Positive media representation of the Bulgarian LGBTQ+ community and shifting national attitudes towards homosexuality

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Karakashyan, Kosta
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This thesis deals with the question of whether positive media representation can favorably affect attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community in Bulgaria. As a post-Soviet country that recently joined the EU, Bulgaria still has a long way to go towards achieving equality and non-discrimination. The thesis looks at media representation as one part of the puzzle towards shifting the public discourse on homosexuality in one of the EU’s least tolerant countries, according to the most recent Eurobarometer study. The central role of media is telling stories, and the LGBTQ+ stories the media chooses to amplify can have a powerful effect on the attitudes towards homosexuality in the country. Through an experimental study and literature review on LGBTQ+ attitudes in Bulgaria and worldwide, the thesis uses the parasocial contact theory to analyze attitudes towards notorious pop-folk singer Azis. Both homosexual and Roma and known for his gender-bending performances, Azis is one of the most polarizing phenomena in Bulgaria and wildly successful. The thesis analyzes the current discourse on queer culture in Bulgaria and studies the effects of Azis’ media exposure in Bulgaria’s specific post-Soviet context as a method of shifting attitudes. The research confirms existing cross-national demographic tendencies in higher tolerance in younger, more highly educated, less religious cohorts. Still, it does establish a strong correlation between Azis’ representation and positive attitudes. The pressing problem of proper queer representation in Bulgaria continues to become more and more urgent as “anti-gender” campaigns threaten to push back on positions of equality even further in the near future.
Second semester University: Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
media, homosexuality, transgender, intersexuality, Bulgaria, gender identity, music