Most media stories about LGBTI issues are positive. The reactions? Not so much.

The media has come a long way when it comes to covering LGBTI issues. A global shift towards acceptance of LGBTI communities over the past two decades has meant greater inroads for visibility, and we see this now with the prominence of openly LGBTI personalities in media and pop culture.

Beyond prominence, however, the stories being told about them have also been significantly positive. In our 2022 LGBTI Inclusion Online Discourse Report, we analyzed over 400 media stories about LGBTI issues and people that were published from May 2021 to 2022 — and we found that most of these stories (64.4%) were inclusive or portrayed LGBTI people in a positive light.

But there’s a problem.

Ideally, positive stories from the media should translate to positive reactions, right? But the reactions tell another story. On Facebook, “Haha” was the most common Reaction to stories about LGBTI issues.

“Haha” was the most common Facebook Reaction on LGBTI-related stories published from May 2021 to 2022.

While “Haha” is often an ambiguous Reaction to read, it was often used to mock or make fun of the people or the issues featured in these stories. This is further reinforced by another trend we saw in the other stories we studied: we found that negative and exclusionary comments were the most common overall, while the inclusive comments were the least common.

Most comments on LGBTI-related stories published from May 2021 to 2022 were negative or exclusionary.

These findings leave us with pressing questions: What do these reactions tell us about the media’s coverage of LGBTI issues? Is positive media coverage enough to shift our predominant cultural narrative on LGBTI issues towards more inclusive responses? 

1. Positive media coverage isn’t enough, especially when it’s superficial

Sure, other stakeholders such advocacy groups, communities, the academe, and religious groups have to be more involved in pushing for inclusion, but the media particularly occupies a very influential position in people’s everyday lives.

While positive media stories bring more visibility for the LGBTI community, these stories often superficially addressed issues urgent and impactful for the inclusion of LGBTI people — personal security and violence, political and civic participation, economic well-being, health, and education — as outlined in the United Nations Development Programme LGBTI inclusion index.

This chart shows the different categories of media stories that focused on the LGBTI community. Media stories on LGBTI issues typically only increase visibility, leaving more urgent issues such as LGBTI health and education underdiscussed.

This limited lens on LGBTI narratives prevents more online Filipinos from being more familiar with other aspects of the LGBTI experience, such as the challenges they face in school, the workplace, or their communities, as well as how they actively contribute to society.

2. The media’s emphasis on coming out and being outed is limiting

Stories about celebrities coming out or being outed tend to have the highest engagements, with four out of the top twenty highest engagement LGBTI stories being about outing.

Examples of story headlines about celebrities coming out or being outed:
- Raymond Gutierrez says he never denied his true identity (gmanetwork.com)
- Raymond galit na galit noon sa sarili; natakot umaming beki: You never knew my story and my struggles...  (inquirer.net)
- American singer-actor David Archuleta proud na ibinandera ang pagiging member ng LGBTQ (inquirer.net)
- Sheryn Regis on coming out as lesbian to ex-partner, daughter: 'I'm living a lie' (inquirer.net)
- BL actor na mahilig mag-post ng mamahaling gamit sa socmed, dyowa ng mayamang beki (inquirer.net)
- Cristy Fermin, umalma sa mga tsismis na beki si Tom Rodriguez at nahuli ni Carla Abellana (kami.com.ph)
- Popular male actor na sanay sa beki, hirap maglabas ng datung! (philstar.com)

Apart from being among the most engaging posts overall, stories about outings performed slightly higher than average in terms of engagement.

These findings may indicate to those outside the LGBTI advocacy community that majority of the LGBTI experience is about coming out or being closeted, which limits the narrative possibilities about the lives of prominent LGBTI people in the country.

3. Even the media lacks clarity on the different nuances on SOGIE

There appears to be a lack of clarity and consistency in how both the media and online Filipino audiences distinguish between sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity (SOGIE).

What is SOGIE?

It’s an acronym that stands for “sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression. SOGIE is not limited to people within the LGBTI+ community; every person has a sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.

SOGIE is not limited to people within the LGBTI+ community; every person has a sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.


Sexual orientation
is an enduring emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction to other people; a person can be heterosexual or attracted exclusively to people of a different sex; homosexual, to people of the same sex (but it has fallen in use as an outdated term used to previosuly pathologize gay and lesbian people); or even bisexual, who is attracted to both men and women or to more than one particular gender

Gender identity
refers to how a person perceives themselves and what they wish to call themselves as; it can be aligned or unaligned with a person’s assigned sex at birth — as male, female, blends of either, or neither at all

Gender expression
, meanwhile, how one expresses their gender identity externally, either through clothing, speech, mannerisms, behavior, etc., and it may or may not conform to typical norms and stereotypes of masculinity/femininity

Media and online Filipinos seem to use these terms interchangeably, which may not describe an LGBTI person’s identity accurately. Worse, it may lead to undue conflation of distinct identities and orientations — and, worst, to the denial that such identities exist: for example, it was apparent in our findings that many online Filipinos think trans identities are not real.

Additionally, in many cases where a subject’s orientation or gender is unclear, they would be called simply “miyembro ng LGBTQ community (member of the LGBTQ community),” which may technically be correct but lacks the proper context and nuance.

What should we do?

Yes the media has come a long way in covering LGBTI issues — but there’s also a lot of work left to do, and the media plays a crucial role in pushing inclusive messages to broader audiences.

Pick up more meaningful stories about LGBTI issues.

The media should pick up or create more meaningful stories about LGBTI issues, especially those concerning health, education, and economic well-being, since they appear to be underrepresented in media coverage.

Highlight personal stories that show the common struggles of LGBTI people.

By giving the audience a deeper look at the problems LGBTI people face in their everyday lives, we’ll be creating entry points for empathy. The discourse also moves away from merely recognizing and respecting the identities of LGBTI people and shows the multifaceted nature of the issues they face. However, these stories should go beyond struggles of personal security and victimhood from violence; instead, these stories should also end on a hopeful note, giving some pointers for the path forward about how individuals or our society can help LGBTI people overcome these struggles.

Create guides for the media about how to discuss sensitive LGBTI topics and how to use essential terminology.

Apart from inconsistencies and vagueness around the use of terms regarding SOGIE, there also needs to be “best practices” that are encouraged when covering LGBTI issues. For example, mainstream media should be mindful of how LGBTI individuals describe themselves and to use those words in their reporting. By having terminology and coverage guides that are easy to refer to, more media practitioners can make their coverage of LGBTI issues more inclusive.

Media: GMA News

Shares: 331

Shares were from: Mostly from Facebook users sharing it from the GMA News Facebook Page

Media: GMA News

Shares: 185

Shares were from: Mostly from Facebook users sharing it from the GMA News Facebook Page

Media: ABS CBN News

Shares: 140

Shares were from: Mostly from Facebook users sharing it from the ABS-CBN News Network Facebook Page

Media: GMA News

Shares: 133

Shares were from: Mostly from Facebook users sharing it from the GMA News Facebook Page, but also from Facebook users sharing it to supporter groups, askeing for help in combating the negative comments

Media: Global Balita

Shares: 88

Shares were from: From a network of supporter Facebook Pages and Groups for political figures mostly aligned with the administration; blog itself does not have a Facebook Page counterpart

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Want to know more about how online Filipinos see LGBTI issues and people?

In our 65-page insight-rich report, <brand-color>Syn & Strat<brand-color> reveals surprising, data-driven findings on how online Filipinos perceive LGBTI issues and suggests ways forward for advocates, researchers, communicators, and policymakers. Click here to download the full report.