A new study released by GLAAD on Thursday found a “significant decline in overall comfort and acceptance of LGBTQ people.” This marks the first time in this particular study’s four-year history that the numbers have declined.
The survey, conducted by Harris Insights and Analytics, is an online poll that measures the American public’s views on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people and issues. Through a series of questions, non-LGBTQ people are asked to rate their comfort level in various situations involving LGBTQ people — from LGBTQ weddings to school curriculum that includes LGBTQ history.
In every single situation, comfort level declined from last year. Three areas where discomfort showed a “significant increase” were “learning a family member is LGBTQ,” “learning my child’s teacher is LGBTQ,” and “learning my doctor is LGBTQ.” The backward step included a reduced number of “allies” (non-LGBTQ respondents who were either “very” or “somewhat” comfortable in all situations) and increased number of “detached supporters” (non-LGBTQ respondents whose comfort level varied).
The results are emblematic of a tumultuous — and often discouraging — year for LGBTQ rights and marginalized communities as a whole. It’s an issue that permeated the news since the election of President Trump, who — after supporting the LGBTQ community on the campaign trail — has taken active measures to limit their civil rights.
The most incendiary move came in July, when Trump declared on Twitter that transgender people would not be allowed to serve in the military. His reasoning, that America couldn’t afford the “tremendous medical costs and disruption,” was quickly shut down by experts who noted that the military doesn’t cover gender transition surgeries. In October, a district judge ruled to block the Pentagon from enacting the proposal, at least for now.
But to many in the LGBTQ community who have spent decades fighting for acceptance, the hateful rhetoric that his proposed ban seemed to engender was damaging enough. In its wake came another blow in November, when a Mississippi law allowing businesses to deny services to LGBTQ people officially went into effect.
To those at GLAAD, the poll is an unfortunate reflection of the state of LGBTQ relations in the country at present. “This year, the acceptance pendulum abruptly stopped and swung in the opposite direction,” GLAAD CEO and President Sarah Kate Ellis writes in the report. Ellis notes that with the increase in discomfort came a “significant increase” in LGBTQ people reporting discrimination because of their identity. “This change can be seen as a dangerous repercussion in the tenor of discourse and experience over the last year,” says Ellis.
While the results of the study may appear discouraging at face value, Ellis added that the fight is far from over. “Forward progress ebbs and flows in every social justice movement,” she writes. “Progress for marginalized communities is a pendulum that swings in both directions and, when well-supported, ultimately lands on freedom.”
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