ Americans surveyed said discrimination against the community has increased over the past two years — in the workplace, on social media, in public accommodations, and even within the family. The annual study measures “Americans’ attitudes and eases toward LGBTQ Americans.”
Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD says the increase isn’t surprising given the recent wave of legislation targeting LGBTQ people. In 2022 alone, nearly 250 anti-LGBTQ bills have been filed with state legislators across the country. This includes classroom censorship, book bans, health care restrictions, and access to school sports.
“You see a culture being created that is incredibly unsafe for our community,” Ellis tells USA TODAY.
GLAAD conducted two online surveys for the Accelerating Acceptance report: one in February 2022, among a national sample of 2,536 American adults, and another from April 28 to May 9, 2022, with a national sample of 1,705 American LGBTQ adults.
The data from the survey gives LGBTQ people and their allies a moment to reflect on the current climate surrounding the LGBTQ community and the underlying issues that have contributed to it.
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According to the study, seven in 10 LGBTQ Americans reported experiencing personal discrimination, representing an 11% increase from last year and a 24% jump from 2020. Ellis attributes this increase to the “year over year barrage of anti-LGBTQ legislation” and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric espoused by certain politicians and far-right news outlets.
For LGBTQ people of color, the issue of racial inequality exacerbates the stressors of increasing discrimination against LGBTQ people. According to the study, LGBTQ people of color are 91% more likely to be discriminated against based on race or ethnicity.
While it shouldn’t come as a shock that “the most marginalized within our community is the hardest hit when it comes to discrimination,” Ellis says, Ellis says this multi-layered discrimination offers an opportunity for greater solidarity within the LGBTQ community.
“What we need to do and what we need to continue to do as a community is fight back,” Ellis says. “There is power in our numbers and in coming together.”
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Gen Z adults, transgender people, and non-binary people report more discrimination and feel unsafe.
Gen Z adults have more LGBTQ visibility than their predecessors. But they also report higher levels of discrimination in the past two years compared to the rest of the community. Sixty-seven percent of queer Gen Zers have reported experiencing aggression based on their sexual orientation and 56% based on their gender identity or expression.
Ellis previously called visibility a “double-edged” sword for the LGBTQ community. This is true of Gen Z adults, whose comfort in their LGBTQ identities makes them the target of ignorance. “Visibility is essential for growing adoption and, simultaneously, making us more vulnerable to discrimination,” she says.
Amid this wave of LGBTQ discrimination, transgender and non-binary people struggle with an acute sense of danger in their backyard. According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 14 transgender people were “fatally shot or killed by other violent means” by 2022. GLAAD found that 54% of trans and non-binary individuals feel unsafe walking around them, as opposed to 36% of all LGBTQ adults.
GLAAD also found that 78% of non-LGBTQ adults “inaccurately associate the term ‘LGBTQ’ with being primarily about sexual orientation,” Ellis says this knowledge gap is part of the equation leading to discrimination against trans – and non-binary individuals.
“It has a direct correlation because we know that what we don’t understand or know carries fear,” Ellis says, adding that visibility is an educational tool. “We know through research and studies that Americans want to see more LGBTQ people because it helps them gain understanding and acceptance from our community, which we know creates a safe environment for us.”
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While things may seem bleak, many queer people still find hope in the transformative power of visibility and inclusive legislation.
Three-quarters of LGBTQ adults view social visibility as “essential for achieving greater equality and acceptance”. Regarding media visibility, 64% of LGBTQ adults said they “feel proud and supported when there is accurate LGBTQ media coverage.”
Ellis says such queer-affirming images can serve as “a lifeline” for the LGBTQ community that “helps people learn who LGBTQ people are (and) who our community is made of,” fostering wider adoption.
While the law doesn’t always favor LGBTQ rights, 79% of LGBTQ people support increasing federal legislative action to protect against gender and sexuality discrimination. Ellis says equal protection by law sets a precedent for achieving social equality.
“At the federal level, the only protections that we have laid down by the Supreme Court is that we learn from the possible unraveling of Roe v. Wade that they do not exist forever and are vulnerable,” Ellis says.
“Protecting a community raises the bar for acceptance,” Ellis added, citing the impact of marriage equality laws in the US. “We are now seeing the highest degree of adoption of marriage equality by non-LGBTQ people than we’ve ever seen before. It helps move hearts and minds over time.”
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