Familiarity, Framing & the Power of Telling Our Stories

In the work to achieve LGBTQ equality, we are no strangers to the importance of sharing our stories. Storytelling is one of our strongest allies, crucial to every success we’ve had as a movement. Stories act as bridges, connecting us to each other and making the unfamiliar, familiar.

Familiarity is the first step toward acceptance.

Studies, like one from the Public Religion Research Institute last year, have found that having close relationships with LGBTQ people has a positive correlation with support for pro-LGBTQ policies, from marriage equality to non-discrimination protections to embracing different gender identities and pronouns.

You don’t have to know an LGBTQ individual personally to feel increased levels of familiarity: GLAAD’s 2023 Accelerating Acceptance Survey found non-LGBTQ adults are 30% more likely to feel familiar with LGBTQ people if they have been exposed to LGBTQ people through media or entertainment.

In media representations, we often see stories of hardship.

Over the past year, nearly everyone has encountered stories showing how harmful policies and rhetoric have made life harder for LGBTQ people, especially youth. That reality is unfortunately all too common, and these are important stories to tell.

But framing matters.

It’s just as important to use storytelling to highlight shared dreams, goals, and resilience. We can define people by their aspirations and contributions – before introducing their challenges. This asset-minded storytelling approach led to the paradigm shift that won over hearts and minds on marriage equality, and it should not be abandoned.

Check out these examples of storytelling in action.

These productions from the past year show how LGBTQ stories – even those marked by unimaginable challenges – can lead with an asset lens, build familiarity, and become a force for good:

  • In ABC’s Our America: Who I’m Meant to Be, six transgender teenagers from the GenderCool Project shared their experiences with millions. They talked about something that is lost in many conversations about transgender youth: the parts of their lives that are thriving, happy, and just like other teenagers.
  • Last fall, Tenderfoot TV released Dear Alana, a podcast documenting the tragedy of a young woman who died by suicide after undergoing conversion therapy. What struck me as I listened was how host Simon Fung – using interviews with Alana’s mom and readings from her journals – is intentional about introducing Alana through her vivacious personality and aspirations.
  • Family Equality released a six-episode podcast Shining Through the Clouds in August. As the title suggests, it features stories from LGBTQ families detailing how they stay resilient and optimistic in the face of the latest wave of anti-LGBTQ attacks.

Please join us in watching and listening to these stories. You won’t regret it!