Fostering Support for LGBTQ Youth? The Effects of A Gay Adolescent Media Portrayal on Young Viewers

Traci Gillig, Sheila Murphy


This study used experimental methods to examine the effects of a media portrayal of two gay 13-year-old characters on young viewers’ attitudes toward LGBTQ people and issues by exploring the influence of gender identity and sexual orientation on viewers’ reactions. An online quasi-experiment of 469 participants, ages 13–21, revealed that gender identity and sexual orientation influenced viewers’ emotional involvement with the storyline and identification with the characters, which was associated with a change in attitudes. For LGBTQ youth, the story evoked hope and fostered positive attitudes; however, it tended to produce a boomerang effect among heterosexual/cisgender youth, eliciting the emotion of disgust and leading to significantly more negative attitudes toward LGBTQ people and issues.


gender, emotion, identification, LGBT, homosexuality, media representations

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