Attitudes towards homosexuality have shifted noticeably in the last century in the United States of America, and other countries in the western world.
While some religions and cultures still consider homosexuality to be immoral, 70% of those surveyed in the U.S. support same-sex marriage, according to a 2021 Gallup poll.
These changing attitudes reflect a significant shift in culture and society. Of course, not all cultures in the world share these views. Homosexuality is still considered to be criminal in 69 countries.
In addition to activists in the LGBTQ+ movement, the media has played a role in shaping public perception of homosexuality. When well-loved daytime host Ellen DeGeneres came out, for example, it helped normalize LGBTQ+ individuals, as did shows like Will and Grace.
Of course, some LGBTQ+ issues continue to be hotly contested, especially policies around gender identity and trans rights. While popular culture continues to feature LGBTQ+ stories and images; some people feel there is now too much focus on this population.
RSnake spoke with John Robison, entrepreneur and Founder of New Republic Studios, on some of his experiences as a gay man and Republican in the film industry. “I realize now in my life, how powerful [film] is – its ability to shape and help pop culture. I think it’s more important than ever that the stories be authentic,” he said.
History of Homosexuality and LGBTQ+ Rights in the U.S.
Homosexuality was considered criminal in the U.S. for the early half of the 20th century. This began to change in the 1960s; Illinois was the first state to decriminalize it in 1961.
From the 1960s to the early half of the 21st century, activists in the LGBTQ+ movement fought for acceptance and the same rights as other Americans. This wasn’t easy. As late as the 1990s, President Bill Clinton signed legislation that blocked legal recognition of same-sex marriages and relationships.
It was only in the Obama era that the federal government made a shift towards accepting LGBTQ+ marriage and rights. Marriage between same-sex couples was sanctioned by the Supreme Court in 2015 when it ruled states could not ban LGBTQ+ couples from marrying.
Since then, trans rights have taken center stage. President Trump implemented a policy banning most transgender individuals from the military in 2018. This policy was reversed in 2021 by President Biden.
LGBTQ+ Rights Today
Most people in the U.S. approve of same-sex marriage and support the protection of rights for transgender individuals.
However, there are some key issues that are contentious, mostly related to how trans rights should be protected. For example, public bathrooms are an issue for many trans individuals who don’t feel safe using either men’s or women’s bathrooms. Advocates for trans rights advocate for gender-neutral bathrooms. However, many women feel that gender-neutral bathrooms could pave the way for abuse in what should be safe spaces – not by the trans population but by others taking advantage of the changed policy.
LGBTQ+ in Media and Business Today
LGBTQ+ representation has increased over the last decade both in the media and advertising. According to a 2020 Nielsen report, 6.7% of characters in the top 300 shows on television and streaming platforms were LGBTQ+.
Some people feel there is now a culture of virtue signalling around this issue. They believe the media and businesses have gone too far trying to represent this population in an inauthentic way, losing audiences as a result. The phrase “go woke, go broke,” has become popular, mostly alluding to recent films with overtly political messages that flopped.
In his conversation with RSnake, Robison was critical of recent films created in Hollywood. “How do we change the direction of some of the stories that are being required to be bought that are doing damage to society?” he asked.
Robison believes people are now looking for something different. He explained, “We want messages of liberty, but we also want messages of redemption. We want people to rise above their conflicts and conquer.”
Annual Pride parades, which were once organized by grassroots organizations, have become increasingly commercial. This has caused some people in the LGBTQ+ community to consider whether it is time to be more discerning about which companies are allowed to participate. The commercialization of Pride has also caused ticket prices for Pride parades and associated merchandise to rise, creating barriers to entry for some.
Has LGBTQ+ Inclusion Gone Too Far?
Now that LGBTQ+ representation has become mainstream, it’s possible that messages and policies intended to foster inclusion have backfired.
The last two years have seen a rise in legislation limiting education on homosexuality and gender, gender reassignment interventions in youth, and changes to bathroom gender assignments.
This legislation reflects rising concern over societal changes that some believe are being made too quickly.
Many people are concerned that education about LGBTQ+ individuals and gender is not teaching inclusion, but rather popularizing participation in these groups, and presenting sexual content too young. School board meetings have become increasingly fraught as parents oppose policies and materials they feel are inappropriate.
There are also concerns about the increase in young people being diagnosed with gender dysphoria and being offered life-altering medical treatments. Top surgery (breast removal) for teens is on the rise, as are prescriptions for puberty-blocking hormones.
Advocates for trans youth say these treatments are necessary and help trans individuals feel at home in their bodies. While these treatments are on the rise, they are still relatively rare when compared with other medical interventions like cosmetic breast enlargement or reduction for teens.
American society has changed rapidly over the past century, and there continues to be much debate about the direction it should take.
Having meaningful conversations with remarkable people is one way to better understand key issues.
RSnake’s talk with John Robison is a fascinating take on homosexuality, media, and the politics of our time. Tune in today!