Published in Journal of Youth Studies, Feb 2017, Vol. 20, Issue 1, p32-46
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) young people have been increasingly represented in traditional (offline) media over the past two decades. However, research had not adequately focused on the content of contemporary representations, how such depictions impact LGBTQ young people, or how young people’s experiences are affected by the present context characterized by the rapidly increasing prevalence of new (online) media. Utilizing grounded theory with a sample (n = 19) of emerging adults (age 18–22), this study investigates: (1) messages about sexual orientation and/or gender identity LGBTQ emerging adults receive from LGBTQ representations in traditional media; (2) potential differences in the experiences of LGBTQ emerging adults with traditional media compared to new media; and (3) how consumption of these media messages impact LGBTQ emerging adults. Results indicate that while traditional media (particularly television) creates a common dialogue and validates identity, it continues to represent LGBTQ people as one-dimensional and stereotypical, ignores many LGBTQ sub-groups, limits LGBTQ young people’s perceptions of their future trajectories, and offers no opportunities for critique. In contrast, emerging new media offers new, important, and valued spaces for discussion and creativity.