Saturday, December 6, 2008

Coming Out: A Gay Rights Tool

Via The Daily Dish (Sullivan is on break).

"Newsweek's new poll shows what we already know, support for gays civil rights is growing:"

One reason that tolerance for gay marriage and civil unions may be on the rise is that a growing number of Americans say they know someone who's gay. While in 1994, a NEWSWEEK Poll found that only 53 percent of those questioned knew a gay or lesbian person, that figure today is 78 percent. Drilling down a bit more, 38 percent of adults work with someone gay, 33 percent have a gay family member and 66 percent have a gay friend or acquaintance.



This proves one of the core ideas of this blog: that change can be affected through conversation; bringing opposing ideas into contact moderates extremes and makes for more nuanced understanding.

This statistic shows that more intolerant communities (in the wake of Prop 8, it would be the Californian African-American community, and the Mormon Church) are probably prolonging their own gay intolerance--the more intolerant they are to gays, the less gays come out in their community, therefore the less gays those communities think they know.

If the Mormon community believes that they are good, and then they perceive that there are less gay Mormons than in other communities, it A) reinforces to them that homosexuality is a choice, and B) reinforces to them that the Mormon community can "overcome" homosexuality.

Therefore, if gays want to start prompting change in these communities, more of them are going to have to be brave and come out of the closet, and we're going to have to work hard to keep them safe when they do.

A personal anecdote: a gay ex-Mormon I knew at college was actually a devout Mormon, despite the fact that he was told constantly that God hated his kind and wanted to punish his kind. When he finally came out, his community attempted to persuade him to subject himself to "sexuality rehabilitation" or whatever they call it. He was lucky that he wasn't one of those who had electrodes attached to his testicles for the more extreme sorts of aversion therapy. Eventually, he fled the community for New York.

I don't blame him, of course, because the community isolation and pressure is more than anything one person should face alone. I'm just noting how incredibly difficult it must be to come out in such communities. Somehow, we need to protect them more so that those who can't publicly announce who they are will be able to, and still live with their friends and family, to show their friends and family that aside from a different sexual preference, nothing has changed about their lives.

That's how we turn the corner. If we get to live in equality, people will see us as being equal. To the extent that it is possible to create other equalities before the social equality, social equality will follow.

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