The situation for gays & lesbians is getting better

If you ask the average person if they think gays’ & lesbians’ well-being is getting better or worse nowadays, most will say worse.

To which I say: bullshit.

Keep in mind, I am gay, I do not think gays & lesbians enjoy equal rights, and I do think there is a lot of work still to be done for us to not be treated as second-class citizens and not to worry about our own safety.

But the overall trend is a positive one. Even after 6 1/2 years of the Bush administration (supposedly purveyors of homophobia), and over a decade of Republican control over Congress which ended only recently.

Think about it: most prominent Republicans won’t say something deeply insulting about gay people. Rick Santorum was roundly criticized by most people for making circumlocutory comparisons between gay people and animals. Even right-wingers, for the most part, kept their mouth shut. Twenty years ago, Santorum would’ve enjoyed far more support.

The fact that even a large number of conservative Republicans back civil unions for gays & lesbians is shocking, considering gays & lesbians were considered subhuman when I was a kid (and that was the 80s, folks). Sure, marriage is a sticking point, but I suspect that is a mental barrier that older generations will never truly accept because their opinions and perceptions have fossilized. I know for a fact that I would have difficulty referring to my partner as “my husband” – it just sounds strange to me.

More and more kids are coming out in high school. During the 80s, coming out in my large, urban high school would have been inviting daily death threats. Nowadays, teenagers in rural, remote high schools are coming out, and while they face harrassment, they enjoy far more support from many of their parents, peers and teachers. Again, when I was growing up, homosexuality was considered, at best, a form of mental illness, and worst, an evil that should be purged from the planet.

Gay visibility on TV and popular media is growing, although they tend to focus on annoying caricatures (think Chris Crocker, William Sledd, and Marc on Ugly Betty), but there are a few exceptions. Will (from Will & Grace) provided a more rounded, less stereotypical image of gay people. Ellen DeGeneres is liked and popular with her talk show (well, it doesn’t hurt that she’s blond and thin).

I was heartened to read that the audience listening to Iran’s Ahmadinejad’s speech at Columbia laughed loudly with derision at his claim that there are no gay people in Iran. Twenty years ago, they might have cooed with jealousy.

This is not to say that gays & lesbians have it easy, that we’re universally accepted, or that we enjoy the same rights and ability to pursue happiness as everyone else. We don’t. Clearly. And there are elements in the Bush administration and among the Republicans that are more than happy to exploit people’s homophobia to get an extra vote or two.

But the trend is in the right direction. The homophobia they’re exploiting is not as strong as it was even a decade ago.

It’s good to be upset by the way things are – dissatisfaction is one of the best motivators for change. But it’s not worth keeping yourself asleep at night, imagining things are truly going down the shithole, when a clean look at the way things really are suggests they are not.

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  1. Interesting! As for the no-gays-in-Iran comment.. that might be true, cos L.A. is FULL of gay Persians! Maybe they’ve just all managed to escape.. 😉

    Re Ellen, I remember her when she was just a standup. She was hysterical. But I think its easier for Americans to accept lesbians than gay men, cos women are always viewed as less threatening then men, regardless of orientation.

    Good post!

    Comment by isabella snow — September 25, 2007 @ 10:09 pm

  2. You might be right. Lesbians just don’t strike the kind of ire among straight men that gay men do, and it’s pretty rare to find an obsessively anti-gay woman. Unless she’s a closet lesbian.

    Comment by JM — September 26, 2007 @ 9:49 pm

  3. Yes, good point. I think straight men don’t mind lesbians because they like the idea of watching. I’ve never known a straight woman who disliked gay man, unless she was a scary bible thumper from the bible belt.

    And to clarify my Persian statement, being Persian myself (as you know!) I met lots of gay Persian men when I lived in L.A. and have personally always found Persian men to be unabashedly effeminate whether straight or not.. I mean.. they’re more girlie than me, many of them! I’d have liked to ask the Pres a few questions about that!

    Comment by isabella snow — September 28, 2007 @ 6:36 am

  4. I *totally* know what you mean about effeminate Persian men. I think it’s partially that “Euro” look, though – you know, the black pants, silk shirts, overly-gelled hair.

    Haven’t met too many gay Persians myself, but then again maybe one trip to Westwood might convince me otherwise. 😉

    Comment by JM — September 28, 2007 @ 6:08 pm

  5. Ahhh…. No. Nope. Sorry, but those rose colored glasses you’re wearing don’t mean much to those of us who still witness the very real bigotry every day, especially when the so called “gay leadership” (such as it is) are willing to throw large swathes of us under the bus.

    No. YOU may be better. Wealthy whites on the east and west coast may be better. But your poor cousins elsewhere who don’t enjoy near the same rights that you others do? Nope. We’re not better at all. The rights our cousins have in California, Massachusetts, etc would be PARADISE compared to our home states. You guys have it made. You just don’t realize how privileged you really are compared to the rest of us.

    The times against when one measures “are we better now” is largely arbitrary, and subjective.

    Comment by Baraeris — November 26, 2008 @ 10:41 am

  6. Baraeris: Are you arguing that the bigoted backwater you live in is no better now than it was 20 years ago? Compare apples to apples, please.

    Besides, the fact that, at least on the national level, we have broad consensus that gays should be allowed in the military (not so 15 years ago when we were debating this) and that gay couples should be allowed civil unions/domestic partnerships (again, unthinkable just a generation ago) shows progress.

    If your stinking shithole of a hometown is so awful that it bucks national trends, then I strongly suggest you move. It is a free country, and I don’t think California or Massachusetts are stopping people at the border.

    Comment by JM — November 26, 2008 @ 4:34 pm

  7. Hey moving is easier said than done. Some people have sick or elderly parents, can’t just pack up and move. JM, you seem to have that wanderer mindset. Most of us don’t.

    Not 5 years ago, our right wing Minister Rita Verdonk of Immigration affairs, said that she would sent Iranian gays back to Iran (who didn’t qualify for immigration), and when someone said they might be hanged, she replied that they then should hide what they were, once they came off the plane.
    Such a nice liberal country, the Netherlands, eh?

    Since then, many things have changed. That bitch got kicked out of her rightwing party, started her own movement, not political party (so she is the dictator there) but is completely marginalized. We got a new govt, where she was replaced by a woman of Turkish decent… 🙂

    It’s not a complete happy ending, though. Verdonks constituents have flocked to another rightwing extremist, (polling at TWENTY PERCENT, a number 1 position in our multi-party coalition system) who is pro-gay, but just so he can use it to bash muslims …. After he manages to kick all muslims out, you just know who he’ll go after next …

    just remember that about 20 percent in Europe and the Netherlands is extreme rightwing, like limbaugh/palin. Or even more extreme.

    Comment by Bij Lobith komt de Rijn Ons Land — August 7, 2009 @ 11:32 am

  8. “Gay visibility on TV and popular media is growing”

    there is this tv drama pilot called “Virtuality” which featured a gay couple, but sadly i think it got canceled right away.

    Comment by Bij Lobith komt de Rijn Ons Land — August 23, 2009 @ 4:57 am

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