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Targeting LGBTQ+ Americans May Be A Losing Game

Originally published by The 19th

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Nine out of 10 heterosexual Americans — 91 percent — think that LGBTQ+ people should live without facing discrimination, according to a newly released survey from GLAAD, the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ media advocacy group. 

The “Accelerating Acceptance” report, which the organization released on Thursday, is the latest in a series of polls that suggest that the Republican political strategy of targeting LGBTQ+ Americans may be a losing game with the majority of voters. 

“I think the short-term gains for them right now are financing and public profile, but it won’t get them elected,” Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of GLAAD, told The 19th. “I think the top line is that an overwhelming number of Americans believe that LGBTQ people should live our lives freely.”

The study looked at responses from 2,533 people who self-identified as non-LGBTQ+ ages 18 and older and was conducted online by research technology firm Cint during February 2023. 

Republican lawmakers have filed a barrage of anti-LGBTQ+ bills in the last three years, with most of the measures aimed at transgender youth. The Equality Federation, a coalition of statewide LGBTQ+ organizations, reports that lawmakers have introduced more than 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills into state legislatures in the past year alone. A record number of those bills have passed. Eighteen states now ban the recommended medical care for transgender youth, and 21 states bar trans kids from competing in sports that align with their gender. 

While those bills might be soaring through Republican-dominated statehouses, polling suggests that the country has continued to embrace LGBTQ+ people. That translates to backing policy for them, GLAAD says. In 2021, 79 percent of Accelerating Acceptance respondents backed LGBTQ+ equal rights. That number jumped to 84 percent in 2023, a number just shy of the 91 percent who said they felt queer people should not be discriminated against.

But there is still work to do, advocates say. Of those surveyed, exactly half expressed that transgender and nonbinary people were “new” or “unfamiliar.” Another 54 percent expressed that they thought that people who use they/them pronouns were in the process of figuring out who they are. Less than 30 percent said they knew a trans or nonbinary person. 

Ellis said advocacy organizations recognize that they have their work cut out for them, especially when it comes to introducing the general public to trans and nonbinary people.

“We were up against the same numbers around gay and lesbian folks,” she said. “It takes time, it takes work, it’s storytelling. So there’s this public education aspect.”

The GLAAD study is not an outlier. The progressive advocacy group Moms Rising also released a study at the end of May that found that a majority of moms surveyed supported LGBTQ+-inclusive curriculums. 

The studies are the latest in a round of polling that suggest that despite the wave of anti-LGBTQ+ policy being pushed, actual voters across the political spectrum are focused on other issues. Voters soundly rejected anti-LGBTQ+ candidates in the 2022 midterms, prioritizing other issues like the economy and abortion.

Advocates say those trends are likely to continue. The test will be whether LGBTQ+ allies stay firm in their support as they face attacks. Over Memorial Day weekend, the chain retailer Target pulled some of its annual Pride merchandise over violent threats to its stores and employees. More than 100 LGBTQ+ organizations have called on Target to continue selling its Pride merchandise. 

“This is really where the rubber meets the road,” Ellis said. “This is true allyship, and backing down, and ceding ground to a small group of very vocal extremists, gives them more fuel, gives them more fire, and I think it’s a very important moment.”

Kate Sosin, The 19th
Kate Sosin, The 19th
Kate Sosin is The19th LGBTQ+ reporter. They focus on transgender rights, incarceration, politics and public policy. Kate previously worked at Logo TV, INTO and Windy City Times.


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