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How do factors such as sex, race, class, geographical location and historical period impact on how ‘gay’ love is represented? (Choose one or two.) Essay Example

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Gays Representation

More people especially celebrities have declared that they are homosexuals. There is wide acceptance of homosexuality in North America, the European Union, and Latin America but broad rejection in most Muslim countries and in Africa as well as parts of Asia and Russia. Concerning representation different factors such as sex, race, class, geographical location and historical period influence how gay love is depicted in the media. For example, white gays receive more coverage than black gays are often described in a positive light. Also, some races accommodate gays more than others. Most white gays face less resistance from their parents and communities compared to blacks and Latinos. The different race attitudes towards gays are often represented in the way characters are described in the media. There are stereotypes concerning the behaviors of gays. They are often represented as girlish even though some have male characteristics. The media ought to be fair in the representation of gay men and should not be a conduit for reinforcing stereotypes.


Media portrayal of homosexuality shows cultural acceptance. The progression is seen by the number of TV shows such as Grey’s Anatomy and books (Rowe 9). By depicting gays as multi-faceted human beings who are not distinct from their heterosexual counterparts, media hopes to have an equal society where the rights of all people despites their differences are observed.

The film industry especially Hollywood has undergone radical changes in the way it portrays gays in general. In the 60’s and 70’s the depiction of lesbians and gay men were cruel and homophobic. Most of the gays were representated by their sexual orientation and did not have any complex character development. In the 90’s, despite the changes to accommodate gays, the sector was still cautious in the depictions of gay and lesbian actors and their experiences. The strict code loosened with the emergence of women and gay rights movements. Hollywood films are created to appeal to large viewers as possible, and producers choose not to risk provoking a significant share of the audience and potential investors. Whereas homosexuals have become more vocal and visible in public life, their portrayal in movies was becoming increasingly homophobic. Gay characters were often showcased as rough, predatory or suicidal.

Gender plays a crucial role when examining the issue of gays. Men do not support gays and lesbian rights as women do. The most key predictors of attitudes towards same-sex marriage marriage are gender, age, religious denomination, religiosity, and socio-economic status. Schwartz claims that most gay men are friends with heterosexual women because the latter feels safe with them. Having gay male friends means that they would not compete for their attention with other females. Heterogeneous females bond faster with gay men than with heterogeneous men. Gay men and straight women perceive each other as trustworthy sources of relationships and dating advice.

Previous studies have confirmed that blacks have more negative attitudes towards gays than whites who have more favorable attitudes toward gays in general. Other studies have found out that there is no disparity at all between the views towards gays of blacks and whites (Jenkins et al.). Whereas the support for same-sex marriages among the Hispanics is lower when compared to whites, it is higher than that of the blacks. The Hispanics tend to be socially conservative and belong to traditional religion denomination like Catholicism and Evangelical Christianity which is linked to the least amount support for gays.

Religion affects how people view gays. Notably, Africans Americans are more religious than whites thus are less accommodative of gays. Roggemans et al. claims that blacks are more religious than whites and people who were linked to higher religious activity are characterized as hostile towards homosexuals and offer little or no support for homosexuals. The Black Church occupies a unique social, economic, and historical place within the African community which differs from the way whites view gays. Roggemans et al. note that public opinion shows that religious persons report more prejudice against homosexuality when compared to their non-religious counterparts. The study found out that most Christian and Muslims believers had more negative views towards homosexuality. The types of teachings in Black churches often denounce gays and term it as unforgivable practice. In effect, this makes a difference for African American attitudes towards homosexuals. While most of the world’s religions regard homosexuality as wrong, black churches seem to oppose it to a higher degree than white religious groups.

Gender has consistently been found to be associated with attitudes towards homosexuality. Men are less likely to be tolerant of homosexuals and supportive of gay rights than women. Moskowitz . et al. established that most men were likely to discriminate gay men and favor the lesbians. Men who participated in the study showed a clear preference for lesbian marriage over gay male marriage in general. They view lesbian marriage as erotic and exciting and gay male relationships as revolting and unerotic. Persistent racial difference characterizes U.S. attitudes toward homosexuality. This explains the disparities in HIV infection rates between African-American and white men who have sex with men (MSM). Gays continue to be stigmatized in the society by the larger heterosexual population and personal internalized homophobia.

Media reports have also portrayed blacks and Hispanic gays as the face of AIDS epidemic in America and other parts of the world. The New York Times indicated that despite the progress made to prevent and treat H.I.V., the number of new infections remained the same with more of the cases being reported among black and Hispanic gays. 25% of new infections in the country are in black and Hispanic men according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The newspaper reports that most blacks and Hispanics are the most affected by the pandemic even though they engage in less risky behavior compared to their white counterparts. Furthermore, there are no major campaigns aimed at young black men which leave them vulnerable. The health experts argue that most gay black youths are hard to reach. Most live in areas where gays are stigmatized and have no means to move out.

A research conducted by Glaad found out that gay men are more represented on cable and broadcast show. Lesbians were more represented on streaming services such as Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon. 43% of the LGBTQ characters on streaming services were found to be lesbians and appeared on shows such as Wentworth and Orange is the New Black (Sidahmed). Despite the overall increase, LGBTQ characters were overwhelmingly white. On broadcast networks, 69% of gay actors were found to be white, 19% black, and 6% Asian. On cable and streaming platforms respectively, 71% and 73% of gay actors were white (Moylan, Brian).

The sexual content of the media is made to appeal to the heterogeneous population who form the largest audience. Fisher et al. explain that the content of programming on American TV has undergone significant modifications for the last fifty years. Initially, the TV rarely presented sexual themes. Topics such as pregnancy, contraception were regarded as too sensitive to be aired in TV programmes. The author explains that the depictions of the sexual issues associated with nonhomosexuals still has a long way to go

Some races are given more airtime than others. Generally, A GLAAD report found out that African Americans were about accurately represented as TV actors compared to the U.S. demographics for the 2015-2016 session (Moylan). However, Latinos were under-presented. Using this reason, it is obvious that gays from the black community had more airplay compared to those from Latinos. The more gay actors appear on TV, the more negative attitudes towards them change but depending on the roles that they act. There have also been concerns by activists that gays have less leading roles, insufficient racial diversity among gay characters, and less than positive portrayals of the gay lifestyle by some filmmakers.

The negative stereotype surrounding blacks has a major influence on how blacks are portrayed on TV. Friedlander reports that it a white man’s world for LGBT characters on scripted series. Generally, black men in the U.S. have negative public perceptions due to the airing of negative stories about them. The mass media portray blacks as having lower life expectations which shapes public perception of and attitudes towards African-Americans (Donaldson). Most of the blacks are associated with drug trafficking, unemployment, and poverty. Their success stories are often limited to sports and arts which portray limited life choices. The same case goes for black actors who are gay. They are presented in a less favorable light which often involves a life of struggle with their sexual orientation or not being accepted by their communities. On the other hand, white gays are portrayed as living a satisfying life and being accepted wholly by their communities. They even have functional families, and everything seems to go on well for them. On this, the media is only portraying the truth since most gay blacks are poor and cannot afford to adopt kids yet alone live better lives.

Some of the stereotypes about gay men are represented on the TV. For example, in most shows or media, gay actors are usually well dressed, emotionally available, witty, and appear positive. The stereotypes have led to unrealistic expectations of what it means to be gay and how a gay should behave. Most gay men do not fit the common stereotype are marginalized for not living up to the expectations which affect their mental health (Stone, Joe).

Men are assumed to be strong and dominant. It uncommon for a man to appear emotional and sensitive in the public. On the other hand, gays are depicted to have opposite characters. When they appear on TV or other forms of media, they are portrayed as objects of ridicule or villains. More often, the portrayal of gays character is complex, and it is tough to identify their sexual orientation. Therefore, most of the programs have acquired signs of gayness to portray help the audience decipher actors characters quickly (Benshoff, Harry, and Sean Griffin). These include certain gestures, clothing, and signs of language adopted to visualize a person’s sexual orientation. Most of this categorization is negative and often regarded to be socially and morally undesirable. This has led to stereotypical portrayals of gays and lesbians.

Gays are portrayed on media through stereotypical lenses. Benshoff, Harry, and Sean Griffin confirms that they are potrayed as having some behaviors that fall outside what the society expects of them. They are defined by their sexual orientation which is created to appear morally wrong. Also, they are limited to a few topics such as AIDS and their attempt to deal with their conditions. As a result, it is widely considered as a negative symbol of masculinity. In most shows or books, gays are represented and involved in stories concerning friendship with single heterosexual female characters. Such kinds of stereotyping make it easier for the viewers to identify the actor’s such homosexuals. Stereotyping is used as an essential tool by movie scripters and directors who want the audiences to draw upon the commonly held assumptions of specific categories of individuals within the society in singling out various actors’ lifestyle.

However, Wood argues that it is not practical to show a character’s sexuality through narrative and thus shows depend on typification. Gay typification makes the actors to be easily identified by the audience and keeps the homosexuality of a character distinct throughout a text. There are positive and negatives sides of typification. Firstly, it allows everything about a character to be reduced to sexuality which is not good. Nonetheless, despite this, it enables homosexual perspectives to be ever present and offers gays and lesbians something they can relate to. It also compacts an array of social knowledge into a limited number of distinct signs that many homosexuals never identify to the various gay types represented on TV and most gays choose to remain inconspicuous for most of their lives. Gay typification on TV has led many gays to adopt lifestyles which are distinct to heterosexuals in many ways.

It is important that gays are represented accurately. Evelyn explains that there are gays who have masculine characteristics but are not given the same coverage as gays who possess feminine characteristics (2). Similarly, lesbians with masculine features are given more coverage than lesbians with feminine features. There is a general belief that gays are womanly and lesbians are manly. Such kinds of stereotypes should be corrected with the help of the media.

The mainstream media outlets the world over are under attack to represent all categories of people. In most countries, the media has not done enough to educate the masses about homosexuality. Most of the media outlets run negative stories about gays at the expense of educating the public about the different sexual orientations and rights of sexual and gender minorities (Evelyn 2). Due to the negative attitudes often perpetuated by the media, most gay people choose to live in fear rather than be open about their condition. Basically, these is one of the reasons why there is high rates of HIV infections among gays. Nonetheless, there are many organizations that are providing resources and useful content about homosexuals from videos to websites. The internet has made it easier for gay people to find information online, connect with others, and blog about their personal experiences.


In summary of the above discussion, sex and race are one of the leading factors that shape how gays are represented. Most of the characteristics of gays are usually represented by the media and most times border on stereotypes. For example, gays are described as feminine or lacking masculine characters, yet not all gays bear feminine characteristics. It is entirely wrong to classify a person as gay based on the characters that are presented in the media as those posed by gay men. Generally, men are less supportive of fellow gay men something that is represented in the media. However, they are more accommodative of lesbians as they regard them as less of a threat to their lives and the society. As regards race, white gays tend to be featured more on the media compared to other races. The same case applies to other traditional roles in TV shows. Additionally, different races have different attitudes towards gay people which are captured by the media. For example, the African Americans are more religious than whites and tend to uphold traditional values. Therefore, they do not accept gays on the same level as whites do. The negative representation of blacks tends to follow black gays as they are often represented to suffer from aids or involved in criminal activities.


Benshoff, Harry, and Sean Griffin. Queer Cinema: The Film Reader., Hove, UK, Psychology Press, 2017,.

Donaldson, Leigh. «When The Media Misrepresents Black Men, The Effects Are Felt In The Real World». The Guardian, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/aug/12/media-misrepresents-black-men-effects-felt-real-world.

Evelyn, Mabokela. The Viewers’ Perception on The Portrayal Of Gays And Lesbians In Selected Television Programmes. Polokwane, University of Limpopo, 2015, http://ul.netd.ac.za/bitstream/handle/10386/1210/mabokela_se_2015.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y.

Fisher, Deborah A. et al. «Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Content On Television». Journal of Homosexuality, vol 52, no. 3-4, 2007, pp. 167-188. Informa UK Limited, doi:10.1300/j082v52n03_08.

Friedlander, Whitney. 2015, http://variety.com/2015/tv/news/tv-lacking-in-racially-diverse-lgbt-characters-according-to-glaad-report-1201627292/.

Moskowitz, David A. et al. «Heterosexual Attitudes Toward Same-Sex Marriage». Journal of Homosexuality, vol 57, no. 2, 2010, pp. 325-336. Informa UK Limited, doi:10.1080/00918360903489176.

Moylan, Brian. «Most LGBT Characters On US TV Are White And Male, Study Finds». The Guardian, 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2015/oct/27/most-lgbt-characters-on-us-tv-are-white-and-male-study-finds.

Roggemans, L. et al. «Religion and Negative Attitudes Towards Homosexuals: An Analysis Of Urban Young People And Their Attitudes Towards Homosexuality». Young, vol 23, no. 3, 2015, pp. 254-276. SAGE Publications, doi:10.1177/1103308815586903.

Rowe, Austin. Media ’S Portrayal Of Homosexuality As A Reflection Of Cultural Acceptance. Georgia, Georgia State University, 2009, http://scholarworks.gsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1015&context=univ_lib_ura.

Sidahmed, Mazin. «LGBT Characters On TV Will Make Up Larger Percentage Than Ever, Study Finds». The Guardian, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2016/nov/03/lgbt-characters-tv-largest-percent-glaad-study.

Schwartz, Amy. «The Science Behind Why So Many Women Want To Befriend Gay Men». The Conversation, http://theconversation.com/the-science-behind-why-so-many-women-want-to-befriend-gay-men-51965.

Stone, Joe. «No More Mr Nice Gay: How TV Representation Changed From Will & Grace To Empire». The Guardian, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2016/feb/09/no-more-mr-nice-gay-how-tv-representation-changed-from-will-grace-to-empire.

Wood, Matthew. The Portrayal of Gays And Lesbians On TV, And How Viewers React., Gayson Tv,.