Accelerating Acceptance: GLAAD report sheds light on LGBT discomfort in U.S. South

GLAAD's second annual Accelerating Acceptance report continued to show increased discomfort toward LGBT Americans. And today, new data compares attitudes about LGBT people living in the U.S. South with national numbers.

The data comes as GLAAD releases two media guides in its Southern Stories series – one of for journalists reporting on LGBT people in Alabama and another for reporting in Mississippi.

While the public is increasingly embracing LGBT rights and equal protection under the law, many are still uncomfortable with having LGBT people in their families and the communities where they live, with rates even higher in the South. Key findings from GLAAD’s Accelerating Acceptance 2016 survey reveals several realities about LGBT by non-LGBT people in the South.

 

Southerners continue to report higher levels of discomfort in situations with LGBT people, compared to the general US population.

  • One third of Southerners report being very or somewhat uncomfortable seeing a same-sex couple holding hands, compared to 29% nationally.
  • 29% of Southerners report being very or somewhat uncomfortable learning a family member is LGBT, compared to 27% nationally.
  • Over a quarter of Southerners (26%) report being very or somewhat uncomfortable having LGBT members at their religious place of worship, compared to 22% nationally.
  • Three in ten Southerners report being very or somewhat uncomfortable seeing an LGBT co-worker's wedding photo, compared to 26% nationally.
  • 32% of Southerners report being very or somewhat uncomfortable learning their child's teacher is LGBT, compared to 29% nationally.
  • 39% of Southerners report being very or somewhat uncomfortable learning their child had a lesson on LGBT history in their school, compared to 37% nationally.

Complacency with issues facing the LGBT community is just as strong in the South as in the rest of the US. The one exception was that non-LGBT Southerners are more likely to believe that politicians support pro-LGBT policies than the general American population.

  • Half of Southerners, as well as half of the general American public, agreed with the statement, “In the US today, gay people have the same rights as everybody else.”
  • Over half (56%) of Southerners agreed with the statement, “LGBT people receive more media attention today than other minorities communities,” compared to 55% nationally.
  • 35% of Southerners agreed that “The LGBT community has more influence than other minority communities,” compared to 34% nationally.
  • In a striking change from the pattern, more Southerners (35%) agreed with the statement, “Most politicians support policies favorable to LGBT people,” than the US population (30%).

Southerners are slightly more unconcerned or unaware of important issues facing the LGBT community than the rest of the country.

  • 28% of Southerners said HIV and AIDS within the LGBT community was not serious, compared to 24% nationally.
  • Three in ten Southerners said depression and suicide among LGBT people were not serious, compared to 25% nationally.
  • About a third of Southerners (31%) said that neither acts of violence against gay and lesbian people nor against transgender people was serious. Nationally, 26% said that acts of violence against gay and lesbian people was not serious. 27% nationally said acts of violence against transgender people was not serious.
  • 39% of Southerners said social acceptance against LGBT people was not serious, compared to 36% nationally.
  • Over 4 in 10 Southerners said that homeless LGBT teens was not serious, compared to 37% nationally.
  • Nearly half of Southerners (48%) said that racism within the LGBT community was not serious, compared to 44% nationally.

Despite important milestones like marriage equality, there is still much progress to be made for full LGBT acceptance and equality in both states. Many counties in the south do not have laws protecting members of the LGBT community from employment, housing, and public accommodations discrimination. Furthermore, transgender people are not guaranteed necessary medical care.

The new data are part of GLAAD's U.S. South Southern Stories initiative, which aims to positively showcase the lives of, and build acceptance for, the LGBT community in southern states. This is done through sharing the stories of people from a wide array of backgrounds, including faith-based organizations, sports teams, military personnel, and more. GLAAD will continue to work with the media to ensure positive portrayal of the LGBT community across the South.