Growing Acceptance but Not Easy Time for LGBT People (Fall 2013 Trust Magazine)

Source Organization: The Pew Charitable Trusts

Author: Michael Remez

11/14/2013 - Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adults see American society as more accepting of them in recent years—and they expect that movement to continue—but many still feel stigmatized, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center.

The survey found that 92 percent of LGBT adults say society is more accepting of them today than 10 years ago. An equal 92 percent say they expect the public will be more accepting 10 years from now. Still, despite the optimism, just 19 percent say there is a lot of acceptance for LGBT people today. A majority—59 percent—says there is some, while 21 percent say there is little or no acceptance.

The center conducted its first national survey of LGBT adults in April at a time of great national debate about gay rights and just ahead of two U.S. Supreme Court rulings that bolstered the legal basis for same-sex marriage.

The report includes examples of the stigmatization faced by many LGBT adults. About 4 in 10 say that at some point they were rejected by a family member or close friend because of their sexual orientation or gender identity; 58 percent say they have been subject to slurs or jokes; and 29 percent say they have been made to feel unwelcome at a place of worship.

“For the LGBT population, these are the best of times. But that doesn’t mean they are easy times, or that their lives are uncomplicated,” says Paul Taylor, executive vice president of the Pew Research Center. “Many are still searching for a comfortable place in a society where acceptance is growing but still limited.”

Survey respondents attribute more accepting attitudes about LGBT Americans to a variety of factors, such as people knowing and interacting with others who are LGBT, advocacy on their behalf by high-profile public figures, and more LGBT adults raising families.

The report also presents details about the LGBT experience in the United States. For example, just 56 percent say they have told their mother about their sexual orientation or gender identity; fewer—39 percent—have told their father. The survey finds that 12 is the median age at which lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults first felt they might be something other than heterosexual. For those who are certain about their orientation or gender identity, the realization came at a median age of 17.

The report looks at differences among groups within the LGBT population, as well as attitudes among group members as a whole on a range of topics, such as political affiliation, the importance of various policy issues, and the friendliness of various institutions—including political parties, the media, and the Obama administration—to LGBT Americans.

The survey was administered online, a survey mode that researchers say tends to produce more honest answers on sensitive topics than do other less anonymous modes of survey-taking.

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