New GLAAD report maps long road to full LGBT acceptance, despite historic legal advances

GLAAD surveys conducted by Harris Poll show some Americans still 'very uncomfortable' with LGBT families and co-workers
February 9, 2015

Seth Adam
Director of Communications, GLAAD
(646) 871-8018

GLAAD, the nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) media advocacy organization, today released “Accelerating Acceptance,” based on two surveys – conducted on GLAAD’s behalf by Harris Poll - which reveal some non-LGBT Americans still report substantial levels of discomfort with LGBT co-workers, family, and neighbors, despite historic legal progress for marriage equality. The Executive Summary can be viewed here: The surveys were conducted in August and November, 2014 among over 2,000 U.S. adults (aged 18+) each – of whom over 1,700 per survey indicated being straight, cisgender (referred to here as “non-LGBT Americans”).

“Closing the gap to full acceptance of LGBT people will not come from legislation or judicial decisions alone, but from a deeper understanding and empathy from Americans themselves,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, the CEO and President of GLAAD. “Accelerating acceptance will require the help of not just LGBT people, but also their allies – everyday Americans who feel strongly and take an active role to make sure that their LGBT friends and family are fully accepted members of society.”

While a majority of the public supports equal marriage protections, there remain large numbers of straight, non-transgender adults that still have a significant degree of discomfort surrounding actual weddings for same-sex couples.  One-third (34%) say they would be uncomfortable attending the wedding of a same-sex couple, with 22% saying they would feel very uncomfortable. A substantially larger group (43%) responds they would be uncomfortable bringing a child to the wedding of a same-sex couple. 

Beyond weddings for same-sex couples, the survey reveals that many are still uncomfortable simply seeing and interacting with same-sex couples.  A third of non-LGBT Americans (36%) say that just seeing a same-sex couple holding hands makes them uncomfortable. 

The survey also evidenced resistance to LGBT parents by other parents in their community.  Many straight, non-transgender parents say they would be uncomfortable with their child playing at a home with an LGBT parent – 40% for a transgender parent, 29% for a gay dad and 28% for a lesbian mom. 

A fifth to nearly a third of non-LGBT Americans are uncomfortable with common situations involving LGBT people.  These range from simple things like having an LGBT person move in next door to more personal situations such as learning that a family member is LGBT.

Base: Straight, Cisgender Respondents% Uncomfortable% VERY Uncomfortable
Learning a family member is LGBT32%11%
Learning my doctor is LGBT31%13%
Electing an LGBT politician29%13%
Learning a close friend is LGBT27%10%
Seeing an LGBT co-worker’s wedding picture27%13%
Having LGBT members at your place of worship26%10%
Learning a co-worker is LGBT23%7%
Having an LGBT person move in next door23%6%

Acceptance of the transgender community faces more resistance than does acceptance of the rest of the LGBT community.  Most notably, a majority of non-LGBT Americans (59%) say they would be uncomfortable if they learned their child was dating a transgender person.  More than a quarter (31%) say this would make them “very uncomfortable.”

Being on a sports team with a transgender person still makes large numbers of non-LGBT Americans uncomfortable.  Roughly equal numbers report discomfort with being on the same team as a transgender woman (32%) and a transgender man (31%).  These numbers are higher than the reports of discomfort with being on a sports team with a gay man (26%) or lesbian (20%).

Further demonstrating the importance of cultivating more allies, those who know LGBT people display substantially lower levels of discomfort –30% are uncomfortable seeing a same-sex couple hold hands among those who have LGBT family members, while that number drops to 25% among those with an LGBT coworker and 17% among those with a close LGBT friend.  On the flip side, almost half (47%) of those who don’t know any LGBT people say seeing a same-sex couple holding hands makes them uncomfortable.  Clearly, a connection exists between familiarity and acceptance.

Despite historic progress on the issue of marriage equality, much work remains to be done to ensure the safety and acceptance of LGBT Americans in their communities, workplaces, and families.  These longer-term social and cultural attitudes will require persistent dialogue and education to change and convince those who still hold negative attitudes towards the LGBT community.  This change will not solely come through legislative or judicial action, but also through the actions of LGBT people and allies who take an active role to build a more accepting society in their daily lives – in their schools, with their own children, with friends, and neighbors in the community.

In late 2014, GLAAD commissioned Harris Poll to measure attitudes toward LGBT Americans. Questions were included in online surveys conducted August 21-25, 2014 among 2,014 U.S. adults (aged 18+)—of whom 1,754 indicated they are straight, cisgender—and November 10-12, 2014 among 2,010 U.S. adults (ages 18+)—of whom 1,821 indicated they are straight, cisgender.  Both surveys were nationally representative samples of U.S. adults. Results from straight, cisgender Americans are presented here. For a full methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Seth Adam, Director of Communications at (646) 871-8018 or