Good news on the empathy front! New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow reports on the Gallup research organization’s findings that the percentage of Americans who feel that gay and lesbian relations are “morally acceptable” has passed the 50% mark. Further, the increase comes about because men have dramatically increased their acceptance of homosexuality in others, bringing them up to the same level of acceptance as found among women.
This is particularly true for young men. In general, it seems the youth are leading the way on this front. They’ve been exposed to gay characters on TV and in the movies their whole lives; they’ve seen increasing numbers of famous people come out and say “I’m gay, this is who I am, but it doesn’t define me”; they personally know more people who are openly gay. Remember when Ellen DeGeneres came out on national TV in 1997 and it was considered so brave? She helped break the ground for Adam Lambert to be able to come out in a very casual and natural way 12 years later. Adam Lambert is the new normal for young people. One of my son’s best friends is gay, and it certainly hasn’t adversely affected their close friendship.
I’m not saying it isn’t still difficult for a gay or lesbian person to tell the world–their families, friends and co-workers–about their sexual orientation. I don’t want to make light of the prejudice and hostility they still face. But the stigma seems to be falling rapidly, as even the military is now on the verge of repealing its “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. And now we’re seeing state after state open up marriage to same-sex couples, further decreasing the “us” vs “them” mentality of the past. I suspect that when Gallup does a follow-up poll in 10 years, young people in 2020 will say, “Who cares if someone’s gay or not? No one I know.”