Does the term “anti-LGBTQ” show clear media bias?

As various state legislators introduce bills restricting transgender medical treatments, children at drag shows, and the teaching of gender and sexuality issues in elementary schools, we’ve seen journalists describe such legislation as “anti-LGBTQ legislation” or “anti-LGBTQ laws.” The term has also been used to describe criminalization of homosexual acts in other countries.

The term is used by both sides of the political aisle, but in different contexts. It always seems to reveal a bias against a law or legislation. By referring to a bill or law as “anti-LGBTQ,” it can typically be inferred that the journalist is conveying they find the bill to be unfair or unjust. 

How the Left Sees/Uses the Term "Anti-LGBTQ"
  • Uses the term broadly to refer to any legislation that is perceived as limiting the rights, freedoms or desires of LGBTQ people.
  • Argues any legislation against the movement for LGBTQ rights and acceptance is part and parcel to broader hate against LGBTQ people. Therefore, sees any legislation targeting LGBTQ actions, behavior, or practices as inherently against LGBTQ people.
How the Right Sees/Uses the Term "Anti-LGBTQ"
  • Uses the term selectively, is context-dependent. For example, the right may call a bill criminalizing homosexual acts “anti-LGBTQ,” but would not, for example, label a bill limiting transgender medical treatments for children as "anti-LGBTQ," because they believe limiting such medical practices is actually good for children.
  • Argues certain legislation is not about hating or being against LGBTQ people, but about protecting children, fighting gender ideology, or preserving women-only spaces. In some contexts, sees the term “anti-LGBTQ” as biased because it makes it appear legislation is against LGBTQ people, rather than what they perceive as harmful actions, behavior or practices.

The words or phrases a media outlet uses can reveal their perspective or political ideology, causing the outlet to stray from neutral and objective reporting.

Some words or phrases are preferred by the political left, while others are preferred by the political right. This is called word choice bias. “Anti-LGBTQ” is also a subjective qualifying adjective, meaning it characterizes or attributes specific properties to a noun (in many cases, a law or bill).

When a journalist uses qualifying adjectives, they are suggesting a way for you to think about or interpret the issue. A truly neutral, objective media outlet would just describe what a bill or law does, without labeling it with any qualifiers, and let you decide for yourself if it is good or bad.

Leaving out the qualifiers may be a drier way to write, but it does not betray a bias.

RELATED: “Gender-Affirming Care” or “Medical Procedures”? Both Sides of Transgender Terminology

(Note: Typically, “anti-LGBTQ” has a negative connotation. However, it’s certainly possible that a writer may use “anti-LGBTQ” with a positive connotation — meaning, they could believe a bill is anti-LGBTQ and also be in favor of the bill. However, because the term typically is connotated with negativity and with being against LGBTQ people and not just against an action, behavior, or practice, this is rare and the term is unlikely to be used in this way by any major media outlets today, left or right. It may be used this way on more fringe blogs or commentary sites.)

It should also be noted that the lines are not always necessarily drawn neatly between liberals and conservatives. LGBTQ people themselves are not a monolith. Fifteen percent of LGB folks are registered Republicans, and some are more conservative on transgender issues specifically. They would not refer to bills restricting transgender medical treatments for minors or discussion of gender and sex issues in schools as “anti-LGBTQ,” because they agree such practices ought to be restricted. They may see these issues as different from issues of gay marriage or adult medical transition. 

RELATED: Why It's Important to Notice When Journalists Use Adjectives

How Both Sides Use (or Don’t Use) the Term “Anti-LGBTQ”

The term “anti-LGBTQ” is used generously and broadly on the left. It’s easy to find myriad examples in news stories on any given day from media outlets AllSides rates as Left or Lean Left. A quick Google search revealed recent examples from the Associated Press (Lean Left bias), Business Insider (Lean Left), CNN (Lean Left), CBS News (Lean Left), The New York Times (Lean Left), and USA Today (Lean Left). 

These news outlets use the term “anti-LGBTQ” in many contexts, including to refer to a Florida law that penalizes a business that allows children to see any "adult live performance" that showcases sexually explicit content, including if they are accompanied by a parent. CBS and CNN used the phrase “anti-LGBTQ” to refer to a campaign to get Target to remove Pride merchandise, and USA Today used the phrase to refer to 650 bills nationwide.

The right, however, uses the phrase much more selectively, depending on the legislation being discussed, or even the country. Outlets AllSides rates as Lean Right or Right are much less likely to refer to bills banning transgender medical treatments for children, restricting children at drag shows, or requiring bathroom use to correspond to biological sex as “anti-LGBTQ.” They are, however, willing to call laws criminalizing homosexual behavior or gay marriage in other countries “anti-LGBTQ.” 

The right typically views bills such as these as pro-children, or pro-women, and therefore would not frame such bills as "anti-LGBTQ." When it comes to issues around gay people, however, they typically agree with the left.

For example, Fox News (Right bias) has used the phrase “anti-LGBTQ” to describe a Ugandan bill that criminalizes homosexual behavior, as well as to describe comments from an aid to the Japanese Prime Minister who was fired for saying people would leave the country if same-sex marriage were allowed and that he wouldn’t want to live next to a gay or lesbian couple or look at them. However, Fox News did not use the term when reporting on a Florida ban on transgender medical treatments for children, nor legislation that prohibits employees and students from providing, being asked to provide, and being required to use preferred pronouns.

RELATED: What is Media Bias?

Other outlets on the right follow a similar pattern of using the term selectively. The Daily Wire (Right) has used it to refer to laws in Dubai that criminalize same-sex sexual acts. However, when it comes to laws limiting transgender medical treatment, it rejects the term, stating, "Legacy media has frequently portrayed those urging for caution and common sense practices [around transgender treatments] as “anti-LGBT” and “far Right,” assuring their readers that science is on their side because of the U.S. medical organizations that endorse gender-affirming care. But none of the U.S.-based organizations have done systematic reviews of the evidence…"

Breitbart (Right) has called China “anti-LGBTQ,” using the term because “China decriminalized homosexuality in 1997, but the Communist Party still looks unfavorably upon gay people and significantly restricts displays of alleged “homosexual” or “effeminate” behavior. Communist leaders announced in September a ban on “sissy” or “girlie” men in entertainment in an effort to promote masculinity among the country’s young men.” However, Breitbart has also put “LGBTQ+” in quotes, seemingly to signal disapproval of the term.

The selective use of the term on the right seems to show that "LGB" issues are settled among that political cohort (the right is now okay with — or, depending on your perspective, has ceded ground on — issues like gay marriage), while the right is fighting issues around the “TQ+.”

Some outlets on the right don’t appear to use the term at all — for instance, The Daily Signal (Right bias) seems to only put the phrase “anti-LGBTQ” in quotes, again as if to signal disagreement with the term, or uses the term only when it’s part of a quote. The Daily Signal has also come out explicitly stating that Florida’s controversial Parental Rights in Education Bill, dubbed by critics as “Don’t Say Gay,” is not “anti-LGBTQ”.

The examples also show how the right believes they are separating a people from an ideology, therefore they believe certain policies aren't "anti-LGBTQ." Whereas the left doesn't see an ideology — they would argue you either accept people, or you don't. 


The term “anti-LGBTQ” can show media bias because it typically signals a reporter thinks legislation is bad, unjust, or hateful toward LGBTQ people. The use of the term tends to shift a legislative issue into the realm of morality by taking emphasis off the details of the legislation and placing it on the seemingly hateful supporters of the bill. The absence of the term can signal that a reporter or media outlet does not have a negative view of the legislation or does not want to face backlash from an audience who may support the legislation by seeming accusatory or biased.

Word choice bias and subjective qualifying adjectives are key ways to infer the political bias of a news report. Be sure to familiarize yourself with them so that you are not easily manipulated by media bias.

Julie Mastrine is the Director of Marketing and Media Bias Ratings at AllSides. She has a Lean Right bias.

This piece was reviewed by Henry A. Brechter, Editor-in-chief (Center bias), Clare Ashcraft, Bridging and Bias Assistant (Center), Johnathon Held, Research & Content Intern (Lean Right), and Andrew Weinzierl, Bias Research Manager and Data Journalist (Lean Left).