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"Homer, I won your respect, and all I had to do was save your life. Now, if every gay man could just do the same, you'd be set."
June 4, 2010 10:07 PM   Subscribe

Americans' Acceptance of Gay Relations Crosses 50% Threshold - To try to figure out why, NYT columnist Charles M. Blow taps sociologist Dr. Michael Kimmel and Professor Ritch Savin-Williams, who offer three hypotheses as to what may have lead to the surprising changes and what remains of the gender disparity in attitudes.

Via Gallup: There is a gradual cultural shift under way in Americans' views toward gay individuals and gay rights. While public attitudes haven't moved consistently in gays' and lesbians' favor every year, the general trend is clearly in that direction. This year, the shift is apparent in a record-high level of the public seeing gay and lesbian relations as morally acceptable. Meanwhile, support for legalizing gay marriage, and for the legality of gay and lesbian relations more generally, is near record highs.
posted by Blazecock Pileon (88 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's about time.
posted by pjern at 10:28 PM on June 4, 2010 [9 favorites]


Maybe because people see hypocritical fuckwads like George Rekers, Larry Craig, et al, and are finally worn down by the blatant hypocrisy.

Or they are merely intrigued by the thought of assfucking. . .
posted by Danf at 10:28 PM on June 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


what remains of the gender disparity in attitudes

Does anything remain of the gender disparity? In fact, the previous disparity has flipped, though perhaps insignificantly: men in both age categories (18-49 and 50+) are more likely than women in the same category to be accepting of "gay/lesbian relations." Among the 18-49 group, the figure is 62% for men and 59% for women. Just 4 years ago, women were slightly less likely to approve (55%) than they are today, but men were dramatically less likely -- 42%. A shift of 20 percentage points in 4 years!

So, as Gallup puts it, men have been the "driving the change." Men used to be less accepting than gays of women. But men have been progressing faster than women.

Overall, interesting and good news -- thanks for posting it. But I don't know what to make of the gender angle. Anyway, good for women for being more enlightened earlier on, and good for men for catching up quickly.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:30 PM on June 4, 2010


Danf: Those are actually two of Blow's theories!
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:30 PM on June 4, 2010


1. The contact hypothesis. As more men openly acknowledge that they are gay, it becomes harder for men who are not gay to discriminate against them. And as that group of openly gay men becomes more varied — including athletes, celebrities and soldiers — many of the old, derisive stereotypes lose their purchase.

This has been the mantra of those who call for people to come out for DECADES. It's not news, it's been spoken for years, and it is TRUTH. Come Out, Come Out, where ever you live, and whoever you are!
posted by hippybear at 10:40 PM on June 4, 2010 [16 favorites]


This is one of the things that spell big trouble for the Republican party in the long run. (The others are a gradual shift towards secularism and a less and less white America)

Social issues are going to bury the GOP over time unless they change, and I don't mean Tea Party change. But a gut wrenching, kick-the-bigots-out change. The Dems (mostly) did it with Humphrey and LBJ, now the GOP has to do the same and let the Tea Party take them in as the Ultra-Nationalist party.

Frankly, as much as I consider myself a fiscal progressive I would heartily welcome a grown-up GOP that ditched the asinine God-Guns-Gays(and "illegals") in favor of honest "fiscal conservatism". The members #s they would lose they would pick up from "blue dog" democrats, and that would be ok. I could live with a Nixon (minus the paranoia and break-ins) over ANY of the GOP crop.

As god awful as the seemingly never-ending culture wars are the positive shifts are there, and I don't really see them being revered in a substantial manner, it is a 2 steps forward, one step back sort of deal. 10 - 15 years things like proposition 8 will be hard to pass in all but some southern states (+ Utah).
posted by edgeways at 10:52 PM on June 4, 2010 [10 favorites]


Come Out, Come Out, where ever you live, and whoever you are!

As a straight male, I can only agree with this 100%. I have seen it in action. The best way for our gay friends to gain the equality they so direly deserve is to be public. The more people feel connected, the harder it is for people to denigrate each other. It won't happen overnight, but it will happen.

It works for racial issues, gender issues, and it works for sexual orientation issues, too.
posted by kaseijin at 10:56 PM on June 4, 2010 [9 favorites]


So, if I'm reading this right, some 40% of Americans not only think homosexual relations are immoral, they actually think they should be illegal? And this is supposed to be good news?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:58 PM on June 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


And this is supposed to be good news?

Focus on the trend and you'll feel better. Like, yes, x number of people die in car crashes every year, but 4x died in car crashes just twenty years ago. Let the trending calm wash over you, to erase your anger and lower your will to fight for 100% acceptance. Yes, that's it, drift away, drift away...
posted by davejay at 11:04 PM on June 4, 2010 [9 favorites]


a gradual shift towards secularism and a less and less white America

Hmmm you're right. I can't think of any traditional Judeo-Christian belief systems shared by many people of Hispanic background either.
posted by hamida2242 at 11:06 PM on June 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


davejay I'm driftin' so hard right now.
posted by hamida2242 at 11:06 PM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


To put it bluntly: who the fuck cares anymore. It's gotten so hard for anyone with issues about sexuality to come off as intelligent, that it's reaching the same state as racism and sexism.
(... not to mention that we've got way bigger fish to fry than finding a way to exclude any desperately needed hands...). Well written article.
It's stuff like this that fuels my relentlessly positive attitude. Things ARE getting better.
posted by djrock3k at 11:14 PM on June 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Danf: "Or they are merely intrigued by the thought of assfucking. . ."

Saying this sort of thing in the way you say it strikes me as stunningly counterproductive.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 11:25 PM on June 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


I would put most weight behind the "contact hypothesis" expressed in the article. It is awfully hard to ignore the fact that your neighbour to the north has legitimized equal marriage for five years and yet has somehow avoided falling into the depraved sexual bacchanalia and loss of civilization prophesied by the religious right.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 11:26 PM on June 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


I find it interesting that no one has mentioned, as part of the contact hypothesis, the role of the media. Let's be honest -- for a great number of people, the first gay person they've even "known" has likely been a portrayal of a gay person in a movie or on TV, or a gay media figure like Ellen DeGeneres. Moreover, I can't personally think of very many gays portrayed negatively in the media.

The conservative nightmare that gay characters on TV would make us more tolerant of gays in general? It's working.

Good.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:40 PM on June 4, 2010 [28 favorites]


"To try to figure out why..."

I've got a simple answer. After a century, over half the people just got bored with being judgmental, punitive assholes.

I wouldn't hold out big hopes for the other half. They're still lusting for this kind of action.
posted by Twang at 11:42 PM on June 4, 2010


I wonder whether porn has anything to do with it? Look at the popular titles.

Lesbians, sure. There has always been hot girl-on-girl action in porn. Most men -- or most porn-viewing heterosexual men, anyway -- obviously are not disgusted by the thought of women having sex. Quite the opposite.

But porn also has lots and lots of supposedly straight action that nonetheless involves two or more men in the same scene, so that you have a man at home whacking off to images of men whacking off with each other, a man at home whacking off to images of two or more men synchronizing their sexual attentions and ejaculations, even if the excuse for pulling out their cocks ostensibly is a woman. Even the one-on-one straight scenes (so I've been told by a friend of a friend) finish with a close-up of a guy jacking off while, presumably, the guy at home is also jacking off. Straight male porn watchers must spend an awful lot of time staring excitedly at cock while manipulating cock.

I don't mean to suggest that it would magically "turn" anyone gay, but maybe porn lowers the levels of disgust that many feel, or claim to feel, concerning hot boy-on-boy action. Pavlov's doggy style, one choked chicken at a time. And if you eliminate the disgust, much of the homophobia has to go with it.
posted by pracowity at 11:48 PM on June 4, 2010 [9 favorites]


Hmmm you're right. I can't think of any traditional Judeo-Christian belief systems shared by many people of Hispanic background either.

"Notably, there has been a 16-point jump in acceptance among Catholics, nearly three times the increase seen among Protestants. Acceptance among Americans with no religious identity has expanded as well."
posted by Avenger at 11:49 PM on June 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Even Laura Bush supports gay marriage. So clearly, the notion that two people of the same gender can be in love is not so radical even deep within the Republican Party. When I first started coming out to old friends - most of the reaction was 'whatever'. As I continue to make new friends and network because of business - I've sometimes gotten to a point of whether or not to tell these new friends that I am gay, because I generally lead a pretty low key lifestyle (and I am single). But consistently, whenever I've told these new friends, the reaction is always - oh, okay good to know - but it was never an issue that they attached any importance to (in the best way possible).

So yes, I can see the progress out there on a very personal basis - and it is heartening.
posted by helmutdog at 12:13 AM on June 5, 2010


The forces of righteousness shall prevail.

I like the idea of social conservatives tied to a stake in a tidal pool, watching the waves get a little closer every time. They see a wave that wasn't so close and they sigh in relief, maybe they'll win after all. Oops, sorry douchebag, this is a stochastic process - the next wave is closer than ever. Give them a decade and they'll be stretched out with their mouths barely above water during the troughs.
posted by atrazine at 1:20 AM on June 5, 2010


"Surprising changes"

Please. MTV by any name.
And DADT is effectively done on the second Wednesday in November if you are paying attention.
posted by vapidave at 1:48 AM on June 5, 2010


who the fuck cares anymore.

A disturbingly large number of people, that's who. Nor is there any guarantee that progress stays. The 20s were a huge liberation, brought on by WW I, on the old, Victorian social order; WW II saw women in taking up men's work - and the end of the 40s and 50s were marked by a ruthless drive to reimpose a hyper-conservative official culture.

In my bleaker moments I remember that Germany was a place Jews fled to in the late 19th and early 20th century to get rid of the barbarous pogroms of places like Poland and Russia, and parts were famed for their decadent omnisexuality.
posted by rodgerd at 1:57 AM on June 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


In other news, a little over a year after the Iowa Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, a new poll finds that a majority of Iowans support marriage equality.
posted by craichead at 1:58 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hmmm you're right. I can't think of any traditional Judeo-Christian belief systems shared by many people of Hispanic background either.

I can't remember where I saw the poll (thus not linking it here) but Hispanic Americans are in favor of gay rights ahead of any other American ethnic group.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:22 AM on June 5, 2010


Only 50%? I would have thought it was much higher. I mean, I'm happy it's gone up and is trending upward every year, but damn... it seems like such a low number. :(
posted by zarq at 2:22 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


(wish I could explain the gender gap, though. All we're getting now seem to be unlikely half-assed guesses.)
posted by Navelgazer at 2:23 AM on June 5, 2010


Iowa is better. Excepting the weather.
I lived in Iowa for six years and worked for one year with a man that had with another man adopted 4 kids. As a matter of record only one was the legal parent. No legal link was there between the Dad and the other Dad. The not-of-record Dad sued and won the rights of a parent. He didn't want to make a big deal of it so I won't either but he won in the Iowa courts. His kids are fine in their little town. I asked him if the other kids in town cared and of course they didn't. That's for people who aren't neighbors. This was in 2005.
Catch up New York and California.
posted by vapidave at 2:42 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


You'll never see an honestly fiscally conservative party anyways edgeways, simply cannot exist under out electoral system.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:57 AM on June 5, 2010


Hmmm you're right. I can't think of any traditional Judeo-Christian belief systems shared by many people of Hispanic background either.

There have been shifts in the overall Hispanic population as far as religious participation and/or chosen dominations go. Not to mention that some of us are also part of this move toward secular life. And as has been pointed out above, acceptance among Catholics has grown too. Catholics often tend to be among the more progressive Christian dominations, if you don't pay attention to what comes out of The Vatican. There's a tradition of tolernace, kindness, and a sense of doing the best one can. This sometimes means bending the 'rules' bit, such as when Catholic women use birth control (and it does happen).

I think a huge mistake is to believe any one group a monolith.
posted by cmgonzalez at 3:10 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


really i wish more gays, like myself, had the attitude of "i don't give a fig whether you accept me or not. sometimes being a pariah is more fun!
posted by billybobtoo at 3:41 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was raised to be anti-gay, my dad is still basically a homophobe. What changed my attitude was actually going to a regular goth night that was at a gay bar. I didn't know the first time I went and paniced when I saw the sign out front saying that it was a gay establishment.

It was a straight night, but the bar tenders were gay and a lot of the regulars were gay and I was continuously surprised by which people were gay that I had assumed were straight.

At some point I realized that gays weren't any more weird and outside the mainstream than I was and who was I to think I was better than them.

Coupled with my leaving the church, that was pretty much all it took.

This was back in the early 90s and I lived in the suburbs, and having gay friends was something that people wouldn't admit still. It wasn't for another 10 years before I'd even admit to my parents that any of my friends were gay.

Now they don't really care, and my mom even went to a house party with one of her gay coworkers and couldn't say enough nice things about them.

I really think in another 5 years, except in crazy conservative areas of the country, open gays are going to be pretty well integrated in society.

I think one nice side effect of it would be an end to the taboo against same sex affection between straight people. If being called gay isn't considered the worst thing in the world, I could see hugs, etc being more popular between men.
posted by empath at 3:54 AM on June 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


Bora Horza Gobuchul: "It is awfully hard to ignore the fact that your neighbour to the north has legitimized equal marriage for five years and yet has somehow avoided falling into the depraved sexual bacchanalia and loss of civilization prophesied by the religious right."

I don't know about that. The drivers of the recent healthcare "debate" did a pretty good job smokescreening the existence of the rest of the industrialized world's healthcare systems from the American public.
posted by Rhaomi at 4:15 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Now they don't really care, and my mom even went to a house party with one of her gay coworkers and couldn't say enough nice things about them.

Taking nothing away from your sentiment, the quoted paragraph reminds me of when I was kid talking to my racist friend, who consistently "othered" blacks by referring to all black people as "them". "They" weren't a monolith, and neither are "the gays".

Some of "them" have nice house parties, some of "them" are jerks, and most of "them" are somewhere in between, and while many of "them" no doubt appreciate your and your Mom's approbation, "they" don't need it or you to be fully human. Whether or not approbation or tolerance is offered, "they" on "their" own terms and by right, not by anyone else's acquiescence, "are created equal,... are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights".

Gay people are people. Whether or not we say nice things about, whether or not any individual gay person is or isn't "nice". They have inalienable rights given by God or Nature, not transient privileges that the hetero-normative world can grant or revoke. Because they are people, as much as anyone else. Because being people isn't about who you fuck or who fucks you or how you do it. Anything less is condescension and othering that constantly and implicitly threatens to once again marginalize and ostracize and dehumanize.

Gay is an adjective. People is the noun. Gay people are people -- and nothing more, nothing less.
posted by orthogonality at 4:23 AM on June 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


hippybear: Come Out, Come Out, where ever you live, and whoever you are!

kaseijin : As a straight male, I can only agree with this 100%. I have seen it in action. The best way for our gay friends to gain the equality they so direly deserve is to be public ... It works for racial issues, gender issues, and it works for sexual orientation issues, too.


You know, I remember when my sister came out to me. We were watching a re-run of "Scarecrow and Mrs. King" and she turned to me and said "I can't think of a good way to tell you this, so I'm just going to say it. I am a woman."

I tried to hide my shock, and I'll admit that I was a little sad knowing that her life was always going to be a bit harder than mine-- lower wages, menstruation, all that. But she's my sister and I love her no matter what.

I thought about it for a long time, but now I'm fine with alternative lifestyles. A few years later a coworker casually remarked to me that he was black and I didn't bat an eye.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:40 AM on June 5, 2010 [21 favorites]


Oh for fucks sake, get over yourself. 'Them' is a pronoun. My mom hung out with gay people and enjoyed their company. It was a big deal for her. It's lovely that you are so enlightened and superior, but not everybody is.
posted by empath at 4:51 AM on June 5, 2010 [24 favorites]


The conservative nightmare that gay characters on TV would make us more tolerant of gays in general? It's working.

I remember having a discussion with my acting coach when Will and Grace premiered. He said, "What makes me so happy about this is that there is a television show about gay people that's just as bad as other television shows. I live in an era where there's a tv program featuring gay characters, and I can choose not to watch it because it's awful. Finally, some equality."
posted by tzikeh at 4:59 AM on June 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


The great nation founded on the principles of equality for all is over half way to actually accepting that goal. Rejoice.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 5:06 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


empath:
Now they don't really care, and my mom even went to a house party with one of her gay coworkers and couldn't say enough nice things about them.


orthogonality:
Taking nothing away from your sentiment, the quoted paragraph reminds me of when I was kid talking to my racist friend, who consistently "othered" blacks by referring to all black people as "them". "They" weren't a monolith, and neither are "the gays".

Some of "them" have nice house parties, some of "them" are jerks, and most of "them" are somewhere in between, and while many of "them" no doubt appreciate your and your Mom's approbation, "they" don't need it or you to be fully human. Whether or not approbation or tolerance is offered, "they" on "their" own terms and by right, not by anyone else's acquiescence, "are created equal,... are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights".

Gay people are people. Whether or not we say nice things about, whether or not any individual gay person is or isn't "nice". They have inalienable rights given by God or Nature, not transient privileges that the hetero-normative world can grant or revoke. Because they are people, as much as anyone else. Because being people isn't about who you fuck or who fucks you or how you do it. Anything less is condescension and othering that constantly and implicitly threatens to once again marginalize and ostracize and dehumanize.

Gay is an adjective. People is the noun. Gay people are people -- and nothing more, nothing less.


This kind of patronising hand-wringing might make you feel good, orthogonality, but it does nothing for the cause you support. Virtually everything we say is ideological; virtually everything we say betrays a bias towards our in-group and against those on the margins, either by othering them or (more usually) by eliding them completely. But calling out empath for ideological solecisms (like some kind of Marxist-Leninist grandee quoting Das Kapital) does nothing for the cause. It's pointless internecine bitchery that distracts us from fighting the important battles and the real enemies.
posted by dontjumplarry at 5:55 AM on June 5, 2010 [17 favorites]


Wish the large 18-to-49 category had been broken down further. To me it seems like a pure generational shift. Younger people have grown up with gay friends and just don't buy the old garbage any more. You can see this in the message-crafting of Sarah Palin, who is very closely attuned to the young conservative demographic. She isn't pro-gay marriage, but she won't bash gays and was generally moderate on gay-related issues.
posted by texorama at 5:56 AM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Focus on the trend and you'll feel better. Like, yes, x number of people die in car crashes every year, but 4x died in car crashes just twenty years ago. Let the trending calm wash over you, to erase your anger and lower your will to fight for 100% acceptance. Yes, that's it, drift away, drift away...

...Yeah, just like how countries at war just drop everything and go home when they see that they're just starting to win. "hell with this," the Allied Forces said when they were three-quarters of the way into France. "We're close enough! Let's go home!"

The thing about big social changes is that, often, it does not happen immediately. Those who continue to struggle on the side of the right need encouragement and hope to continue, and that is what this article is about. It's not trying to placate, it is trying to encourage people to keep fighting. It is proof that the struggle is working.

Most people simply aren't fueled 100% by anger and frustration, and they need some hope and encouragement now and then. For those that need that hope and encouragement, what the hell is wrong with letting them find it?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:59 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


(... besides which, I think empath was actually referring to his Mom's gay coworkers when he said "them", not to Carson Kressley, k d lang, myself and the other 6 million of us on the planet)
posted by dontjumplarry at 6:01 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


One thing the article doesn't mention: the role of age and mortality in shifting attitudes. Simply put, older generations tend to be more anti-gay (citation needed) and as they die off they're replaced by newer generations that have been raised in a more pro-gay environment.

I'm with the folks above who point out that 40+% of Americans still think I am "morally wrong". Progress is good, but we've got a long way to go.
posted by Nelson at 6:27 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


One thing the article doesn't mention: the role of age and mortality in shifting attitudes. Simply put, older generations tend to be more anti-gay (citation needed)

Well, the Gallup poll article does mention this, so there's your citation. Texorama is right that it should have been broken down more than just under 50 and 50+.

Texorama is also right about Sarah Palin. I remember she was very self-consciously pro-gay in the tenor of her comments in the vice-presidential debate. (Notice I said the "tenor" was pro-gay, not that her actual views are pro-gay.) Here's what she said, after stating her opposition to same-sex marriage:
I also want to clarify, if there's any kind of suggestion at all from my answer that I would be anything but tolerant of adults in America choosing their partners, choosing relationships that they deem best for themselves, you know, I am tolerant and I have a very diverse family and group of friends and even within that group you would see some who may not agree with me on this issue, some very dear friends who don't agree with me on this issue. But in that tolerance also, no one would ever propose, not in a McCain-Palin administration, to do anything to prohibit, say, visitations in a hospital or contracts being signed, negotiated between parties.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:54 AM on June 5, 2010


They have inalienable rights given by God or Nature, not transient privileges that the hetero-normative world can grant or revoke.

What a load of mawkish, sentimental rubbish. I've got a sad bit of news for you: even many of your founding fathers didn't believe that God actually gave them their rights. Any way, whether they believed it or not, it isn't true. The rights that you have as an American were won by blood and gunpowder, not because the almighty granted them to you.
To say that a right is "inalienable" is nonsense, every right that exists is one invented by human thought, fought for by real people living in the very concrete physical world (sometimes with violence if necessary), and defended in the legislatures, the courts, and the streets.

Not transient privileges that can be revoked? Try telling that to someone who wants to marry their partner but can't, or who just wants the right to live without the fear of violence. Not to worry, you have rights in Orthogonality's magical theory world.

What does it mean for a right to be "inalienable", that it cannot be taken away by human actions? Well actually, no, because governments and mobs and societies do take away rights that you think cannot be alienated.

We can say that certain rights should be sacrosanct and free of politics, but that is rhetoric. We say these things to convert our political opponents, and they are powerful arguments. Powerful or not, they aren't true. In the real world, convincing homophobes that homosexuals are ok is important because those people are voters. Obviously there isn't any moral obligation on the part of gays & lesbians to convince bigots that they deserve equality. But so what? Whether or not they have any obligation to justify their rights to bigots doesn't matter, because those bigots will by their votes and their opinions influence the rights of gays and lesbians here in the real world which is imperfect and fucked in many ways.

Equality won't happen because it is the natural way of things or because some deity ordained that all shall have equal rights. It will happen because we fight for it.
posted by atrazine at 7:04 AM on June 5, 2010 [9 favorites]


This entire study is wrong. What it should say is that over 40% of people who live in America believe that gay relationship are immoral. 100% of AMERICANS believe in the equal validity of gay relationships, because by definition of this nation's founding principles one is only truly American if one believes in life, liberty and justice for all and that ALL people are created equal. Anyone not adhering to that principle is simply living here.
posted by spicynuts at 7:06 AM on June 5, 2010 [9 favorites]


One thing the article doesn't mention: the role of age and mortality in shifting attitudes. Simply put, older generations tend to be more anti-gay (citation needed) and as they die off they're replaced by newer generations that have been raised in a more pro-gay environment.

You can see that clearly in their results, with younger people being more accepting than older. That well-known age phenomenon, however, doesn't explain why men are (according to this survey) rapidly becoming more accepting than women, and are vastly more accepting than they were even just a few years ago.

Personally, I think that the reason for the huge shift in male attitudes is all about a mental reconfiguration of "gay" from "weird separate species" to "normal guy who likes different things in bed than I do." Like someone mentioned above, I would give enormous weight to media portrayals of gayness like Ellen and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, as well as all the coming outs (only attorneys general have comings out) of both celebrities and people you might know locally. Add those things together, and gays aren't so easily caricatured as weirdo perverts in San Francisco bathhouses plotting to seduce young boys.

I'm with the folks above who point out that 40+% of Americans still think I am "morally wrong". Progress is good, but we've got a long way to go.

One thing this article didn't try to measure was the intensity of anti-gay sentiment. My sense is that even though 40% of Americans still disapprove, the intensity of that disapproval is diminishing. Compared to my childhood in the 1970s and '80s, even the homophobes I know now accept that gay people exist and are all around; that they will run businesses, act in movies, and attain high political office; that gay marriages have occurred and the world didn't end; and that like it or not this is not going to change. Twenty years ago -- hell, even ten -- those weren't givens, at all.

So while it is sad that you still have such a large percentage disapproving, I suspect that the situation is a lot more nuanced, and that the positive trend is even better than this looks.
posted by Forktine at 7:07 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was walking near the Myrtle-Wyckoff stop in brooklyn yesterday (this is real brooklyn, trash on the streets, loud hip hop coming out of cars, people hanging out drinking 40s, and all that) and I passed a group of kids playing with chalk on the sidewalk. The kids were elementary school age and african american, and were just drawing pictures and writing stuff on the street. There were faces and shapes, and I think there was a scribble about "biatch", but the last thing I saw was a big rainbow with fluffy clouds that had written below it "for the gay people".

That's the kind of thing makes me pretty sure things have changed. It's going to be difficult for kids growing up today to have a real, intrinsic problem with gay people when it's such a normal, familiar part of the world. They may be told it's wrong, but they won't believe it in the same way older generations did.
posted by mdn at 7:44 AM on June 5, 2010 [9 favorites]


personally, i attribute it to the wonderful invention of gay chicken--it's good-natured and fun, it gets the girls all silly and screamy, and the guys realize it's not so bad after all. i applaud the gay man who first suggested it to his football team and hope he is happily out of the closet now.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 8:18 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


billybobtoo: "really i wish more gays, like myself, had the attitude of "i don't give a fig whether you accept me or not. sometimes being a pariah is more fun!"

Whether this applies to you or not, there are a remarkable number of gay men and lesbians who are interested in adopting children. Like straight people, they feel the instinct to care for children as an intense and personal part of their being and who they are. Unlike straight people, there are still significant legal and logistical barriers preventing them from adopting in many states. They, I'll hypothesize, are probably not enjoying being a pariah so much.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:34 AM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


personally, i attribute it to the wonderful invention of gay chicken

I just LOVE the idea of that being part of the Gay Conspiracy. soon we'll have Very Serious Warnings on Fox News about it.

"... why in our very state, we had two boys fly to Iowa and get married, just to avoid losing the game. poor kids. straight as arrows, they were."
posted by ScotchRox at 8:43 AM on June 5, 2010


When I first started coming out to old friends - most of the reaction was 'whatever'. As I continue to make new friends and network because of business - I've sometimes gotten to a point of whether or not to tell these new friends that I am gay, because I generally lead a pretty low key lifestyle (and I am single). But consistently, whenever I've told these new friends, the reaction is always - oh, okay good to know - but it was never an issue that they attached any importance to (in the best way possible).

Yep, that's the holy grail. Just being accepted, and that acceptance being unremarkable is the ultimate goal - that's when homophobia finally dies - when your being gay is no more remarkable than having blue eyes; nobody would think to single out blue-eyed people and discriminate against them. Gay people are simply people - so one can't but be happy that things are moving in that direction.

And yet... I must admit, I feel slightly mournful about one aspect of this impending normalcy, because it's also associated with a big cultural loss - the gay culture developed over centuries. Now, is it worth giving up that culture for the sake of utter normalcy (as in total lack of discrimination) - yes, of course, absolutely. But think about what has already been lost - young gay people who don't know much if anything about the history of struggle and key events and figures (I actually talked to a young guy who didn't really have a clear idea of who Harvey Milk was!) - perhaps that ignorance is the happy price we pay for normalcy, and I guess that's the way it should be. As a straight guy in mind-numbingly boring Sweden, I naturally gravitated to the "outsiders", and the gay subculture - it was the only way I could keep my sanity in what felt like a hell hole of provinciality. When I came to California, the diversity was a breath of fresh air, but even here, I always preferred the wit and intelligence of a gay environment - so West Hollywood is where I settled (after leaving San Francisco on account of LA job opportunities in my field). So while I'm delighted that progress is being made, I also feel slightly sad at a culture disappearing. It's a loss of diversity in an increasingly homogenized world. I feel like in any ecosystem, loss of diversity is a net loss of vitality. If only it were possible to keep the diversity, but get rid of the discrimination, that would be the ideal situation. I'm afraid however that's just my wishing to have my cake and eat it too - total acceptance is the ultimate goal, and I'm glad it's moving, however slowly, in that direction.
posted by VikingSword at 9:18 AM on June 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


VikingSword, to me, the loss of 'gay culture' is a good thing, not a bad thing. In a very real way, it's the breakdown of the association of gay with 'gay culture' in my mind that paved the way for my coming out. As a societal trend, it's giving a freedom and acceptance to those of us who have little or nothing in common with 'gay culture' yet are gay. I'm gay, and it isn't my culture - so what makes it gay?
posted by Dysk at 9:57 AM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


really i wish more gays, like myself, had the attitude of "i don't give a fig whether you accept me or not. sometimes being a pariah is more fun!"

Yeah, being a pariah is a hoot! Being in elementary school and high school and college and having to try to imagine 1000 ways to conceal my identity because I feared physical violence and even though I knew nothing about "how to be straight" other than what I saw in John Wayne movies on TV and heard in the lyrics of Aerosmith and AC/DC and other cock-rock bands played at frat house parties was loads of fun. Not being able to live as a "normal" legally married couple in most of the states of the US, including the one I currently live in, is a big giant party. Knowing that my partner's fundamentalist parents consider me invisible on the best of days (and always will, despite what Gallup says) is a big laugh riot as well. Knowing that there are many hospitals that would gladly and instantly bar me from visiting or caring for my partner if he were sick and incapacitated is a source of joy, not fear and bone-chilling dread.

Listen, I'm not saying that there weren't exciting and important things about being part of a vilified subculture, as VikingSword points out. Any read of a well-researched gay history book can tell us that. What I am saying is that it's long past time to stop wearing the pariah label as a source of pride at a time when most Western societies (and some non-Western, too) are in such flux about acceptance. Being a pariah is not a lifelong solution, nor is it a permanent source of contentment. It's time to get past subculture and settle assertively into the culture at large. There will always be people who want to have the affirming aspects of a subculture, and more power to them, and the subculture should not be vilified, either.

But please don't imply that "more gays" should have the same impulse. I don't. I left those days behind me years ago and have never looked back.
posted by blucevalo at 10:03 AM on June 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Whether this applies to you or not, there are a remarkable number of gay men and lesbians who are interested in adopting children. Like straight people, they feel the instinct to care for children as an intense and personal part of their being and who they are. Unlike straight people, there are still significant legal and logistical barriers preventing them from adopting in many states. They, I'll hypothesize, are probably not enjoying being a pariah so much.

This is one of the things I love about living in California -- every gay couple I know who has wanted to adopt has succeeded, and moreso than that, has had the process go much faster than they were warned it would go (like, three days after filing an application, bringing their new daughter home, that fast.)

side note: the only difference I've seen to date between the children of my gay friends and the children of my straight friends is that one of the children with two mommies doesn't call me [my children's names]' dad -- he calls me "that nice man who always smiles at me." Heh.
posted by davejay at 10:09 AM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would give enormous weight to media portrayals of gayness like Ellen and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy

In & Out (1997) was a nice, safe, mainstream portrayal of gayness. Sure, it was a lightweight romcom with straight actors, but it had Kevin Kline kissing Tom Selleck.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:10 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Love the title of this post, by the way.
posted by blucevalo at 10:23 AM on June 5, 2010


I'm gonna give it to the contact hypothesis. I watched my father go from an angry, bigoted phobia to a tolerance and grudging acceptance literally overnight, after his research assistant and right-hand-man came out. This was in Texas in 1991. (Sadly, the reason the dude came out was because he had to go on half time because he had HIV and there was some alternative therapy clinic on Colorado that helped him feel better, so he needed a lot of time off. But even so.) My dad literally left work at one in the afternoon, came home and locked itself in his room, and emerged at 9 PM announcing that if Mark was gay, then clearly not all gay people were awful, and that he was going to do his best to be rational and reasonable on the subject from that point forward.

And you know what? he has. It's been a bumpy road; he's still sort of put off by depictions of gay (male) romance, though he recognizes this as his prejudice and his problem. It's nearly twenty years later, and he still has to suppress a momentary frisson of disgust or discomfort when he hears someone talk about his husband, or sees two guys with a kid, or what have you. But he is a vocal and passionate supporter of marriage and parenting equality and anti-discrimination legislation, and uses himself as an example about how you don't have to be thoroughly personally comfortable with something in order to recognize that discrimination is still wrong. "After all," he says, "I'm not trying to pass laws that says that Republicans can't adopt children or have health insurance."
posted by KathrynT at 10:42 AM on June 5, 2010 [25 favorites]


I can't remember where I saw the poll (thus not linking it here) but Hispanic Americans are in favor of gay rights ahead of any other American ethnic group.

There's apparently some quite progressive developments on gay marriage, or at least civil unions, in South America at the moment, as well. (Saw this in the Financial Times, can't link as it's pay-walled). Here's Wikipedia.
posted by Infinite Jest at 11:43 AM on June 5, 2010


I'm the only person immature enough to comment on Charles BLOW? Wow.

Yes, I'll see myself out.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:02 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


And yet... I must admit, I feel slightly mournful about one aspect of this impending normalcy, because it's also associated with a big cultural loss - the gay culture developed over centuries.

Not gay here, and not particularly familiar with the subculture, so this may be a silly question - but does the acceptance of homosexuality necessarily entail the destruction of "gay culture"? I mean, Christians haven't been persecuted for centuries, and yet the various denominations still have their various communities and rituals, and ethnic groups in the USA still often maintain strong traditional lifestyles despite no longer being widely vilified. Not being forced to live in a shtetl hasn't killed off the Jewish orthodox as a subculture.
Is the idea that gay culture is simply so tied to the experience of persecution that it can't survive being accepted by the mainstream? I don't doubt it'll change, but disappear entirely? I don't think that likely.
posted by AdamCSnider at 1:03 PM on June 5, 2010


Well...I guess improvement is good. It's hard to be overjoyed about such tiny, slow gains and a whopping 52%, but it's vastly better than a decline in tolerance.

The gender thing kind of weirds me out. Women have been exposed to the same tv, movies, and cultural icons...so is this really more of a measurement of how much more men's view of the world is influenced by media? Do they just watch more varied porn online than women? Is it a reaction to gender-specific tolerance-drugs in the water? That 20 point jump is just amazing.
posted by wending my way at 1:21 PM on June 5, 2010



Yeah, being a pariah is a hoot! Being in elementary school and high school and college and having to try to imagine 1000 ways to conceal my identity because I feared physical violence and even though I knew nothing about "how to be straight" other than what I saw in John Wayne movies on TV and heard in the lyrics of Aerosmith and AC/DC and other cock-rock bands played at frat house parties was loads of fun. Not being able to live as a "normal" legally married couple in most of the states of the US, including the one I currently live in, is a big giant party. Knowing that my partner's fundamentalist parents consider me invisible on the best of days (and always will, despite what Gallup says) is a big laugh riot as well. Knowing that there are many hospitals that would gladly and instantly bar me from visiting or caring for my partner if he were sick and incapacitated is a source of joy, not fear and bone-chilling dread.


i never considered concealing my identity, even in elementary school. nor did i flaunt it. i was just me, a person. albeit a little in left field. a position i've never abandoned. if confronted with physical violence, i was prepared to defend myself. something every person should know how to do anyway.
nor have i ever listened to aerosmith or ac/dc. classical is more to my taste....oh, and lady gaga.
from what i've seen of "normal" married couples, that too was something that held no interest. i don't know or associate with fundamentalists. actually invisible sounds like a good thing at those "family" gatherings. i agree you should be able to visit your partner in hospital. i would research which ones welcome any and all. children generally hold no interest for me. sure they're cute...but so are my cats. and anybody that thinks having kids will enhance a marriage, well, i have a lovely bridge for sale in ny. peace out...
posted by billybobtoo at 1:37 PM on June 5, 2010


I've waxed eloquent about gay subculture and its probable demise here on MeFi before, but I'll jump in here with a bit of a comment about this.

I think a good portion of "gay culture" at this point is largely fed by media portrayals and queers living into those stereotypes. This goes for both men and women, although women have always had a broader range to work with as far as stereotypical gay outward manifestation goes.

As culture becomes more accepting of gays, those stereotyped portrayals will become less and less within the dominant culture, and there will be less of "something to live up to" for younger queers just emerging from the closet. Eventually the closet itself will disappear and youngsters will simply understand as part of their socialization growing up that some people end up liking the same sex while most end up liking the opposite sex, and there won't be any issue about grokking one's personal interest no matter how young you are when you realize it.

I think, even then, there will still be a "gay subculture" which exists, although it will likely not be as centered around a lot of the behavioral clichés which we have come to incorporate into our worldview about queers. The single lifestyle, the running in packs, the obsession with physical beauty (especially amongst urban gay men) -- all this will likely remain. But a lot of the deeper life lessons about understanding what it means to be a "them" in a world of "us", the bonding and brother(and sister)hood of being part of an oppressed people, perhaps even the tendency to gather in self-created ghettos... all this will likely vanish in the next few generations as queers of all sorts find that they don't have to seek out safe spaces within which to express themselves honestly without fear.

Living without fear is a good thing, no matter what else is lost in the process.
posted by hippybear at 1:39 PM on June 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think it's more that the economy is bad enough that the social issues don't have the oomph they once did. Oh no, other people are having sex.

Big deal, I can't pay my mortgage.

(Some supporting evidence: I think illegal immigrants are much less popular than gays.)
posted by effugas at 1:45 PM on June 5, 2010


hippybear, I'm still not entirely convinced that a truly gay subculture will survive to any degree. Sure, elements of the current gay culture will remain, but they will cease to represent (and be seen to represent) being 'gay'. A more apt label would be 'camp' (or something) as it does not represent at least some gay men - as that becomes more and more true (with greater diversity) perhaps the label will change. I can only hope.

Granted, I've only come out relatively recently, but I've not really run up against any discrimination (other than structural and/or systemic) for much the same reason I've not run into a lot of men - I have absolutely no way of indicating my sexuality. I don't dress or talk in a manner to suggest it, I'm socially awkward, and haven't a fucking clue how to flirt or indicate interest in anyone. To top that off, it's assumed that I'd signal it in ways that utterly alien to me - talking or dressing in particular manner which runs entirely counter to my sense of aesthetic, and my desire not to attract attention to myself. Finally, the social contexts that are dedicated to the LGBTUA+ community (odd club nights at the Student's Union, local bars and clubs) all embrace a subculture which I'm not part of - I dress in all greys and blacks, I can't stand clubbing, and I loathe with a passion the music played at local gay clubs.

The existence of a 'gay' culture has been harmful rather than helpful to me, because it isn't my culture. It's yet another group to feel alienated from and by. It's not a method or image I'm capable of using to express or manifest my sexuality, and in the absence of 'gay' cultural signs, it's assumed I'm straight, by essentially everybody (gay themselves or not). It fucking sucks.
posted by Dysk at 2:17 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


The existence of a 'gay' culture has been harmful rather than helpful to me, because it isn't my culture.

I bet you'd appreciate that culture far more if you had a way of seeing what your life would've been like without it. Your views have been formed in response to it; what views would you have if there had been nothing to respond to, either positively or negatively? What would it be like to discover and navigate your profound personal difference from the mainstream in a cultural vacuum?

You may not want or need it, and that's fine. But the presence and growing visibility of that subculture has saved and given purpose to the lives of more people than you can imagine, people whose primary family or culture has abandoned them.

It's "harmed" you? I'm sorry, you'll have to make a better case for that.
posted by hermitosis at 3:01 PM on June 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Well, if it makes you feel any better, Brother Dysk...

My own coming out process was a bit sideways. My hometown of about 75,000 people still doesn't have a gay bar (and I moved away from there in 1996), and whatever gay subculture it had was VERY underground. So much so that I was just beginning to tap into it during my final years there, and at that point I'd been out for nearly a decade.

Homosexuals were always some kind of shadow-dwelling boogeyman, something not actually real but which might somehow sneak into the house and steal the children off to live under the hill like the fairies might. The honest perception of "gay man" that I had during my years between 19-22 (when I finally came out) were about being driven to wear women's clothing, having an overwhelming passion to do women's hair or interior decorating, and they were completely fey and couldn't walk without a hip waggle or throw a ball without wiffing it limp-wristed, and many other false assumptions.

It wasn't until I had a chance encounter with a very early issue of Bear Magazine that I was presented with an image of homosexuality which fit my own conception of self. Suddenly seeing an image of gay men who found masculinity (as opposed to assumed femininity) as attractive, of men who were really striving to inhabit their "man-ness" but who also found themselves interested in sex with men and driven to form relationships with them... This was the doorway for me which gave me permission to accept myself as queer. It was also galvanizing for me, as once my own internal coming out process started, I found it natural to assert my right to exist into the world around me.

As I've grown into myself more and more, and have had the chance to travel a bit around the US and its various cities and such, I've come to realize that the brilliant thing about the "gay subculture" as it stands is that it is diverse enough and flexible enough to incorporate all elements into it. There are gay prog rockers, gay telephone linemen, gay truck drivers... I don't need to continue that list, because it would continue forever. The hard part is walking into a group which purports to be invested in your interests and to insist that you ARE a part of it, regardless of How Well You Fit In. Gay groups, such as student groups or bar culture, require their own kind of confrontation by those who want to participate but who feel locked outside due to the self-perpetuating status-quo within them.

I promise you, there are people in your part of England who feel exactly as you do. The trick is finding them. Or, the more difficult task, is to find a way to take the groups which are easily located and creating a space for yourself within them. But if you feel alone in your struggle, realize that others who probably aren't too far away from you feel the same way. If you can find them and create your own subculture with them, all who participate will benefit while we wait for the greater acceptance which is obviously on its way.
posted by hippybear at 3:04 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


hermitosis, I went through the first twenty or so years of my life without having any relationship whatever with gay culture. I was utterly in denial, to the point that I'd never so much as contemplated the question of my sexuality. In addition to this, I grew up in Hong Kong, which doesn't have much of an overt gay scene or culture (or at least I, as an expat kid, never came across it) so my early exposure to it is limited, at best. As a result, it doesn't inform my worldview much.

Insofar as its harmed me, that lies largely in the penultimate sentence of my previous comment: because my dress sense, music taste, vocabulary, general aesthetic, etc. don't match those associated with gay, I'm assumed to be straight be virtually everyone, gay or straight. A lot of the people around me get asked. I don't.
posted by Dysk at 3:09 PM on June 5, 2010


It's not a method or image I'm capable of using to express or manifest my sexuality, and in the absence of 'gay' cultural signs, it's assumed I'm straight, by essentially everybody (gay themselves or not). It fucking sucks.

it would seem that any gay 'signal' would always be associated with the aspect of the culture you don't associate with. but outside dating opportunities, i'm not sure i get the urgency of giving a signal one way or the other. when i came out, after a pretty nasty navy-discharge process, i decided never to lie about my sexuality again, but i never adopted specific characteristics of gay culture for the purpose of identification, or to avoid it. i appreciate the varied expressions of gayness and enjoy them greatly; i think flamboyance is brave, even. but it's not my particular personality, and accepting that, i just view my sexuality as just a characteristic, no more or less interesting or important than my other qualities or interests or talents. i have more straight friends than gay, even in san francisco, but most of my friends came out of the kinds of music i like and shows i like to see, or other mutual interests. when i've made a particular effort toward gay friends, i never found that being gay by itself was enough bond to form a friendship. not that we don't gay it up once in a while, when we're in the mood for it; but then it's kinda like being in the mood for an amusement park, or thai food.

but then also, and not to be self-praising about it or anything, i always thought one of the best forms of gay activism is being who you are with people you want to be around, without apology or exaggeration (or beyond what simply feels naturally you) toward or away from sexual expression. i know, and many friends over the years have told me, that my husband and i have changed a lot of minds about our sexuality just by being ourselves in other ways and not making gayness the central aspect of who we are; we don't suppress anything, but what's funny is that many friends, after a certain period of time, get even bolder than we are about it--straight guys start telling us which guys they think are cute, and ask us our coming out stories and how we met and such.

again, not to knock those who make the gay thing the center of their lives; it works for a lot of people, on a lot of different levels. but it's not something that is necessary if you don't want to do it. decide what makes you who you are, how to be interesting to the kinds of people you find interesting, and let gay be just a nice flavoring to the dish, as strong or as weak as you want it to be. from there, i think you fall in with friends are lovers who are more on your frequency.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 3:15 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


hippybear, that's actually somewhat reassuring. The largest problem is probably my complete social ineptitude, but the fact that my dour, quiet, aggressive personality and preferences fly in the face of stereotype doesn't help. The most telling thing is that I've been tangentially involved with the local LGBTUA+ organisation through various campaigning activities, and have never once been asked about my sexuality, while the people I turned up with often did.
posted by Dysk at 3:15 PM on June 5, 2010


Queers have problems with accepting queers as much as the straight world. They just have a different set of criteria.
posted by hippybear at 3:18 PM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


To clarify: I'd feel no need to signal it in general whatsoever were it not for the fact that I seem to apparently signal very fucking strongly the exact opposite. I don't particularly care 99.999% of the time, but the few times I manage to get together the courage to wink or smile at someone or make a flirty comment, it'd be nice if it wasn't assumed that I was joking or just trying to indicate that I'm okay with people being gay. It's a very occasional frustration, but of a magnitude.
posted by Dysk at 3:22 PM on June 5, 2010


A huge portion of human socializing involves searching for sexual partners. I'm sure the gay culture will keep going just fine.

By the way, this is excellent news and no two ways about it...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:24 PM on June 5, 2010


"I would give enormous weight to media portrayals of gayness like Ellen and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"

Queer Eye for the Straight Guy? You mean the show that's about encouraging and confirming pretty much every fucking trashy stereotype about gays ever? Yeah, that's a win.

Roseanne's boss coming out. That was a TV win.
posted by rodgerd at 3:54 PM on June 5, 2010


billybobtoo: I may have been a little off-the-charts in my response to your "pariah" comment because it touched a nerve -- anyhow, I sincerely apologize. But some of us didn't (some still don't) have the luxury of deciding whether or not to conceal our identities, and I'm pretty certain that most of us don't choose the parents or families that our partners have, and we love our partners anyway. I know I do. As for your wisecrack about researching hospitals, I'm not sure what to say other than reality is a lot different than you might imagine, at least in the USA.
posted by blucevalo at 4:04 PM on June 5, 2010


The existence of a 'gay' culture has been harmful rather than helpful to me, because it isn't my culture. It's yet another group to feel alienated from and by. It's not a method or image I'm capable of using to express or manifest my sexuality, and in the absence of 'gay' cultural signs, it's assumed I'm straight, by essentially everybody (gay themselves or not). It fucking sucks.

Brother Dysk: I know that this won't help address your particular situation, but I felt much the same way when I was actively involved in the subculture, and this was some years ago. It bothers me that the predominant urban gay subculture has evidently changed so little that what you are describing about it sounds exactly as I left it more than 12 years ago. (And what you describe are very close to the reasons that I dropped out of involvement in it pretty much altogether.)

However, I think hippybear is exactly right. The subculture has always been adaptable and found others ways to exist beyond the dominant subculture that we think of when we see teh gayz on TV or in the MSM. That culture is there for those who need or want it, but there are other strong and flourishing parts of the subculture as well, and part of the existence of the internet that I think has been so amazing is that it has brought those subcultures to the surface in a way that would never have happened when I was younger. I find that a source of hope and encouragement.

Anyway, like I said, none of this addresses your own situation, but I felt I had to chime in, at least to commiserate and assure you that you are not alone in feeling this way.
posted by blucevalo at 4:20 PM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


hermitosis: It's "harmed" you? I'm sorry, you'll have to make a better case for that.

It may be that the subculture that Brother Dysk is referring to and the one that you are referring to comprise different elements. But in terms of the urban gay subculture shaped primarily by dance club/bar culture and body image conformity (and I'm speaking in my own experience only of the subculture that existed in the Bay Area in the 1980s and 1990s), I learned much that was valuable from it, but it also harmed me, insofar as it kept me from realizing that there were any options available to gay people other than to conform to it -- or, the alternative I wanted even less, which was to conform to heterosexual norm, which were what I was trying to escape. There are just as many people who came to that culture looking for the comfort and support that you describe and fled in horror and pain because they were not able to or did not want to fit in with its demands. I'm speaking from my own experience, and from the experience of many friends and others whom I've never met but whom I've read or heard about.

I think that the 1990s made the subculture somewhat less of a dominant paradigm than it was when I was first coming out, and for that bless that decade. But I think that a lot of people still have to struggle with how they decide to interact (or not interact) with it.

Your views have been formed in response to it; what views would you have if there had been nothing to respond to, either positively or negatively?

That doesn't make much sense to me. My views have been formed in response to heterosexual culture too. Does that exclude the possibility of my having been harmed by it?
posted by blucevalo at 4:33 PM on June 5, 2010


Queer Eye for the Straight Guy? You mean the show that's about encouraging and confirming pretty much every fucking trashy stereotype about gays ever? Yeah, that's a win.

it was a win, actually. the guys on there were on a range from flamboyant to relatively conservative, and they were also rather endearing and won over many folks. they were mildly catty, very mildly dirty, and i didn't think anywhere near trashy. also, every week people saw them interacting with straight dudes whom they did not molest and who were not all freaked out over the experience of having dudes pick out their underwear and work over their closets. and the fact that everybody seemed to be having fun took a lot of air out of the 'scary otherness' the anti-gay crowd count on.

actually, i remember watching the first episode being completely prepared to hate it, thinking they were going to turn straight guys into gay clones.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 5:04 PM on June 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


Look, there are as many ways of being gay as of being straight. There is no one subculture - there are many, just as in the straight world. In the end, we're all individuals, and being gay is just one characteristic among a myriad. What drew me to a particular gay subculture, was not the sexual aspect, it was the rebellion, the outsider status, the defiance of rigid imposed societal norms (this is the 70's and 80's) - this first and foremost. But there were also other reasons, some pretty shallow - I just loved being around witty people, and I was bored stiff hanging around most straight guys; I appreciated not having to talk about sports and chicks and not having to conform to other lame and extremely boring conventional masculine behaviors - I hated sports and was bored by them; I liked the fact that it was totally cool to be interested in aesthetics and beauty and such "gay" things which most straight guys were too uptight to talk about; I liked that new music and art seemed to so often be coming out of that world, or being spread by that world. I have no idea why that was so - I only know that I couldn't find that in such concentration in the straight world. And I liked the fact that I was accepted on my terms - as a straight person. But there seemed to be also deeper reasons - I found (in my experience, speaking just for myself), that gay people tended to have more nuanced views, and tended to have thought through things more deeply - perhaps it being the consequence of rejection by mainstream society... it has a way of making you examine things in a way someone who never faces such adversity has no incentive to. This is not to say by any means that this is somehow true of all gay people, or all gay subcultures. I'm bored by dance clubs and the buff body workout guys. To each his own - there is diversity here, and that's key. It's this diversity that I fear losing - but if it must be so, to become totally accepted, then I guess it has to be so.
posted by VikingSword at 5:07 PM on June 5, 2010


Maybe homos have just gotten cuter over the last four years.

I kid. Though it is remarkable how many times I have the weird moment with folks I'm signing up as volunteers to canvass for gay marriage, and they're like, "We're so glad that you're out here, showing everyone that the gay community isn't just hairless gym bunnies!" Then I have to tell them that I'm actually straight and just care about civil rights. Luckily, I'm usually out there with my coworker Ryan, who looks just like me minus the beard, who can rep for the husky dudes who like dudes.

But I can think of a transition in my acceptance of gays too, where I've gone from mild teenage homophobia to passionate advocacy, in large part simply through contact. And sure, some of them hit stereotypes, from the softball dyke whose marriage I officiated to the catty queen who handled ad sales at the old magazine, but there's also the softballer's wfe, a diminutive Indian workaholic, or the pudgy black kid from the newspaper, or the delicate Latino who I worked with as a canvasser (and who is gorgeous as all hell, even to this straight man). Hey, I fit plenty of stereotypes myself, just not generally ones reserved for gays.
posted by klangklangston at 5:09 PM on June 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's this diversity that I fear losing - but if it must be so, to become totally accepted, then I guess it has to be so.

I think I know what you mean in terms of some of the things that are getting lost -- gay bookstores are the best example that I can think of, there being only a handful hanging on for dear life -- but there is much that will not be lost.

On the other hand, they may be lost in the sense that these intangibles are no longer "ours" exclusively, the way they may have been at a certain point in time, since now they are constantly assimilated by a larger culture on the lookout for something new. But I don't think that's necessarily something to mourn.
posted by blucevalo at 5:56 PM on June 5, 2010


Queer Eye for the Straight Guy? You mean the show that's about encouraging and confirming pretty much every fucking trashy stereotype about gays ever? Yeah, that's a win.

Wow, you sure know how to take lemonade and turn it into lemons.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:04 PM on June 5, 2010


blucevalo

apology accepted. and i was serious about checking out any hospital and their general rules regarding rights of partners, etc. i would check the 5 closest hospitals. this assumes you live in a decent sized city of course. if you live in east podunk, well, good luck to ya!
and i's still be sorely tempted to act up outrageously at any gathering of the "in laws"... i might be tempted to go in drag....that would put some starch in their drawers! but hey, that's just me. i also understand the need to placate a partner. been there, done that, got no t-shirt.... good luck.
posted by billybobtoo at 6:05 PM on June 5, 2010


I agree with fallacy of the beard. "Queer Eye" was trashy, and of course the hosts were all stereotypes, but they also let some slightly subversive stuff out among the stereotypes, and the show did help bring gay culture into the mainstream -- and not leave it as some "scary other" thing that you saw only every summer when the local TV news broadcast footage of gay pride parades to ridicule. I think "Queer Eye" was important to making gay people less "other," and I think the same way about shows like "Will and Grace," too, as much as I dislike that show.
posted by blucevalo at 6:06 PM on June 5, 2010


The transition in my "acceptance of gay relations" happened when I figured out that I didn't have any fucking right to accept them or not.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:44 PM on June 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


I wish I could find a more elegant way to link to this specific scene, but I'll just have to do it the old-fashioned clunky way.

I don't watch Glee, but had this scene drawn to my attention. First, you'll have to go to hulu (sorry non US watchers) and load up the episode Theatricality. After the first round of commericals, you should be able to move the time bar to 25m30s. Wait for another commercial, and then watch the scene that follows. It runs about 2-3 minutes, and is clear when it is over.

One of the best media moments addressing gay acceptance in modern culture that I have ever seen.
posted by hippybear at 9:50 AM on June 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


It is awfully hard to ignore the fact that your neighbour to the north has legitimized equal marriage for five years and yet has somehow avoided falling into the depraved sexual bacchanalia and loss of civilization prophesied by the religious right.

Nah, we pretty much ignore you all the time.


Seriously though, I'm betting that a majority of Americans have no idea whether Canada has gay marriage or not.
posted by naoko at 4:40 PM on June 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is the idea that gay culture is simply so tied to the experience of persecution that it can't survive being accepted by the mainstream?

This is it, I think, for two reasons.

Persecution of homosexuality acted as a formative and cohesive pressure for the gay community. For a long time, the fringes of society were the only place that gay people could live free from the threat of violence and persecution, and so they naturally fled there if they wanted to live happy lives without rejecting their own sexuality. Without a pressure like this some people (myself included) expect gay culture to die off because gay people are randomly distributed throughout society. The other subcultures you mentioned do not have that feature, eg ethnic people are generally raised in ethnic households and automatically introduced to ethnic communities. Gay people must seek out the gay community.

But, even if the gay subculture survives, gay counterculture certainly won't. It's this specifically that I find a little sad. Go to a gay pride march today and you'll see a crowd of middle-aged, upper middle class white people talking about how they want to settle down and raise families. It's like the tamest, least-threatening activism ever.

But yeah, other people have expressed this sentiment already in this thread. The benefits of equality and acceptance certainly outweigh the drawbacks. But for me, watching my community achieving mainstream acceptance is a little bittersweet.
posted by episteborg at 6:22 PM on June 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


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