LGBTQ+ and the Power of Media
Acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community has been growing around the world, according to The Williams Institute’s Global Acceptance Index, Iceland, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden and Canada are the top five most accepting countries. However, there is still more work to be done by businesses and the media to increase the number and diversity of stories to tell. Globally, reducing inequality is a recognized issue which needs to be tackled, SDG 10 focuses on this and many other countries have also begun increasing their efforts to tackle this problem. Telling diverse and inclusive stories centered around the LGBTQ+ community has never been more critical, as a large number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills continue to be proposed in state legislatures across America. As a new generation prepares to enter the workspace and play a larger role in society, it is also important to take note of this new generation’s needs and demands. Creating a safe and welcoming space for them is integral to a brighter future where everyone, regardless of sexuality or otherwise, is accepted.
INCREASING LGBTQ+ REPRESENTATION IN MEDIA
One in five Gen Z individuals, roughly 21%, now identifies as either lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. The media can play a large role in educating audiences, humanizing marginalized communities through accurate portrayals. A unified measure of LGBTQ+ representation can be the motivating force toward more accountability and a GREATer cultural acceptance. While many countries have become more widely accepting of the community, there are still many challenges and hardships. Specifically attacks against trans youth which have seen a recent spike in frequency. This along with the increase in anti-Trans legislations being proposed in the American government, representation and acceptance are things which need to be highlighted and pursued. Cultural institutions like the media have the ability to shape what people see and hear, and subsequently, make impact on the decisions we make in schools, offices, homes, and many other places. They have a crucial role to play in changing the hearts and minds of any and all who consume their media. 26 years ago, there were only 12 total LGBTQ+ series regular characters, in contrast the most recent count shows 636 recurring characters. This number represents and reflects the change that needs to happen everywhere. However, it is important to note that this new generation has incredibly high media literacy, able to detect when the media is forcing the inclusivity. As the media creates accurate depictions of the LGTBQ+ community and other marginalized groups, it normalizes a society where these individuals are not only accepted but also understood and welcomed. But all of that would be pointless unless it was genuine. In a society where mindless violence occurs at an alarming rate, we have no time to waste on empty words and promises.
IMPACT ON BUSINESSES
As the LGBTQ+ community continues to grow in scale, it stands to reason that we will also see a continued growth of impact in media representation and cultural acceptance. A majority of Americans are not only comfortable witnessing LGBTQ+ representation in media and advertisements but also find brands which are LGBTQ+ inclusive favorable. According to The World Economic Forum, 59% of ethnic and racial minorities and 49% of individuals in general prefer engaging with brands that represent and are inclusive of different groups in society. The impact that the media and representation of the LGBTQ+ community has on advancing equality and acceptance is recognized even by organizations and businesses. Over 90% of agencies and advertisers agree on the notion that companies can normalize and familiarize their consumers with a diverse groups of individuals through representing them. With this in mind, companies now more than ever have a clear incentive and key to their performance. However, it is important that they not only present a face of acceptance, but also reflect it within the business and organization culture. Acceptance and inclusivity is not merely a tool for Publicity and PR but should be integrated into the fabric of the organization and its members.
Representation and the power the media holds is a coin with many sides. With GREAT power comes GREAT responsibility and the media is a prime example of how it can go both right and wrong. Power and influence is virtually useless if not wielded properly, while representation can help create GREAT future, it can also be what stalls its arrival. While inclusivity and representation should be strived for, creators must not forget the core issue and heart of the cause. As the next generation slowly comes into power, increasing inclusivity would not only provide them a healthy environment to thrive in but also cater towards those individuals. Providing the media and other businesses the opportunity to reach a new demographic. In the end we must all work to uplift members of our community, especially those in marginalized groups, in order to bring that GREAT future to fruition.
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