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GLAAD cites slight improvement in LGBT images in films

Twenty out of 114 tracked films contained LGBT characters; 11 films pass GLAAD’s ‘Vito Russo Test’; and for the first time, GLAAD tracks art house divisions’ releases.

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GLAAD, one of the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) media advocacy organizations, has released its third annual Studio Responsibility Index (SRI), a report that maps the quantity, quality, and diversity of images of LGBT people in films released by the seven largest motion picture studios during the 2014 calendar year. For the first time, GLAAD this year also tracked LGBT representations in films released by four major subsidiary studios.

THE REPORT IS AVAILABLE HERE.

GLAAD found that of the 114 releases from the major studios in 2014, 20 of them (17.5%) included characters identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. There were no identifiable transgender characters in major film releases. In 2014, GLAAD saw fewer overtly defamatory depictions in mainstream film compared to last year, though offensive representations were by no means absent, and were found in films such as Exodus: Gods and Kings and Horrible Bosses 2.

“As television and streaming services continue to produce a remarkable breadth of diverse LGBT representations, we still struggle to find depictions anywhere near as authentic or meaningful in mainstream Hollywood film. The industry continues to look increasingly out of touch by comparison, and still doesn’t represent the full diversity of the American cultural fabric,” said GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis.

Warner Brothers was the only studio to receive a “Good” score for its slate of films, which included the GLAAD Media Award-nominated film Tammy. 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, and Universal Pictures all scored “Adequate,” with Sony Columbia Pictures and The Walt Disney Studios scored as “Failing.” No studio has yet received a grade of “Excellent.”

Out of the 114 releases GLAAD counted from the major studios in 2014, 20 of them (17.5%) contained characters identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. This is a slight increase from the 16.7% of films from the same studios we found to be inclusive last year. There were zero depictions of transgender people in 2014, despite a historic year for transgender representation on television.

Once again, most of the inclusive films (65%) featured gay male characters with less than a third (30%) featuring bisexual characters and about one tenth (10%) including lesbian characters. There was a slight increase in racial diversity of LGB characters identified in 2014 with 32.1% being people of color compared to 24% in 2013. Of the 28 characters we counted, 19 were white (67.9%), 3 were Black/African American (10.7%), 2 were Latino/a (7.1%), and 4 were Asian/Pacific Islander (14.3%).

For the third year in a row, comedies were the most likely major studio films to be LGBT-inclusive (8 of 19, 42.1%) while LGBT people were largely shut out of the genre films (action, sci-fi, fantasy) where Hollywood film studios commit the majority of their capital and promotional resources (3 of 46, 6.5%). Additionally, 3 of 13 animated/family films (23.1%), 6 of 33 dramas (18.2%), and none of the 3 documentaries contained LGBT characters.

The majority of the LGBT depictions GLAAD found in Hollywood film this year were minor characters or even just cameos. Of the 20 films we found to be inclusive, ten of those contained less than five minutes of screen time for their LGBT characters – with several being less than 30 seconds – while three others contained less than ten minutes of screen time. In the case of several films, audiences may not have been aware that they were seeing LGBT characters if they did not read outside press coverage or were unaware of the real-life LGBT person a character was based on.

This year, GLAAD also examined the film releases of four smaller, affiliated studios (Focus Features, Fox Searchlight, Roadside Attractions, and Sony Pictures Classics) to draw a comparison between the mainstream studios and their perceived “art house” or “independent” wings. Of the 47 films released under those studio imprints, we found only 5 to be LGBT-inclusive, or 10.6%.

GLAAD introduced the “Vito Russo Test” in 2012, a set of criteria analyzing how LGBT characters are represented in a fictional work, in the first SRI and continues to judge films by these simple guidelines. Named after GLAAD co-founder and celebrated film historian Vito Russo, and partly inspired by the “Bechdel Test,” these criteria represent a standard GLAAD would like to see a greater number of mainstream Hollywood films reach in the future.

The Vito Russo Test criteria:

  • The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender (LGBT).
  • That character must not be solely or predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity (i.e. the character is made up of the same sort of unique character traits commonly used to differentiate straight characters from one another).
  • The LGBT character must be tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have a significant effect. Meaning they are not there to simply provide colorful commentary, paint urban authenticity, or (perhaps most commonly) set up a punchline; the character should matter.

Eleven of the 20 major studio films that featured an LGBT character passed the Vito Russo Test.

“While we were pleased to see Warner Brothers show real improvement in its LGBT-inclusive films in 2014, they also recently released the comedy Get Hard, one of the most problematic films we have seen in some time. This glaring lack of consistency seems to be common amongst almost every major film studio, showing a need for greater oversight in how their films represent – or don’t represent – significant portions of their audience,” said Ellis. “Only when they make those changes and catch up to other, more consistently inclusive media portrayals will we be able to say that America’s film industry is a full partner in accelerating acceptance.”

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Gay men who ‘sound gay’ encounter more stigma, discrimination from heterosexual peers

Gay men are more likely than lesbian women to face stigma and avoidant prejudice from their heterosexual peers due to the sound of their voice.

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Gay men are more likely than lesbian women to face stigma and avoidant prejudice from their heterosexual peers due to the sound of their voice, a new study in the British Journal of Social Psychology reports. Researchers also found that gay men who believe they sound gay anticipate stigma and are more vigilant regarding the reactions of others.

The study – “Stigmatization of ‘gay-sounding’ voices: The role of heterosexual, lesbian, and gay individuals’ essentialist beliefs” by Fabio Fasoli, Peter Hegarty and David Frost – appeared in the British Journal of Social Psychology.

During this study researchers from the University of Surrey investigated the role of essentialist beliefs — the view that every person has a set of attributes that provide an insight into their identity — of heterosexual, lesbian and gay individuals and whether these beliefs lead to prejudice and rejection towards others. Previous research in this area has shown that gay men’s and lesbian women’s experiences with stigma can lead to a higher likelihood of emotional distress, depression, and anxiety.

In the first part of the study, researchers surveyed 363 heterosexual participants to assess their essentialist beliefs regarding gay and lesbian individuals and asked a series of questions in regards to discreteness ( e.g. “When listening to a person it is possible to detect his/her sexual orientation from his/her voice very quickly”), immutability (e.g. “Gay/lesbian people sound gay/lesbian and there is not much they can do to really change that”) and controllability (e.g. “Gay/lesbian people can choose to sound gay or straight depending on the situation”).

Researchers also investigated whether participants held any prejudices (e.g. “I think male/female homosexuals are disgusting) and avoidant discrimination (e.g., “I would not interact with a man/woman who sounds gay/lesbian if I could avoid it”).

It was found that participants believed voice was a better cue to sexual orientation for men than for women, and their opinions on the discreteness, immutability and controllability of ‘gay-sounding’ voices was linked to higher avoidant discrimination towards gay-sounding men.

In the second part of the study researchers surveyed 147 gay and lesbian participants to examine their essentialist beliefs in relation to self-perception of sounding gay, and whether this led them to expect rejection and be more vigilant, e.g., trying to avoid certain social situations and persons who may ridicule them because of their voices.

Researchers found that gay men’s endorsement of beliefs that people can detect sexual orientation from voice (voice discreteness) and that speakers cannot change the way they sound (voice immutability) were associated with a stronger self-perception of sounding gay. Moreover, gay men who perceived their voices to sound more gay expected more acute rejection from heterosexuals and were more vigilant.

Dr. Fabio Fasoli, Lecturer in Social Psychology at the University of Surrey, said: “What we have found is that people have stronger beliefs about the voices of gay men than lesbian women. In particular, beliefs that gay men and straight men have different voices that allow people to detect their sexual orientation was linked to stigmatization, possibly explaining why some heterosexual individuals stigmatize gay-sounding men regardless of their sexuality. Understanding more about essentialist beliefs helps explain both the perpetration of stigma by heterosexuals and the experience of stigma by lesbians and gay men.

“It is clear from this study that voice and the perception of it are linked to stigma. This is important because it can have negative consequences for gay men’s wellbeing.”

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COVID-19 isolation linked to increased domestic violence, researchers suggest

The pandemic, like other kinds of disasters, exacerbates the social and livelihood stresses and circumstances that we know lead to intimate partner violence,.

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While COVID-19-related lockdowns may have decreased the spread of a deadly virus, they appear to have created an ideal environment for increased domestic violence.

Data collected in surveys of nearly 400 adults for 10 weeks beginning in April 2020 suggest that more services and communication are needed so that even front-line health and food bank workers, for example — rather than only social workers, doctors and therapists — can spot the signs and ask clients questions about potential intimate partner violence. They could then help lead victims to resources, said Clare Cannon, assistant professor of social and environmental justice in the Department of Human Ecology and the lead author of the study.

The paper, “COVID-19, intimate partner violence, and communication ecologies,” was published in American Behavioral Scientist. Study co-authors include Regardt Ferreira and Frederick Buttell, both of Tulane University, and Jennifer First, of University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

“The pandemic, like other kinds of disasters, exacerbates the social and livelihood stresses and circumstances that we know lead to intimate partner violence,” said Cannon. She explained that increased social isolation during COVID-19 has created an environment where victims and aggressors, or potential aggressors in a relationship, cannot easily separate themselves from each other. The extra stress also can cause mental health issues, increasing individuals’ perceived stress and reactions to stress through violence and other means.

“Compounding these stressors, those fleeing abuse may not have a place to get away from abusive partners,” Cannon said.

Intimate partner violence is defined as physical, emotional, psychological or economic abuse and stalking or sexual harm by a current or former partner or spouse, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Crime statistics indicate that 16 percent of homicides are perpetrated by a partner. Further, the CDC says, 25 percent of women and 10 percent of men experience some form of intimate partner violence in their lifetime.

As FYI, LGBTQIA people are also affected by intimate partner violence particularly at the time of COVID-19. In December 2020, in fact, Atty. Clara Rita Padilla, who helms EnGendeRights, Inc.,  said that LGBTQIA people in GBV/IPV/FV ought to know that their situation can be managed; they just need to – first – not fear seeking for help.

In this current study, participants completed an online survey asking about previous disaster experience, perceived stress, their current situation as it relates to COVID-19, if they experienced intimate partner violence, and what their personal and household demographics were. In all, 374 people completed the survey. Respondents, whose average age was 47, were asked about how COVID-19 had affected them financially and otherwise.

Of the respondents, 39 reported having experienced violence in their relationship, and 74% of those people were women.

Although only 10 percent of the sample reported experiencing intimate partner violence, the people that had experienced that violence reported more stress than the segment of the sample that had not experienced it. Furthermore, the results show that as perceived stress increased, participants were more likely to end up as victims of violence.

“Importantly,” Cannon said, “these data do not suggest causality and there is no way to determine if intimate partner violence was present in those relationships prior to the pandemic. What the data do suggest, however, is that experiencing such violence is related to reporting more exposure to stress.”

Researchers found that as people find themselves in a more tenuous financial situation due to COVID-19, “there are more things to worry about and subsequently argue about. In many instances, that type of situation leads to an occasion for intimate partner violence,” the researchers said.

“In our sample’s case, as people lost their jobs and suffered financial losses, they also likely increased their worry about eviction,” Cannon said. Notably, similar findings linking financial and job loss stresses with increased intimate partner violence were reported in the 2008 recession, Cannon said.

Researchers said their findings show a need for more communication resources for families — potentially coming from government and nongovernment sources of support and information. By increasing public awareness of resources available to the broader community, community members, trusted friends, neighbors, and family members may be better able to connect those affected by domestic violence with resources, such as shelters, treatment intervention programs and therapeutic professionals such as social workers, therapists and others, researchers said.

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Feelings of anxiety, loneliness widespread among gay, bi, other MSM amid isolation caused by COVID-19

The harm may be more severe among gay and bisexual men, who face disproportionate rates of poor mental health and sexual health outcomes. COVID-19 has exacerbated stress, anxiety and social isolation within our communities.

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Sixty-three percent of gay and bisexual men, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) reported only leaving their home for essentials amid the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting being in isolation has contributed to feelings of anxiety and loneliness, and dissatisfaction with their sex life.

This is according to a new UCLA-led study – “Associations Between Physical Distancing and Mental Health, Sexual Health and Technology Use Among Gay, Bisexual and Other Men Who Have Sex With Men During the COVID-19 Pandemic” by Ian W. Holloway, PhD, MPH, MSW; Alex Garner, BA; Diane Tan, MSPH; Ayako Miyashita Ochoa, JD; Glen Milo Santos, PhD, MPH; and Sean Howell, BS – that was published in the Journal of Homosexuality.

Due to COVID-19, physical distancing measures have been implemented globally. The researchers, nonetheless, recognize the LGBTQIA community – where the respondents for this study belong to – is historically already disproportionately affected by poor health outcomes. And so the COVID-19 restrictions may add to this.

For this study, 10,079 men in 20 countries were surveyed in April and May 2020 on Hornet, a social networking app, which also participated in the research.

Most of the participants were between the ages of 18 and 34 (55.5%), identified as gay (78.6%), were currently employed (67.7%) and had health care coverage (85.4%). In addition, most lived in a large urban center (69.8%) and were not in a relationship at the time of the survey (67.4%).

The study found:

  • Nearly two-thirds of participants (63%) reported only leaving their home for essentials
  • 37% more likely to feel anxious than those who haven’t stayed in
  • 36% more likely to feel lonely
  • 28% more likely to use text messaging to stay connected with others
  • 54% more likely to use video calls to connect with others
  • Risk reduction and telehealth opportunities may alleviate health challenges for GBMSM in the COVID-19 era

“We know that all people are affected by the isolation that can result from physical distancing,” said Holloway. But the concern is that “the harm may be more severe among gay and bisexual men, who face disproportionate rates of poor mental health and sexual health outcomes. COVID-19 has exacerbated stress, anxiety and social isolation within our communities.”

Social networking apps provide an opportunity for people around the world to connect with others, even cultivating a sense of community. As such, according to co-author Garner, “we must invest in interventions that include harm reduction approaches and leverage technology where possible to increase access to necessary health services and strengthen community connections.”

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Transgender, gender non-conforming teens face unique challenges when dating

Young people who are transgender and gender nonconforming face a different set of challenges than peers during these developmental milestones, a new study suggests.

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Experiencing transphobia and abuse, and struggling with the decision to divulge their gender identity throughout their transition. These are what transgender and gender non-conforming (TNGC) adolescents face when dating, according to a study – “Romantic Relationships in Transgender Adolescents: a Qualitative Study” by Adrian C. Araya, Rebecca Warwick, Daniel Shumer and Ellen Selkie – that appeared in Pediatrics.

According to the study, adolescence is a period of identity formation, a time of questioning one’s belonging and one’s role in society, and a shift from family relationship dependence to preference for friendship. It is also recognized as a time of exploration of love and intimacy, which is considered to be critical to development and adjustment.

But young people who are transgender and gender nonconforming face a different set of challenges than peers during these developmental milestones, the study suggests.

For this study, 30 adolescents (18 transmasculine and 12 transfeminine) between the ages of 15 and 20 years were interviewed. Themes included (1) engagement in romantic relationships, (2) disclosure of gender identity and romantic relationships, (3) experience with abusive relationships, and (4) perceived impact of gender-affirming hormone care on romantic experiences.

The study found that:

  • TGNC adolescents are engaged in romantic experiences before and during social and/or medical transitioning and are cultivating relationships through both proximal peers and online connections.
  • There is perceived benefit of gender-affirming hormone care on romantic experiences.
  • Risk of transphobia in romantic relationships impacts the approach that transgender adolescents take toward romance and influences decisions of identity disclosure.
  • TGNC adolescents have experience with relationship abuse in different forms.

The study also noted that romantic pursuit was hampered by transphobia perpetuated by both cisgender and transgender individuals. This transphobia may stem from adhering to gender binary and correlating sex assigned at birth to gender identity.

To deal with this situation, the researchers suggested that providers should incorporate changes in their approach to counseling and screening when caring for TGNC youth.

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Racism, anti-gay and HIV discrimination heighten risk for arrest and incarceration

Discrimination can occur at all stages of criminal justice involvement, from differential enforcement and/or threats of violence by police officers to court proceedings and sentencings.

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Racial discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination, and HIV-status discrimination are all associated with risk for criminal justice involvement.

This is according to new research done by Morgan Philbin, PhD, at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and colleagues, and which appears in the journal Stigma and Health.

As it is, there’s recognition that Black men are imprisoned at nearly seven times the rate of White men; sexual minority young adults are nearly three times more likely to report being criminally sanctioned compared to their heterosexual peers; and the rate of HIV among prisoners is multiple times higher than the general population. Discrimination can occur at all stages of criminal justice involvement, from differential enforcement and/or threats of violence by police officers to court proceedings and sentencings.

The researcher, therefore, wanted to look at why Black young men who have sex with men (YMSM) are disproportionately subject to high rates of arrest and incarceration. For this, 465 Black YMSM at risk for HIV in North Carolina were tapped. Participants completed four online surveys over the course of one year to assess the three predictors at baseline and criminal justice involvement at 3, 6, and 12-month follow-up (the study excluded men with criminal justice involvement at baseline). The researchers assessed discrimination through survey questions asking whether participants were, for example, treated with hostility/coldness by strangers, rejected by a potential sexual/romantic partner, denied a place to live, denied a job, and physically assaulted due to their race, sexual orientation; they also explored how individuals living with HIV were treated within their community.

The research found that perceived racism was the strongest predictor of subsequent criminal justice involvement (29% increased odds) followed by perceptions of sexual orientation discrimination (12% increased odds) and HIV discrimination (6% increased odds).

“Discrimination, in this instance related to race, sexual identity and HIV, is an important driver of health and life opportunities because it directly influences physical and mental health outcomes and can constrain access to education, jobs, and housing,” says Philbin. “Perceived discrimination – especially the experience of racism – placed the men in this study at an increased risk for arrest and incarceration.”

For the researchers, to better understand the lived realities of people burdened with overlapping forms of discrimination, “we must account for the compounding nature of these intersecting axes of social inequality,” says Philbin. “We find that experiences of racism and discrimination based on sexual orientation and HIV status combine to raise these young men’s risk for criminal justice involvement.”

Additional authors include Timothy W. Menza, Oregon Health Authority, Portland; Sara H. Legrand, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina; and Kathryn E. Muessig and Lisa Hightow-Weidman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill.

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Lesbian, gay, bisexual medical students more likely to experience burnout – study

17% of LGB medical students reported high levels of burnout compared to 11.1% of heterosexual students.

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Studies have shown that nearly half of all medical students – at least in the US – report symptoms of burnout, a long-term reaction to stress characterized by emotional exhaustion, cynicism and feelings of decreased personal accomplishment. Beyond the personal toll, the implications for aspiring and practicing physicians can be severe, from reduced quality of care to increased risk of patient safety incidents.

According to a study published in JAMA Network Open, students who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) are more likely than their heterosexual peers to experience burnout.

“The health and well-being of trainees is intimately linked to the quality of patient care, physician retention, and is key to reducing care inequities,” said lead author Dr. Elizabeth Samuels, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. “Understanding how the current medical training environment impacts lesbian, gay and bisexual medical students is critical for improving their training experience, building and retaining a workforce of LGB physicians, and also delivering optimal care to all patients — especially those who also identify as LGBTQI+.”

Samuels, who is a practicing emergency physician at Rhode Island Hospital and The Miriam Hospital, focused previous research on equity and diversity in the health care workforce and the care of transgender and gender non-conforming people. Data from Association of American Medical Colleges’ annual survey of graduating medical school served as the basis for this study.

The study, conducted in collaboration with researchers from Yale University, is based on data from the 2016 and 2017 AAMC Medical School Graduation Questionnaire, a national survey that includes questions on everything from medical education to financial costs to clinical experiences. In the survey are questions about negative experiences (mistreatment, burnout) and identity, including sexual orientation. Response options include “heterosexual or straight,” “gay or lesbian” and “bisexual.” The study combined the former into the category of LGB. Information about the gender identity of students who identify as transgender or genderqueer was not provided to the researchers for analysis.

In the study’s analysis of 26,123 total responses, 17% of LGB medical students reported high levels of burnout compared to 11.1% of heterosexual students.

Potential causes of burnout include the intensity of medical training, strained finances and unattainable expectations, the authors note in the study. Mistreatment is also a contributing factor, and there has been increased interest in examining its effects on trainees from racial and ethnic groups underrepresented in medicine. However, research has yet to focus specifically on LGB medical students.

In the study, LGB students also reported a higher frequency of perceived mistreatment. For example, 27% of LGB students reported being publicly humiliated, compared with 20.7% of heterosexual students; 23.3% reported perceived mistreatment specific to their sexual orientation at least once during medical school, compared with 1% of heterosexual students.

Samuels notes that mistreatment didn’t completely explain the emotional strain experienced by LGB medical students, who were 30% more likely to experience burnout even after adjusting for reported experiences of mistreatment.

The researchers found that LGB students reporting frequent experiences of mistreatment related to their sexual orientation had an 8 times higher likelihood of burnout compared to heterosexual students. This difference was dramatic when mistreatment occurred more frequently, Samuels said. But at lower levels of mistreatment, the differences weren’t as extreme.

“I think this shows people’s resiliency — up to a point,” Samuels said.

Samuels asserts that there are characteristics of medical training, separate from individual experiences of mistreatment, that leads to increased burnout among LGB trainees. After all, previous studies have shown that a high of LGB medical students report concealing their sexual identity during medical school for fear of discrimination. They also report more depression, anxiety, and low self-rated health compared with heterosexual students.

“Layering concerns about homophobia and discrimination on top of the general intensity of medical training can lead not just to burnout, but also to truly deleterious mental health effects,” Samuels said.

These findings underscore the need for continued, comprehensive support and mentorship for LGBTQ medical students, and the importance of institutional culture change to create healthy, diverse, inclusive medical school learning environments.

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