Over or under represented?

Representation is important. If you see someone like you doing something you didn’t think was possible for someone like you then you start to think, ‘why not me?’ And more of that kind of thing begets more of that kind of thing. That’s been the case for gender, race and now sexuality. When a group is (or even just feels) disadvantaged there is something very powerful in seeing someone who represents you break new ground.

I’m a white, western, male so I’ve always had role models in almost every conceivable field so I naturally believe that every field is open to me. It would be shocking to think it wasn’t. Of course I learn to accept other limits – age, ability, size, opportunity etc…

As a result, the media (news, films, TV, music and so on) are often the battlegrounds where groups want to be seen. Sometimes they lead the agenda and sometimes they respond to the agenda.

The most recent survey of US television by a campaigning lobby group GLAAD found the following: “The percentage of LGBTQ series regulars on broadcast television in the 2019-2020 season has reached a record high of 10.2%, according to GLAAD’s annual “Where We Are on TV” report,” up from 8.8% in the previous season. That’s 90 out of 879 series regulars on broadcast scripted primetime TV.”

“Last year, GLAAD called on the television industry to increase the number of LGBTQ characters and more accurately reflect the world we live in, and they responded by exceeding this challenge,” said GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis in a statement.


Ms Ellis then went on to call for further progress saying, “We hope to see all networks follow their lead, and work towards reflecting the reality of their audience and the culture” (emphasis added).

Which is an interesting idea. Americans (and not just them) are not very good at estimating the percentage of people who are LGBT. In fact fully 80% overestimate the proportion significantly (thinking the amount is double or even 5 times what it actually is).

Americans’ Estimations of the Percentage of Gay People in the U.S. Just your best guess, what percent of Americans today would you say are gay or lesbian?

May 2011May 2015May 2019
Less than 5%498
5% to less than 10%9119
10% to less than 15%171414
15% to less than 20%9710
20% to 25%172019
More than 25%353335

I wonder why? How could so many be so wrong? Could it have anything to do with their perceptions of what they see in the culture and the media? Just a thought.

GLAAD believes that the LGBT community is under-represented on our screens when this data suggests that they are greatly over-represented.

Overestimations of the nation’s gay population may in part be due to the group’s outsized visibility. An annual report by GLAAD, an LGBT advocacy group, found that representation of LGBT people as television series regulars on broadcast primetime scripted programming reached an all-time high of 8.8% in the 2018-2019 television season, which is nearly twice Gallup’s estimate of the actual population.

I doubt GLAAD or any other gay-rights group will settle there.

Instead, as all the evidence keeps pointing towards sexuality as something very fluid it is not unreasonable to think that the more that people see of something the greater the number of people who will self-identify as that thing.

Take black bi-sexual women for instance. “Currently, based on the survey data, about one in four black women (23 per cent) ages 18-34 identify as bisexual.” Really? That’s vastly greater than any other group and far higher than any LGBT segment in any society. How so?

Joe Carter suggests, and the evidence seems to point that way, that it is indeed because of what is being watched. Just not on the mainstream media. instead what is likely driving this demographic change is pornography.

For years the most popular search term for pornography has been “lesbian.” Pornography that includes women engaging in sexual acts with other women is also the most popular category among 18- to 24-year-old men and women. Among women looking for online pornography “lesbian” is the most-searched-for term overall, and such content is twice as likely to be watched by women as men.

Black Americans are (also) more likely to consume video pornography than are white Americans. According to sociologists Samuel L. Perry and Cyrus Schleifer, “Analyses revealed that Black Americans, in general, were more likely to view pornography than Whites, and they were increasing in their pornography viewership at a higher rate than Whites.”


Pornography not only makes us less human but it also rewires the brain. Most of this rewiring is very negative for the individual concerned but I imagine the lobby groups wouldn’t at all be happy with that association.

But the simple conclusion is that we are not born any particular way but are shaped by a whole host of factors. This ‘shaping’ also means that you can’t reduce it to choices either. But the current climate doesn’t really care about reasons it cares about affirmation and acceptance. What matters is whoever I say am is given the full affirmation of the culture no matter what that expression is.

Stephen McAlpine is therefore completely correct when he says,

What does that all mean? Simply this. The affirmation question is the watershed of our Christian faith in this Sexular Age. Those who affirm, and not merely accept, will eventually find themselves in a completely different theological and ethical river system, compared with those who accept, but do not affirm. The vision of life, of what it means to be human, of what marriage points to, are so integral to the Christian framework that both views cannot be held in tension. One must give way to the other. They are flowing towards completely different theological rivers.


In the end the question of representation and whether or not it accurately reflects the demographics is moot. Those numbers will shift. The church should take note of the playbook though, that representation in the cultures eyes matters because in about 50 years time it will be our turn. Although I don’t think Jesus really cares about whether we’re on TV or not.

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