On the surface it seems totally contradictory that within the span of the very same week GLAAD announced visibility of gays is at an all time high for the new 2010 / 2011 television season, that news of some of the most heinous attacks on the LGBT community also surfaced. These include the cyber attack on 18 year old Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi, who committed suicide after being humiliated by his roommate taping/streaming him online having sex with another man. They also include the gay bashing of three men in Chelsea, NY's predominantly gay neighborhood, over the weekend, and the even more shocking brutal gay-bashing attack on 34 year old Benjamin Carver on Sunday night inside the bathroom of Greenwich Village, NY bar The Stonewall Inn (yes the Stonewall, as in the birthplace of the gay rights movement) by two violent homophobic Staten Island men. Add to this list numerous other hate attacks on gays across the nation (whether violent, verbal, or cyber) in recent weeks and months and you begin to wonder if we are regressing or progressing as a society.
If the LGBT community is more visible than ever (and hence supposedly more accepted), why the seeming increase in hate crimes? Is there possibly a backlash to this increased exposure, seen as overexposure by some, of gays in the media? Do such things as the billboards in every New York City subway station and other major metropolitan TV markets advertising Logo TV's new gay reality show The A List trigger repressed hatred in some? Earlier today via email I asked noted author/journalist/TV personality and longtime La Dolce Musto columnist Michael Musto (described by the NY Times as a journalist "who has chronicled the lives of drag queens, club kids, and an array of freaks and celebrities for The Village Voice for 25 years") if he thought there was a direct correlation between the results of this study and the recent attacks on gays. "I feel that every time there is forward motion on the part of the gay community, there's some backlash from the haters," replied Musto. "They get extra panicky and desperately try to seize control back. So it's quite possible that the upsurge in gay characters on TV (and gay visibility everywhere) has had something to do with the recent incidents."
According to the GLAAD (The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) report released last Wednesday, the number of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people represented was higher this new season than any television season previously. The broadcast networks have 23 gay characters, which, they calculated, represents 3.9% of all series regulars on all scripted TV shows. However, another recent study, over in the UK and commissioned by the BBC determined that one in four people are "uncomfortable with gays on TV." According to this new British report, one in four people would rather not see gay men on television and that these people "felt that if lesbians, gays and bisexual people were regularly portrayed, and especially if positively portrayed, this could present it as a valid lifestyle choice for their children, which caused them real concern."
I am pretty sure if a similar study were conducted stateside that the results would be the same, if not higher than a one in four ratio. And for proof of the extreme lack of approval of gays on US soil, a quick Google search will lead you to abundant anti-gay sentiments on websites like the right wing WorldNetDaily, where, a couple of days ago, they published a high-profile piece on the new GLAAD report with the heading "Expert calls flood of roles attempt to brainwash public on lifestyle," stating that the GLAAD report "marks nothing more than a continuation of a strategy to batter public resistance to homosexuality." This attitude, which is held by many and perpetuated by so-called "Christian" leaders, trickles down into society and directly contributes to the hatred for the LGBT community. As Musto implies, it is fear based. But as any non-violent Muslim (or any other feared minority living in the US today) will attest, being feared and hated is a bitch of a thing to have to live with every day, when all you want to do is get on with your life.