Influence of Public Opinion to Homosexuals
- Homosexuality has been a controversial topic in the United States and the rest of the world.
- This paper conducts a secondary research in order to determine the impacts of public opinion on homosexuality.
- Thesis statement: The magnitude and direction of public opinion is a function of numerous factors, which are the subjects to discussion. In other words, public opinion may influence homosexuals positively or negatively.
- Literature Review
- Research from various studies indicates that public opinion on homosexuality, particularly gay rights and same-sex marriages can carry influential consequences.
Public acceptance towards gay rights and same-sex marriages is attributed to the legal recognition of the rights of homosexuals, as well as, the existence of public policies towards a supportive environment for the homosexuals. The growing public opinion about gay rights is also attributed to the mass media progression in homosexuals’ acceptance.
- The other striking aspect is the variation in perception and support for gay right and homosexuality.
Recent polls indicated that public opinion about homosexuality varies in each country. Public opinion and acceptance toward LGBT individuals can be indefinable in much of Africa and Arabic world.
- Long before televisions shows like Glee, Will & Grace and Modern Family were introduced in television, homosexuality was perceived as a mental condition.
Public opinion, especially through mass communication, has the power to induce fear, in turn creating a moral panic.
- Surveys have established a strong link between interpersonal contacts and hospitable attitudes towards homosexuals.
- The sentiment that communities are not welcoming for lesbian and gay people is widely shared in sub-Saharan Africa.
As most African states continue to address the issues of human rights for all people, few people believe and express their sentiments that their communities are unsafe and unwelcoming for homosexuals publicly.
- To some extent, public opinion induces prejudice and discrimination against gay, lesbian and bisexual people.
- Discrimination against homosexuals takes different forms.
- Prejudice and discrimination against the homosexual community due to detrimental public has a negative impact on homosexuals.
On a personal level, prejudice and discrimination impacts negatively on individuals, especially the homosexual persons attempting to deny or cover up their sexual orientation. On the social ground, discrimination and prejudice against homosexuals is reflected in the stereotypes of members of this community.
- The findings, arguments and illustrations taken together in this paper suggest that the public opinion not only influences homosexuals, but also impacts community members. The degree to which LGBT archetype and stereotypes have evolved lies within the power of public opinion over mass communications.
- Irrespective of the intent, debates and representations of homosexuals within mass communication can sway majority of perceptions.
The Influence of Public Opinion to Homosexuals
Homosexuality has been a controversial topic in the United States and the rest of the world. However, public opinion on this dilemma seems to be evolving. According to the American Psychological Association, sexual orientation is a lifelong pattern of sexual or emotional attraction to women, men or both sexes. It also refers to an individual’s sense of identity associated with those attraction, behaviors and membership in a group of others sharing the same attractions. Homosexuals (gays or lesbians) have romantic, sexual and emotional attractions to members of their own sex. Typically, gay are men attracted to other men, whereas lesbians are women attracted to women.Words are very powerful; especially when communicated by individuals, business entities and public institutions that have influence on others. For example, the opinion of President Barrack Obama over the subject or gay rights is more likely to gain public attention than the opinion of any average citizen. Therefore, it follows that the public opinion has a great impact on any controversial social issue. The magnitude and direction of public opinion is a function of numerous factors, which are subjects to discussion. In other words, public opinion may influence homosexuals positively or negatively. To that end, this paper examines the effect of public opinion to homosexuals from various perspectives. To achieve this, the paper is segmented into two sections. The first section highlights public opinion on homosexuals, whereas the second section discusses the impact of the induced prejudice and discrimination against homosexuals
Research from various studies indicates that public opinion on homosexuality, particularly gay rights and same-sex marriages can carry influential consequences. In the United States and Europe, public acceptance towards gay rights and same-sex marriages is attributed to the legal recognition of the rights of homosexuals, as well as, the existence of public policies towards a supportive environment for the homosexuals. Brewer noted that there are two aspects of public opinion regarding homosexuals: growing trend towards a supportive environment and transformations in same-sex marriages. As cited by Brewer, the support for the same-sex marriage in Britain increased from 16% to 69% in 1975 and 2014 respectively. In reference to gay rights, public opinion and media dialogue have been shaped around equality and morality. Gay activists often invoke the concerns of equality. However, popular objections to same-sex marriages (which have legal and religious orientation) have resulted to more advocates instead of unions which are often feasible politically. Public scrutiny of the lesbians and gays serves as a roadblock to finding a public figure to represent homosexuals in social, political and economic aspects of the society. This is subject to the fact that if the person stands out to represent the grievance of this community, he or she is likely to be branded as being one of them. The growing public opinion about gay rights is also attributed to the progression of mass media in acceptance of homosexuals. To that end, homosexuals emerge and take part in public discussions regarding their sexual orientation and the injustices against them. In the same context, more ambitious movements to gain public acceptance increase.
The other striking aspect is the variation in perception and support for gay rights and homosexuality. Gay rights battle is raging in the Canada, England and the United States. Recent polls indicated that public opinion about homosexuality varies in each country. However, the public tends to accept this moral issue in these countries. In 2013, nearly 28% (3 in 10 adults) across 123 countries held that their city or area was secure for lesbian or gay people to reside, but sociable attitudes range variedly from as low as 1% in Senegal and Pakistan to a high of 83% in the Netherlands. It should be noted that global average does not incorporate data from a number of countries where the topic of homosexuality is extremely sensitive to be discussed, including Egypt, Yemen, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Nigeria, Iran, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Bhutan, and Bahrain. Among countries where majority is likely to hold that their community is not a safe place for lesbians and gays, most are African states, where homosexuality is largely a taboo. This public sentiment is pervasive in Uganda (95%), Gabon (95%), Malawi (96%) and an overwhelmingly 98% in Senegal. These findings indicate that for most lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) individuals around the world, opening up about their gender identity or sexual orientation is likely to be risky. This substantiates why public opinion has a great influence on the social and legal perception of the subject. Further, public opinion and acceptance toward LGBT individuals can be indefinable in much of Africa and Arabic world. When the vast majority publicly express that their communities are unsafe for lesbian and gay people, the visibility of homosexuality remains low and development towards a supportive environment can be slow.
Long before television shows like Glee, Will & Grace and Modern Family were introduced in television, homosexuality was perceived as a mental condition. By fabricating that this group of people was unstable mentally, fear among both ordinary citizens and the LGBT community was induced. Public opinion, especially through mass communication has the power to induce fear, in turn creating a moral panic. The focus given to homosexuals created an overwhelming amount of criticism and scrutiny over their activities. For instance, the outbreak and spread of AIDs in 1980s and early 1990s resulted in many Americans perceiving that the virus was affecting only homosexuals. This perception labeled the affected as a threat to the rest of the society. For example, instead of appreciating celebrating Brokeback Mountain for its challenges to sexual orientation, press reviews eventually worked to correct its theme with the aim of condemning homosexuality.
Lau, Lau, & Loper, analyzed data from a 2013 telephone survey in Hong Kong to establish how imagined and interpersonal contact with homosexuals impacts the attitudes towards homosexuals and their rights. The study found a strong link between interpersonal contacts and hospitable attitudes. The LGBT community lives in practically every community in the United States. In a recent study of Andrew Flores on the effect of public support on the recognition of same-sex marriage, it was found out that the density of the LGBT community grows exponentially in jurisdictions supporting the rights for homosexuals. In the same study, it was detected that context does not change threat levels. Inherently, community is affected by any concept or segment of the demography that makes it uncomfortable. Similarly, groups within the society feel intimidated by misconception or activities that push their boundaries beyond their normal environments. That is to say, as much as public opinion about the LGBT community may be biased, the LGBT community may also develop a similar opinion about the rest of the community. Consequently, tension among the two groups emerges leading to conflicts at work, religious places and public institutions. Considering the vastness of the entertainment industry, it would be a bias to refute that the industry plays a critical role in the public opinion about the homosexuals or the LGBT community. According to Bond, socialization is the central factor in acceptance of homosexuals subject concerning the fact that it involves exposure to religion, peers and media. By creating movie or television show characters that can invoke laughter at their own expense, viewers are able to alienate the LGBT-based characters.
The sentiments that communities are not welcoming lesbian and gay people is widely shared in sub-Saharan Africa. South Africa is an exception on the African continent according to the fact that nearly 49% of the population publicly point out that their community is safe and hospitable for homosexuals. As most African states continue to address the issues of human rights for all people, few people believe and express their opinions that their communities are unsafe and unwelcoming for homosexuals publicly. Anti-homosexuality sentiments are apparent. Meanwhile, in more advanced Western democracies where lesbians and gays continue to gain acceptance both culturally and legally, public opinion is likely to influence more homosexuals to open up about their sexual orientation. In turn, public opinion may advance the sentiments that such communities are hospitable for them.
According to this writing, there was no consensus regarding the exact reasons of the development of homosexuality. However, much researches have explored the possibility of hormonal, genetic, social, developmental and cultural influences on homosexuality, but no substantive findings have been documented that permit researchers to conclude that homosexuality is determined by any of the stated factor. The public opinion is of the idea that nurture and nature play critical roles; some people experience no sense of choice about their gender identity and sexual orientation. Substantiated by research studies and literature, people supported the idea that some homosexuals choose their path due to extreme environment such as prisons where there was the lack of female interaction. By propagating the idea that being a homosexual is a personal choice or a result of peer pressure, the society is likely to reiterate its stand and perception about the LGBT community.
To some extent, public opinion induces prejudice and discrimination against gay, lesbian and bisexual people. Due to negative public opinion, homosexuals encounter extreme discrimination, prejudice and even violence because of their sexual orientation. Extreme prejudice against the LGBT community was widespread in the second half of the 20th century. Public opinion polls and studies between 1970s and 1990s repeatedly indicated that homosexuals were targets of the strong negatively held perception and attitudes. In the recent past, public opinion has continuously opposed discrimination against homosexuals. However, expressions of hostility against the LGBT community remain widespread in the contemporary society.
Discrimination against homosexuals takes different forms. Intense anti-homosexual prejudice is illustrated by the high incidence of harassment and violence directed towards homosexuals in the American society. Various surveys and polls indicate that verbal threats and abuse are present in almost all communities across the globe. Also, discrimination against homosexuals in housing and employment seems to remain pervasive. Homosexuals also have had detrimental experience of prejudice and discrimination regarding their HIV/AIDS status. In the early stages of the pandemic, there was a conception that HIV/AIDS was constrained within the homosexuals. Unfortunately, this assumption played a role in the delay in curbing the detrimental social impact that the virus would generate. According to the American Psychological Association, homosexuals have been affected disproportionately by the virus. The association of the virus with homosexuals as well as the misconception that all homosexuals were infected contributed to further homosexuals’ stigmatizing.
Prejudice and discrimination against the homosexual community due to detrimental public has a negative impact on homosexuals. Prejudice and discrimination have personal and social effect. On a personal level, prejudice and discrimination impact negatively on individuals, especially the homosexual persons attempting to deny or cover up their sexual orientation. In spite of the fact that most homosexuals learn to cope with the innate stigmas against their sexual orientation, an extreme prejudice can have severe effects on their health and wellbeing. According to Meyer, the impact of stigmas can be lessened or worsened by other factors including religion, ethnicity, race and physical challenges. Some homosexuals may face less social stigma, but for others, religion, sex and race may exacerbate the adverse effects of prejudice and discrimination. On the social ground, discrimination and prejudice against homosexuals is reflected in the stereotypes of members of this community. Despite the fact that these stereotypes are not backed by substantial evidence, it would be erroneous to dispute their existence because they are often used as scapegoats for unequal treatment of homosexuals. For instance, limitation on parenting and job opportunities are often justified by stereotypic misconceptions about homosexuals. The intense prejudice and discrimination against homosexuals are also a mental health concerns. Sexual orientation prejudice and discrimination, as well as anti-homosexuality violence, are key sources of stress for homosexuals. In spite of the fact that social support is essential in addressing stress, anti-homosexuality discrimination and attitudes often make it difficult for the LGBT community to find such support.
The findings, arguments and illustrations taken together in this paper suggest that the public opinion not only influences homosexuals, but also impacts community members. The degree to which LGBT archetype and stereotypes have evolved lies within the power of public opinion over mass communications. The influential nature of public opinion through media is deeply rooted in the minds of many people. It follows that media continues to have an immense influential role in the present days society. In regions where homosexuals continue to thrive due to both legal and cultural acceptance, particularly in advanced Western democracies, they tend to surface and share their sexual orientation freely without fear of stigmatization, incarceration, punishment or even persecution. On the other hand, in most parts of the sub-Saharan African continent and the Arabic world, culture and daunting public opinion makes the visibility of homosexuals low, thereby preventing the progress of such areas towards a supportive environment for homosexuals. Irrespective of the intent, debates and representations of homosexuals within mass communication can sway majority of perceptions.