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Thursday, May 26, 2005


Due to discussions at Left2Right, I've ended up contemplating what it means to be anti-gay. Since the topic is highly charged in the current political environment, I'd like to discuss it with a metaphor outside the realm of homosexuality.

Consider the following potential statements that might be made by an individual regarding persons of ethnicity x (represented below by Eth(x)).
  1. ∀ persons ρ ∈ Eth(x), I think ρ should be killed.
  2. ∀ persons ρ ∈ Eth(x), I think ρ should not be killed, but should be a slave.
  3. ∀ persons ρ ∈ Eth(x), I think ρ should not be a slave, but should be segregated.
  4. ∀ persons ρ ∈ Eth(x), I think ρ should not be segregated, but may be discriminated against.
  5. ∀ persons ρ ∈ Eth(x), I think ρ should not be discriminated against, but I don't feel comfortable with ρ, so I have no friends who are members of Eth(x).
  6. I have no prejudice relative to members of Eth(x), I have good friends who are members of Eth(x), but I have never been romantically or sexually attracted to any member of Eth(x), though I don't mind if others of my ethnicity are involved with or married to members of Eth(x).
  7. Same as (6) except I am attracted romantically and sexually to members of Eth(x) and I would certainly consider being, or already am, married to someone who is a member of Eth(x).
  8. ∀ persons ρ ∈ Eth(x), ρ is superior in every way to all persons α ∈ Eth(y), where I am a member of Eth(y) and y ≠ x, and I worship the very ground that ρ walks on.
This list represents a spectrum of thoughts and feelings regarding Eth(x). Virtually everyone can make a statement somewhere between (1) and (8) that more or less expresses their belief. Each individual can be more or less accepting of members of Eth(x), and conversely, less or more anti-Eth(x). If you define someone as anti-Eth(x) who would make any statement less than (8), and you consider anyone who is anti-Eth(x) by this definition to be hostile, then that definition would find a lot more hostility toward Eth(x) in the general population than would a definition that considered only those people who would make statements less than (7) or even (6) as anti-Eth(x). By raising the bar (i.e., raising the statement number corresponding to the dividing line between anti-Eth(x) and neutral), suddenly people are defined as being anti-Eth(x) and hostile, when those same people, to the population in general, don't seem all that hostile.

Another thing to consider is that the distribution of the above statements that individuals who are not members of Eth(x) would choose as most closely representing their viewpoints forms an important context for what constitutes anti-Eth(x) and what doesn't. For example, in past centuries, depending on which ethnicity is being considered, making statement (3) might, on average, have been considered pro-Eth(x), not anti-Eth(x). At those places and times, the context might have made statement (5) incredibly enlightened and utterly unfathomable by most people of that time and place.

Right now, in the United States, regarding all races and ethnicities, the median person would probably pick something between (6) and (7) as best representing their views. Because we've evolved as a society to be getting closer to non-racist (statement (7)), we can discuss this particular spectrum pretty calmly.

If, instead of considering ethnicity, we consider homosexuality, the discussion seems to become far more charged. The spectrum for anti-gayness is different than for anti-Eth(x)ness with somewhat different categories (which I'll let someone else define). More importantly, the distribution of views across the spectrum is, at this point in the evolution of American society, far more spread out, with lots of people at both ends of the spectrum. But, that sort of spread happened for race during the civil rights movement, and we've made slow, not so steady progress toward racial equality. Another few generations and we may actually achieve true color blindness, both in heart and thought.

My guess is that gayness will also one day be a non-issue. At that point, we (or our descendents) will not even notice the difference between a man and woman getting married and two men (or women) getting married. Perhaps babies will be grown in beakers by that time so there won't even be a difference in family structures. But once again, I think we are at least one, and possibly many more, generations away from that point.

In the meantime, I'm hoping that the advocates for Single Sex Marriage (SSM) do understand, at this point in time, even if the government were to recognize SSM, most of the people would not. In other words, gay people still won't be married in the eyes of most people, even if they are in the eyes of the State. This is analogous to prejudice against blacks continuing for generations after Jim Crow laws were overturned. I've seen a number of statements indicating that SSM advocates are hoping that by having the government recognize SSM, gay people will become accepted by the general population. If that's the main motivator, I'm afraid there's going to a lot of disappointment for a long time.