(EDGE) After years of improving numbers, America's acceptance of LGBT friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors has gone into a sudden reversal - even as anti-gay rhetoric heats up, policies inimical to sexual minorities are established, and positive images of gays, lesbians, and trans people have started to fade from the media.
The worrisome trend came to light with the release of this year's annual report from equality group Gay and Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAAD). Since 2014 the yearly report, titled "Accelerating Acceptance," has shown steadily rising levels of comfort by straight, cisgender Americans with their LGBT fellow citizens. Now, a year into Donald Trump's presidency, what's accelerating isn't acceptance - not anymore. Instead, there are signs of a growing trend of anti-gay sentiment in the U.S.
"This change can be seen as a dangerous repercussion in the tenor of discourse and experience over the last year," the report noted. "2017 brought heightened rhetoric toward marginalized communities to the forefront of American culture." The report listed a number of proximal causes, including the president's unilateral attempt to ban trans servicemembers, the long-delayed confirmation of a (not incidentally anti-LGBT) Supreme Court justice to replace the late Antonin Scalia, and attempts at the state and federal level to exclude sexual minorities from the protections of anti-discrimination measures in order to curry favor with homophobic religious conservatives.
The report is based on data collected by the Harris Poll and shows a spike in the number of Americans who say they would be "uncomfortable" knowing that a friend or family member was gay, observing a same-sex couple display affection in public, or seeing a gay or lesbian colleague's wedding photo.
"However," the report read, "79% of non-LGBT U.S. adults still agree with the statement 'I support equal rights for the LGBT community.' "
That may be the result of the specific ways in which support for America's LGBT community has softened. While the percentage of "Resistors" (those who said they would be " 'very' or 'somewhat' uncomfortable" with sexual minorities no matter what the setting or context) has remained constant across the years at 14%, so-called "detached supporters," whose comfort level and acceptance depends on specific situations (whether a gay person is their doctor, for instance, or teaches school children) has risen this year to 37% from last year's level of 35%. Meantime, "allies" (Americans who accept LGBTs in all situations and don't fret about gays having certain jobs, and who do not harbor anxieties about associating with gays in any sort of everyday context) have fallen from last year's peak of 53% to 49% this year.
Another set of numbers changed in parallel: Those showing yearly rates of LGBT Americans who report encountering discrimination. Last year 44% of those polled said they had experienced discrimination due to sexual orientation or gender identity, but this year's results showed a leap to 55%.
"In the past year, there has been a swift and alarming erosion of acceptance which can only be fought by being visible and vocal," the head of GLAAD, Kate Ellis, told NBC News. "This report puts numbers to the bias that too many LGBT Americans have recently experienced."
NBC noted that the poll's results dovetailed with data from another report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. That report, titled "A Crisis of Hate," shows that anti-gay homicides "nearly doubled" in 2017 - the first year of President Trump's current term.
"We are releasing this report during a time when our communities are witnessing the few civil rights protections and policies being rolled back and discrimination being instituted into law, and media organizations and organizations working with survivors are receiving an unprecedented number of stories of hate-fueled attacks," the report noted.
NCAVP head Beverly Tillery called the new data "a wake-up call," NBC reported, saying, "Our communities live in an increasingly hostile and dangerous climate."