Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) teens in the U.S. experience devastating amounts of anti-LGBT bullying. In 2007, a national survey from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), found that nearly nine in 10 LGBT teens reported that they had been verbally harassed at school because of their sexual orientation. That same year, the Ad Council partnered with the Gay, Lesbian,and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) to develop a public service advertising campaign that would combat harassment of LGBT teens by focusing on the casual use of anti-LGBT language and slurs. With clear objectives in mind, the Ad Council and GLSEN partnered with advertising agency, Arnold NYC, on this pro bono assignment.
The Ad Council and GLSEN decided to focus on language for several reasons. Anti-LGBT language is a common part of the high school vernacular. Compared to other forms of discrimination, verbal harassment is the most commonly experienced among LGBT teens. In the 2007 GLSEN survey, 74 percent of LGBT teens said they had heard homophobic remarks, such as "faggot" or "dyke," frequently or often at school, and 90 percent frequently heard the word "gay" used in a negative way such as the expression “that’s so gay” to label someone or something as stupid or worthless. Homophobic language is often a precursor to more overt forms of abuse. By highlighting the harm in using the anti-LGBT language, which has become normalized in many schools, all teens could realize the affect their choice in language is having on LGBT teens.
Over $38 million in donated media support from 2008-2012.
Over the course of the campaign, we have seen several positive trends in awareness, attitudes, and behaviors specifically related to the PSA campaign’s core message, proving that addressing language is a key component of creating a better environment for LGBT teens. The campaign has helped to build awareness of the potentially harmful effects of thoughtless language and has planted a message that makes many teens stop and think about their behavior.
Survey findings in 2012 demonstrated:
- Recognition of the Think Before You Speak campaign is very high with 53 percent of teens reporting that they have seen/heard at least one campaign PSA.
- The percentage of teens who agreed to the statement “saying ‘that’s so gay’ is no big deal” declined significantly from 51 percent in 2008 to 38 percent in 2012.
- Significantly more teens reported that “people should not say ‘that’s so gay’ at all.” (28 percent in 2008 to 44 percent in 2012)
- Significantly more teens reported that they themselves never say “that’s so gay.” (21 percent in 2008 to 35 percent in 2012)
- Significantly more teens reported that their friends never say “that’s so gay." (Nine percent in 2008 to 14 percent in 2012)