What The Wild Things Are

Understandings of Self, Awareness, and Mental Health in an Ever-Changing World

In America, it’s finally okay to be gay

Even the guys think so now.

It turns out the timing of congress' consideration of allowing gay men and women to serve in the military may not be an accident after all.

AP Photo/Nelson Antoine
Last week Gallup released significant news about homophobia in America: Americans' support for the moral acceptability of gay and lesbian relations has crossed the symbolic 50% threshold at 58% (no, in spite of using the term "threshold" we are not talking about gay marriage yet, but we could be soon - only 53% are still opposed). Gallup's annual Values and Beliefs survey, conducted each May, has continued to document a gradual increase in public acceptance of gay relations since about 2006, but this is the first time that more people are accepting of it than not.

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Of particular interest is the fact that the group pushing the acceptance mark over the edge is men, and particularly men younger than 50. Gallup did not speculate as to why that might be (they are not in the business of speculation) but others have. Some of the speculative reasons may be: increased exposure and therefore normalization of gay people in the media (movies and TV), more gay people living openly, homophobia being less acceptable, and maybe men just being more open in general.

Whatever the reasons, apparently there is (and has been for years) a gradual cultural shift underway in Americans' views toward gay individuals and gay rights. This year acceptance has reached a record high, demonstrating that thinking "being gay is okay" is more the norm than not. Apparently, it's high time our civic system, legal system and military caught up.

 

Author's note: While the title is somewhat glib and overarching, it should be clear that this article is not meant to imply that homophobia has disappeared from the American landscape.  Clearly at 58% we still have a distance to go.  Furthermore, the majority of Americans still have discomfort with many aspects of homosexuality, for example, gay marriage has still not crossed the threshold (so to speak).  That said, the level of acceptance has risen and is still rising and that's certainly worth noting.

 

photo: Being gay is also more acceptable in many other places, including Sao Paulo, where these women kiss. (AP Photo/Nelson Antoine)

Samantha Smithstein, Psy.D., is a clinical and forensic psychologist and co-founder of the Pathways Institute for Impulse Control in San Francisco.

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