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2021 LGBTQ+ Data in Review

The Data in Review looks back at LGBTQ news over the last 12 months and recaps some of the most important findings this year

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Graphic via The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law

LOS ANGELES – The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy at the UCLA School of Law issued its annual ‘Data in Review’ for 2021.

The Data in Review looks back at LGBTQ news over the last 12 months and recaps some of the most important findings to come out of the Williams Institute this year:

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LGBTQ+ college students more likely to pick school away from home

Experiences among LGBTQ students in graduate schools and community colleges followed a similar pattern to four-year colleges and universities

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Royce Hall UCLA/UCLA Media

LOS ANGELES – A new study from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law conducted in collaboration with the Point Foundation, the nation’s largest LGBTQ scholarship fund, finds LGBTQ people were four times more likely than non-LGBTQ people to report having picked a college in a different city or state in search of a more welcoming climate (22% vs. 5%, respectively).

Twice as many LGBTQ people (33%) as non-LGBTQ people (14%) chose to attend a college elsewhere to get away from their families. While in school, LGBTQ students were more likely than their non-LGBTQ peers to experience poor mental health, bullying, and harassment.

Using data from the Access to Higher Education Survey, a nationally representative sample of adults ages 18 to 40, researchers examined the experiences of LGBTQ people who have attended a four-year college or graduate school. A companion study looked at the experiences of LGBTQ people in community college.

In four-year institutions, graduate school, and community college, LGBTQ students were more likely than their non-LGBTQ peers to experience discrimination and violence. One-third (33%) of LGBTQ people at four-year colleges were bullied, harassed, or assaulted, compared to 19% of non-LGBTQ people.

“Despite efforts to find more welcoming environments, many LGBTQ people in higher education face significant negative experiences, which can impact their ability to learn and succeed,” said lead author Kerith J. Conron, the Blachford-Cooper Distinguished Scholar and Research Director at the Williams Institute. “Colleges and universities concerned about improving diversity, equity, and inclusion must focus on improving conditions for LGBTQ students.”

“In this current climate, it’s sadly not a surprise to us that institutions of higher learning have a lot more work to do when it comes to making LGBTQ students feel safe, heard, and equally served by their schools,” said Jorge Valencia, Executive Director and CEO at Point Foundation. “Colleges need to make an institutional commitment that clearly communicates support for LGBTQ students. And LGBTQ students themselves must be involved in the process to ensure that policies, services, and infrastructural components are truly effective.”

ADDITIONAL FINDINGS – FOUR-YEAR COLLEGES

Bullying, Harassment, and Assault

  • Nearly one in five (19%) LGBTQ people experienced in-person bullying or harassment at a four-year college, compared to 5% of non-LGBTQ people.
  • 18% of LGBTQ people experienced sexual harassment, compared to 6% of non-LGBTQ people.
  • Among the LGBTQ people who were victimized, only one-fifth (20%) said that their college had an easily accessible, visible, and known procedure for reporting LGBTQ-related bias incidents and hate crimes distinct from generic reporting procedures.

Belonging and Outness

  • Fewer LGBTQ people experienced a sense of belonging at college (72%), compared to non-LGBTQ people (84%).
  • More than half (60%) of LGBTQ people were not “out” as LGBTQ to any of the faculty or school staff at their college and 37% were not “out” to any other students.
  • LGBTQ people were more than twice as likely to have changed their dress, appearance, or mannerisms to avoid discrimination at college compared to non-LGBTQ peers (16% and 7%, respectively).

Mental Health

  • LGBTQ people (35%) were about three times more likely than non-LGBTQ people (11%) to say that their mental health was not good all or most of the time they were in college.
  • LGBTQ people were at least twice as likely as non-LGBTQ people to report that a professional told them that they had a specific mental health problem while in college, including depression (32% vs. 16%), anxiety (33% vs. 15%), and suicidal thoughts (19% vs. 6%).
  • A minority of LGBTQ people reported that their colleges had LGBTQ-supportive counseling services (39%) or LGBTQ-informed health services (30%).

Experiences among LGBTQ students in graduate schools and community colleges followed a similar pattern to four-year colleges and universities.

This study is part of a series of reports that analyze data from the Access to Higher Education Survey:
COVID-19 and Students in Higher Education
Federal Student Loan Debt Among LGBTQ People
Educational Experiences of Transgender People
Community College and the Experiences of LGBTQ People

Read the report

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More than half of Trans students in higher ed report poor mental health

Many face bullying, harassment, assault, and unfair treatment-“It’s clear universities are not doing enough for transgender students”

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Georgetown University queer students confront anti-Trans protestors (LA Blade file screenshot/YouTube)

LOS ANGELES – A new study from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law conducted in collaboration with the Point Foundation, the nation’s largest LGBTQ scholarship fund, finds there are an estimated 218,000 known transgender students ages 18 to 40 in the U.S. of which more than half (55%) say that their mental health was not good all or most of the time while they were in higher education programs.

More than a third (39%) of transgender people experienced bullying, harassment, or assault while they were enrolled in higher education. And nearly a third (32%) of transgender people reported unfair treatment by teachers, staff, or school administrators.

Using data from the Access to Higher Education Survey, a nationally representative sample of adults ages 18 to 40, researchers examined the school experiences and higher education environments of transgender people in four-year colleges and universities, community colleges, and vocational-technical schools.

Results show that transgender people (26%) were three times more likely than cisgender LGBQ people (9%) to say that lifetime adverse treatment at school impacted their academic success.

“Experiences of discrimination against transgender people are not unique to high school,” said lead author Kerith J. Conron, the Blachford-Cooper Distinguished Scholar and Research Director at the Williams Institute. “They also occur in higher education settings, where they can have a profound impact on the mental health and lifelong potential of transgender students.”

“It’s clear that universities and schools are not doing enough for transgender students,” said Jorge Valencia, Executive Director and CEO at Point Foundation. “When transgender people are reporting high levels of poor mental health, in part because of their mistreatment at the hands of staff or faculty, it’s time for institutions of higher education to make a change. We are advocating for schools to audit their policies to ensure the protection of LGBTQ students, to ensure LGBTQ people are being listened to and supported by funded programming and centers, among other things.”

ADDITIONAL FINDINGS

Financial Support

  • More than half of transgender people had federal student loans (51%), more than cisgender LGBQ (33%) and non-LGBQ people (23%).

Belonging and Outness

  • Three out of five (59%) transgender people reported a sense of belonging at the higher education institutions they had attended.
  • One in five (21%) transgender people was “out” as LGBTQ to most or all of their teachers/faculty and program staff and 44% were out to no faculty or staff.
  • Almost a third (32%) of transgender people reported being out to no other students.

LGBTQ Inclusion

  • About half (49%) of transgender people reported that LGBTQ issues were part of the curriculum at their school.
  • 39% of transgender people reported the presence of one or more gender-neutral bathrooms on campus.
  • One in five (20%) transgender people reported that they were aware their school had a policy allowing students to change their gender designation on their program records and documents, while 58% did not know if their school had a policy.
  • About one-quarter of transgender students said their school had LGBTQ-competent health (23%) and counseling services (25%).

This study is part of a series of reports that analyze data from the Access to Higher Education Survey. Previous reports examined the impact of COVID-19 on LGBTQ students and federal student loan debt among LGBTQ people.

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Twitter “Libs of TikTok” amplified anti-LGBTQ hate; attacks exploding online

Since March 1, millions of Facebook posts and tweets have pushed similar anti-LGBTQ hate and earned millions of interactions

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Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

By Kayla Gogarty | WASHINGTON – Through their coverage and on social media, right-wing media have ramped up attacks accusing LGBTQ people and opponents of Florida’s latest anti-LGBTQ legislation of “grooming” children.

In a new study, Media Matters analyzed millions of Facebook and Twitter posts that push related anti-LGBTQ language and found this narrative initially spiked in March with anti-LGBTQ Twitter account “Libs of TikTok” at the helm, and the attacks further ramped up in April as right-wing outlets and figures with large followings further amplified the language. 

Key findings include:

  • News and politics Facebook pages posted at least 1,100 times mentioning “groomer,” “grooming,” or other related language between March 1 and April 18. These posts earned over 1.7 million interactions.
  • Right-leaning pages dominated “groomer”-related discussion on Facebook, posting over 78% of related posts — a majority of which were posted in April.
  • There were over 1.4 million tweets and retweets with “groomer”-related language between March 1 and April 18. Related hashtags, including #grooming, #groomer, #groomers, and #savethechildren, were used nearly 30,000 times.
  • Anti-LGBTQ account Libs of TikTok influenced “groomer”-related discussion on Facebook and Twitter.
    • In March, the most-retweeted and most-mentioned Twitter account using “groomer” language was anti-LGBTQ account Libs of TikTok. Its tweets with “groomer”-related language were retweeted over 14,600 times, and the account was mentioned in over 17,800 tweets with similar language. 
    • Libs of TikTok has continued to tweet “groomer”-related language in April; the account has been mentioned in over 21,000 related tweets and has been retweeted over 13,000 times.
  • In April, the most-retweeted and most-mentioned Twitter account so far in related tweets was conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec, whose tweets with anti-LGBTQ language were retweeted over 68,000 times, and whose account was mentioned in nearly 79,000 tweets with similar language. 
  • On Twitter, the number of tweets with “groomer”-related language increased by over 60% in April, with over 870,000 tweets and retweets, compared to nearly 545,000 tweets in March. 

On March 28, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the “Parental Rights in Education” bill, also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, into law. This anti-LGBTQ legislation bans discussion of sexuality or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, though its vague wording could be used to prevent such discussions — however broadly defined — at any grade level.

Following DeSantis’ signature and Disney’s announcement that it opposed the bill, right-wing media ramped up attacks through their coverage and on social media, accusing LGBTQ people and opponents of the bill of “grooming.”

In the week after the bill was signed, Fox News spent over 3 hours melting down about Disney’s response and the attacks on LGBTQ people were echoed and amplified on Facebook, with right-leaning pages earning over 6.5 million interactions on related posts during the same time frame.

The attacks echoed messaging advice from DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw, who described the legislation as an “Anti-Grooming Bill” after repeatedly interacting with Libs of TikTok — an anti-LGBTQ Twitter account that she claims “truly opened my eyes” on LGBTQ education in schools. The account has frequently singled out individual TikTok users, including teachers, for ridicule and harassment, while also repeatedly misgendering public figures and content creators and using “groomer”-related language in dozens of tweets.

Throughout March and April, Libs of TikTok also influenced Fox News prime-time coverage, as the network used the account like a wire service to source anti-trans and homophobic content related to teachers and youth and interviewed the then-anonymous account owner. Now, Media Matters has found that Libs of TikTok also influenced related discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

Since March 1, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts have mentioned “groomer”-related language millions of times and earned millions of interactions

Using Facebook data from CrowdTangle and Twitter data from the Dewey Square Group (sourced via the Twitter API), Media Matters found that news and politics Facebook pages posted at least 1,100 times mentioning “groomer,” “grooming,” or other related language between March 1 and April 18, earning over 1.7 million interactions. During the same time frame, Twitter accounts tweeted (or retweeted) at least 1.4 million times with similar language.

Right-leaning Facebook pages have dominated “groomer”-related discussion, posting 868 times — or over 78% of related posts from news and politics pages — and earning over 90% of interactions. Posts from right-leaning pages also account for 46 of the top 50 posts with such language in our data. Notably, several of the top 10 related posts were made by right-wing personalities and accuse the left, Disney, or teachers of “grooming” children:

On Twitter, right-wing media figures also posted several of the top 10 related tweets (by number of retweets), including Jack Posobiec, as well as The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles and Candace Owens:

  • During the same time frame, related hashtags on Twitter, including #grooming, #groomer, #groomers, and #savethechildren, were used nearly 30,000 times.
  • Libs of TikTok was the most-retweeted and most-mentioned user in tweets with “groomer”-related language in March
  • Media Matters previously reported that anti-LGBTQ Twitter account Libs of TikTok had specifically used “groomer”-related language in 46 tweets since November 2021, with the tweets earning over ​​220,000 total interactions (replies, retweets, likes, and quote tweets). Using new Twitter data from the Dewey Square Group, sourced via the Twitter API, Media Matters has now found that the Libs of TikTok account earned at least 14,600 retweets in March alone on tweets that used the related anti-LGBTQ language — making it the account with the most retweets of tweets containing such language. Libs of TikTok’s most retweeted March tweets containing this specific anti-LGBTQ language are one claiming Illinois education standards are “literal grooming” and one accusing the husband of U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg of “grooming kids.” These tweets earned roughly 2,500 retweets each.
  • Libs of TikTok was also the most mentioned user in tweets with “groomer”-related language, mentioned at least 17,800 times in March. Verified users with tens of thousands of followers responded to the account’s tweets and increased the account’s visibility, including Chris Rufo, a primary driver of right-wing fearmongering over “critical race theory.”Libs of TikTok continued to tweet “groomer”-related language in April, with related tweets retweeted nearly 14,000 times, and the account mentioned in over 21,000 related tweets. But as right-wing media echoed similar language, the anti-LGBTQ attacks exploded across Facebook and Twitter.
  • So far in April, right-wing media outlets and figures have earned more engagement on Facebook posts and tweets with “groomer”-related language than in March
  • Right-leaning Facebook pages mentioned “groomer”-related language in at least 868 posts between March 1 and April 18. The majority of these posts — nearly 600 — were made in April, earning nearly 1.2 million interactions or an average of over 2,000 interactions per post. This engagement far surpassed the interactions these pages earned on its related posts in March — roughly 1,300 average interactions per post. 

The 10 news and politics pages that earned the most interactions on posts with related language in April so far are all right-leaning pages, mostly of right-wing outlets and personalities:

  • Fox News: 3 posts that earned a total of over 260,000 interactions.
  • Michael Knowles: 9 posts that earned a total of nearly 70,000 interactions.
  • Chicks On The Right: 18 posts that earned a total of nearly 60,000 interactions.
  • Young Conservatives: 15 posts that earned a total of over 55,000 interactions.
  • Mark Dice: 1 post that earned a total of over 50,000 interactions.
  • Trump & The Great America: 15 posts that earned a total of nearly 50,000 interactions.
  • Ben Ferguson: 2 posts that earned a total of nearly 50,000 interactions.
  • Trump 2020: 15 posts that earned a total of over 45,000 interactions. 
  • Steven Crowder: 13 posts that earned a total of over 40,000 interactions.
  • Dan Bongino: 4 posts that earned a total of over 40,000 interactions.

On Twitter, tweets with “groomer”-related language have increased by over 60% in April, with over 870,000 tweets and retweets, compared to nearly 545,000 tweets in March. Notably, the most retweeted and most mentioned user in April so far is pro-Trump conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec. Posobiec’s tweets with anti-LGBTQ language were retweeted over 68,000 times and he was mentioned in nearly 79,000 tweets with similar language. 

One of Posobiec’s tweets was even among the top 10 related tweets in April that had the most retweets.

  • Other top users in terms of retweets or mentions in related posts in April include:
    • The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles: over 26,000 retweets and nearly 27,000 mentions.
    • Chris Rufo: over 25,000 retweets and over 26,000 mentions.
    • The Daily Wire’s Candace Owens: over 18,000 retweets and over 18,000 mentions.

Facebook analysis

Using CrowdTangle, Media Matters compiled a list of 1,773 Facebook pages that frequently posted about U.S. politics from January 1 to August 25, 2020.

For an explanation of how we compiled pages and identified them as right-leaning, left-leaning, or ideologically nonaligned, see the methodology here.

The resulting list consisted of 771 right-leaning pages, 497 ideologically nonaligned pages, and 505 left-leaning pages.

Every day, Media Matters also uses Facebook’s CrowdTangle tool and this methodology to identify and share the 10 posts with the most interactions from top political and news-related Facebook pages.

Using CrowdTangle, Media Matters compiled all posts for the pages on this list that were posted from March 1 through April 18, and were related to the myth that LGBTQ people are “grooming” children to be LGBTQ or to engage in sexual activity. We reviewed data for these posts, including total interactions (reactions, comments, and shares). 

We defined posts as related to the myth that LGBTQ people are “grooming” children if they had any of the following terms in the message or in the included link, article headline, or article description: “groomer,” “anti-groomer,” “grooming,” “groomers.”

We excluded any posts related to human or pet hygiene.

Twitter analysis

Dewey Square Group compiled and analyzed tweets containing “groomer”-related keywords, via the Twitter API. We reviewed data for these tweets, including total interactions (replies, retweets, likes, and quote tweets), total retweets, and total mentions (when a user replied to an account, tagged it in a tweet, or replied to another tweet which had tagged that account). “Groomer”-related keywords were defined as any of the following: “groomer,” “groomers,” or “grooming.”

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Kayla Gogarty is an Associate Research Director at Media Matters focusing on disinformation.

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The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished by permission.

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