NEW YORK — As media and entertainment companies continue to place an onus on diversifying the faces their audiences see, a new study finds some groups still feel left out. Two-thirds of LGBTQ+ Americans believe their representation in media is “greatly lacking.”
The new survey of 2,000 LGBTQ+ Americans finds that despite 62 percent believing the country is making progress with representation, there’s still a long way to go. Even when there is representation, only a third of respondents (31%) said it was a “positive” portrayal when they first saw someone like themselves in the media.
For many, the negative aspects are enough to turn them away as consumers. In fact, 39 percent have stopped engaging with specific media because they believe it plays into harmful stereotypes about the LGBTQ+ community. Others say they’ve stopped watching a certain show or reading a book due to a lack of representation (23%), or because it uses a trope like “bury your gays” (23%), in which LGBTQ+ characters are more likely to die in the story.
LGBTQ representation helps strengthen self-identity
Commissioned by Orbitz and conducted by OnePoll ahead of Pride month in June, the survey also finds that 47 percent of respondents said seeing themselves in media — on shows like “Steven Universe” or “The Fosters” — helped them to realize their own identity. This also helped over six in 10 respondents become more comfortable in their identity.
Fifty-seven percent added that seeing LGBTQ+ characters in media has not only benefited them, it’s helped their loved ones better understand their experience. Overall, 61 percent believe LGBTQ+ representation is important, while 54 percent said the same for intersectional representation.
“Now more than ever, diversity and authentic representation should be table stakes in our industry,” says Orbitz Brand Director Carey Malloy, in a statement. “Orbitz was among the first travel brands to feature LGBTQIA travelers in its advertising in the early 2000s. Twenty years later, it’s clear that creators and brands must do more to facilitate a dialogue on representation that leads to meaningful change, not just simply calls to actions.”
Is sexual identity a travel concern?
The panel of LGBTQ+ respondents revealed, for many, there are times they feel the need to downplay their identity. The top situations this occurs in include job interviews, meeting someone new, and while traveling.
Looking further into travel, researchers discovered a fifth of the poll “always” researches a destination to see if it’s LGBTQ+ friendly when planning a trip. Another 58 percent agree that LGBTQ+ travelers spend more time researching travel destinations and accommodations than cisgender or heterosexual travelers.
More than that, six in 10 respondents said they’ve canceled a trip or changed their travel plans due to feeling unsafe, as a result of their gender identity or sexual orientation. However, respondents aren’t letting that stop their travel plans this year. Nearly half the poll (48%) are planning to participate in Pride events this year. Of those, two in three said their first big, post-COVID trip will be something to help them celebrate.
“Pride is typically one of the bigger travel moments of the summer. With in-person events still fluctuating as we navigate this new middle ground coming out of the pandemic, we’re seeing that many people are celebrating Pride locally now, then traveling somewhere new later in the year when hopefully parades will be back,” Malloy adds.