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One Third of Americans Uncomfortable with LGBTQ Colleagues, Study Shows

According to the 2017 GLAAD Accelerating Acceptance Study, they're also uncomfortable with LGBTQ neighbors and family members.
Photo by Milles Studio, courtesy of Stocksy

Every year, the non-profit organization GLAAD releases an Accelerating Acceptance study analyzing survey data to better understand how—and how many—Americans accept LGBTQ relatives, neighbors, and co-workers. In this year's poll conducted with the company Harris Polls, GLAAD reports that while the results show progress, a third of Americans feel uncomfortable with their LGBTQ co-workers and other LGBTQ people they interact with in their day-to-day lives.


"To the non-LGBTQ respondents, we ask on a scale how uncomfortable they feel about 'people who are exploring or questioning their sexual orientation,'" GLAAD representative Matt Goodman tells Broadly. "The average of that response was just over 31 percent feeling 'very comfortable' or 'somewhat uncomfortable' with the above question." Allies may consider these results surprising, but LGBTQ people are well aware of discrimination in the workplace. Indiana school teacher Kimberly Hivelyhas filed a lawsuit against a community college that she believes fired her for being a lesbian. Matthew Christiansen, a gay man, sued his employer Omnicom after Chief Digital Officer Joe Cianciotto allegedly called Christiansen a bottom and drew pictures of him as a "half-horse" peeing and pooping. (Omnicom is fighting the case.) Last year, UCLA's Williams Institute found that 20 percent of LGBTQ people report being discriminated against during a job interview.

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Between 2014 and 2015, rates of participants' discomfort with LGBTQ people dropped an average of 3 percent, but percentages have remained stagnant from 2015 to 2016. GLAAD attributes the stasis to 2015's avalanche of LGBTQ media coverage: In June 2015 alone, Caitlyn Jenner revealed her new name on the cover of Vanity Fair ("Call Me Caitlyn!" the headline read) and the Supreme Court decided all states must legalize gay marriage, overturning the Defense of Marriage Act that President Bill Clinton signed into law.

"The 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, as well as the preceding court hearings, attracted massive media coverage, the likes of which were largely unprecedented in their scope and reached millions upon millions of viewers with stories of loving same-sex couples and their families," the study explains. "This saturation of the media with stories of real LGBTQ people in 2015 could explain the significant attitudinal change for acceptance observed between 2014-2015, which also underlines the media's impact on hearts and minds."

GLAAD's study notes the rise of President Donald Trump could lead to decreasing acceptance of LGBTQ people, but GLAAD also found some good news in this year's results. Although only 5 percent of people 72 years of age and older are LGBTQ, 20 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds have come out. Even more vital for eliminating workplace discrimination, 63 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds now define themselves as allies. LGBTQ America may not be celebrating like they were in 2015, but progress has yet to stop.