Throughout the history of news media the LGBTQ community has been slandered, stigmatized, and defamed. Organizations such as The National Gay Media Association and GLAAD (known formerly as Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) have sought to protect the LGBTQ people in the media against the stereotypes, negative portrayals and defamation that society may often associate with being gay or lesbian. The LGBTQ people have had their fair share of problems concerning the media.
However, there were many men and women willing to stand up for justice and were simply tired of the negative depictions in news media. One of those men happen to be Ross Murray, the Programs Director of Global and U.S. South for GLAAD. When talking about the distorted and misrepresentation of LGBTQ people in news media and the film industry he quotes, “We came to solve the problem, it is a problem.” He and many of his colleagues are promoting not only media equally, but equality globally especially in national and international media. GLAAD’s advocacy is to aid the LGBTQ community and concoct a strategic plan for men and women to be portrayed appropriately in society and media.
He further goes on to talk about how these negative representations can affect children. When children watch violence against gays in the media, it can possibly instill fear of them wanting to come out or admitting to be gay/lesbian/or bisexual, long-term effect would be them suppressing their identity.
Looking through the course of media as a whole such as the film and television industry, there were very few gay characters if any in the 90s’, but that started to change by the year 2000.
Exposure to gay and lesbian communities had a positive impact among the youth. News media has a major influence on social change and has the power to correct stereotypes of LGBTQ people, yet we constantly see movies such as “Meet the Spartans”, “The Forty Year Old Virgin”, “Meet the Fockers” and the television show “The Big Bang Theory. These movies use offensive language like faggot, queer, gay in derogatory manner while normalizing these slurs. GLAAD’s organization was created to fight against bias like this. “Having HIV or Aids was known as the gay’s man disease in the 80’s” says Murray. GLAAD’s mission and purpose were designed to aid in defamation against gay men and women in the media.
However, media figures that are LBGQT and made their decision to come out has shined a positive light on the comfort of their identities and forced a space in news media. The influence of these media figures can be portrayed as positive and negative GLB media figures overall. One of my classmates were asked what would they like to see more of in the media in terms of its depictions of GLB characters and someone answered the reality of what gays face and the hardships they undergo.
Media and LGBTQ community have not always got along or seen eye to eye. There have been many cases and examples of interviews or news media outlets that have been unfair or unjust when it comes to the coverage of them. An example would be “conservative” Fox News, who some may say has anti-homosexual agendas. I think it’s best to question the media. Where is the diversity at in the news outlets? How many producers, writers, editors, directors or media specialists in news outlets are women, openly lesbian or gay or a minority? To represent a group equally, the must be different communities and a diverse number of members in news outlets. Does news media tend to hold certain groups of people to one standard while using a different
standard for other groups? An example would be gay men being stereotyped as overly promiscuous and justifying rape among them. News coverage usually fails to focus on the important factors giving a pass to prejudice. Coverage of hate speech against gays and lesbians often fails to mention increases in gay-bashing and how the two might be related. GLAAD organization somewhat acts as a mediator between media and the LGBTQ community.
“I simply encourage folks who has done work GLAAD to volunteer” says Ross Murray. Although, there continues to be bias and misrepresentation of gay men and women in news media and media as a whole, there has been a momentum of progression. In the case of the Media versus Gays, I find favor of the LGBTQ community.
Tia Berger is a senior currently enrolled at Georgia State University. Her major is Journalism with a concentration in Media & Society. Follow Tia on Instagram @TiaCassan.