Maybe we should thank Pedro Zamora on The Real World
Question: How has reality TV changed public perceptions of the LGBT community?
Neil Giuliano: Well reality TV and shows on cable really have been among the leaders in having those fair and accurate portrayals of the LGBT community. You think back to—it was only 1994, so 14 years ago, Pedro Zamora on The Real World. You're maybe too young to, some of your viewers may be too young to remember that. But Pedro really was the first openly gay Latino, HIV-positive guy, on The Real World, talking about his life and showing to, not just people in the house there, but to everyone who watched The Real World, that he was very authentic and very real and very genuine. And over time shows like that, over time, have really been transformative in helping people understand that their neighbors, their coworkers, their friends down the street, are all part of the broader society.
Question: What drives public perceptions of the LGBT community?
Neil Giuliano: Well I think there have been some really strong portrayals of the LGBT community over time that have allowed Americans to get to know LGBT people, and because of that I think that is what has changed the culture. The media landscape is tremendously influential on society. And the images in the media over the last 15 to 20 years have been better—some still very stereotypical—but they have been better over time, if you look at the change that has taken place over time. And I think that has influenced the younger generation and I think that, those portrayals in the media over the last 10 to 15 years are what have shaped the 20 to 30-year-olds today who when you ask them about gay and lesbian people being able to serve in the military, not a problem. Should they be able to have a job without fear of discrimination? Absolutely. Even should they be able to have legally recognized relationships, whether in the form of civil union or a marriage? Absolutely. That 20 to 30-year-old demographic cleary has been raised in a society that does not have the same hang-ups about sexual orientation that people of my generation or older had, when they were growing up. And that’s the promise, that really is the hope.
Recorded on: Mar 4 2008