Acceptance rates of LGBTQ2 people declining among U.S. millennials: survey

WATCH: New survey finds young adults in the U.S. are less accepting of LGBTQ2 people now than they were last year.

A recent survey found young people in the United States are feeling less comfortable around LGBTQ2 people than they were last year.

According to researchers at the Harris Poll, who conducted the survey on behalf of GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), this is the second year acceptance rates have dropped among people aged 18 to 34.

Now in its fifth iteration, the Accelerating Acceptance Index asked 1,970 adults a series of questions about LGBTQ2 people and measured their reactions.

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One example was, “How would you feel if you learned a family member is LGBTQ2?” Other questions were about how you would feel if your child was assigned to an LGBTQ2 teacher, or if you learned your doctor was LGBTQ2.

The survey found that, between 2018 and 2019, the same proportion of respondents (49 per cent) of non-LGBTQ2 adults felt “very” or “somewhat” comfortable in those situations.

However, the percentage of people aged 18 to 34 who say they felt comfortable in those situations fell from 53 per cent to 45 per cent.

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In a statement, GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis said that the first three years of the report showed “positive momentum” year over year, but that the pendulum has since begun to swing in the opposite direction.

“The younger generation has traditionally been thought of as a beacon of progressive values,” she said.

Ellis believes the results are in part due to the “sharp and quick rise in divisive rhetoric in politics and culture,” which she believes is having a “negative influence on younger Americans.”

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The report also found that the decline in acceptance rates was paired with a significant increase in LGBTQ2 respondents reporting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Ellis says that these trends indicate a rise of “hateful rhetoric” in American culture, and David Rayside agrees.

He’s a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Toronto and the former director of the Mark S. Bonham Centre of Sexual Diversity Studies, and he believes the Trump presidency is partly to blame.

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“We have to think about the Trump Effect legitimizing anti-minority or anti-equality discourse,” Rayside said.

“That’s a factor that would not just affect LGBTQ2 issues but potentially others, too.”

‘The Trump Effect’

In Rayside’s view, Trump’s willingness to speak out against minority groups like the LGBTQ2 community has emboldened American citizens to voice their own discriminatory opinions.

In April, he banned transgender soldiers from the U.S. military, and in May, he announced plans for a new policy which would allow adoption agencies to deny adoption to LGBTQ2 couples on the basis of “religious exemptions.”

Most recently, he denied permission to U.S. embassies to fly the LGBTQ2 flag during the month of June, also known as Pride month.

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“He makes it easier for people to say things that they might have been hesitant to say earlier on,” he said.

It doesn’t help that the Republican Party appears to support Trump’s discriminatory views, according to Rayside.

“It isn’t just Trump on his own,” he said. “It’s also the willingness of the Republican Party to embrace Trump’s approach to these issues.”

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As the Trump Effect is taking hold, so is an increased awareness about gender identity. Rayside says these two things, along with the ease with which information can be spread online, are creating the perfect storm.

“The spread of the internet… means that people who have resisted the move towards recognizing inequity and recognizing the marginalization of particular groups find one another more readily than they did even five years ago,” he said.

What about Canada?

While there’s always the possibility that what happens in the U.S. spills over into Canada, Rayside doesn’t think the Trump Effect will have quite the same impact north of the border.

“I think it does embolden … I think we saw an element of that in the election of Doug Ford as the premier of Ontario,” Rayside said. “But the pushback in public opinion is much sharper than we’ve seen in the United States.”

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Rayside recalls when the Harper government proposed a ban on the wearing of niqabs by anyone dealing with or working for the federal government prior to the 2015 federal election.

“ was playing on anti-Muslim sentiment. On one hand, it emboldened people to .” On the other, Rayside thinks it could have been what cost them the election.

Roza Nozari feels differently. She’s the anti-violence initiatives co-ordinator at The 519, an LGBTQ2 community centre in Toronto’s Village neighbourhood.

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“We are not surprised by the results ,” she said. “This is absolutely happening in Canada.”

Nozari says LGBTQ2 people continue to experience disproportionately higher rates of violence in Canada, and there are numbers to prove it.

A recent survey by Statistics Canada found that for every 1,000 straight Canadians, 69 reported they had been the victim of either sexual assault, physical assault or robbery.

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That number jumps to 142 for lesbian and gay Canadians and skyrockets to 267 for bisexual Canadians.

Similarly, police-reported hate crimes targeting sexual orientation rose 16 per cent in 2017.

How to promote LGBTQ2 acceptance

Though it may not be as bad as the United States, Canada still has a lot of work to do in terms of becoming a truly accepting country for LGBTQ2 people, advocates say.

For the team at The 519, education and training is crucial.

“Not just if an incident happens and you do a two-hour training, but real education and training with real dialogue and a real intention to change,” said Soofia Mahmood, the centre’s director of strategic communications and executive planning. 

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The 519 offers training on sexual and gender diversity and inclusive policy to businesses of all sizes. Topics range from LGBTQ2 language to systemic discrimination and how to provide inclusive services.

It can be as simple as searching for educational materials online or visiting a local community centre with an LGBTQ2 focus.

“Find out more that challenges your own belief system and then share that, whether that’s with your neighbour or with your child,” said Mahmood.

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“I’m a newcomer here and I have a 13-year-old… I have learned many things through my work here that I go home excitedly and tell my daughter so she can then share that with her friends. And it’s working — now she’s able to call out homophobia.”

Ultimately, though, Mahmood believes change needs to come from the top.

“Leaders have to engage in meaningful dialogue… whether it’s leadership from an organization, a community, a province or a country,” she said.

“For leaders who don’t have awareness of what it means , I would invite them to come talk to us and we can reflect together. We can share lived experiences and we can make this world a little better for everyone.”

— With files from Colton Praill

Meghan.Collie@globalnews.ca

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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