If you watch TV you will see an increasing number of Gay and Lesbian characters, and they are portrayed more often than not as pretty normal people. Just like you and me (that being we heterosexuals). They have their issues and their concerns, but they're human beings. Growing up there were few if any such characters. The one Gay character I can remember from years ago is Jodie Dallas of Soap (played by Billy Crystal), back when I was in college. When Ellen Degeneres's less than successful sitcom came out -- remember that one -- that is, in my memory, the first time there was a lead homosexual character on TV. There was much cultural angst about the show, but now Ellen is a wildly successful Daytime TV Host.
I take us through this media history as a reminder that the national understanding of homosexuality is changing. It may be true that the Republican Presidential candidates have all agreed to uphold "traditional values," and maybe even compare homosexuality with bestiality, but the nation is moving past such understandings. The number of Americans saying they are okay with Gay Marriage stands at about 50%, with the numbers of those under 40 being much higher. It is true that the Church, even Mainline Protestant Churches, has not made their peace with this trend. Some churches offer an overt anti-gay position, others a "don't ask -- don't tell position, and a small but growing number take an "open and affirming" stance. The struggle is with traditional understandings of marriage, the way we read and interpret the Bible, and the way in which many of us were formed culturally.
Homosexuality has become a major topic of debate in the city of Troy, MI. The debate has been triggered in large part by comments made by the new Mayor of Troy, Janice Daniels. Not long after her election it was revealed that she had placed an anti-gay slur on her Facebook page. Her response to criticism was to offer herself as a victim of political enemies, and she appeared tone deaf as to the concerns of many in the community about her understanding of homosexuality and the way she spoke of it. I wrote a blog post and was interviewed, where I gave my own response to the Troy Patch.
The problem has worsened in recent days after the Mayor met with a group of students representing the Gay-Straight Alliance at Troy High School. Although there is some confusion as to what exactly was said, it appears that she implied or stated that the homosexual lifestyle was dangerous and that she would like to hold an event where a panel of psychiatrists would tell the students why this is true. The mayor claims to have been misrepresented, but at this point has refused to release a recording that would clear this up.
It needs to be said that while there are diverse opinions on whether homosexuality is innate or learned (a majority opinion is that one's sexual orientation is innate -- we're born that way), the American Psychological Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in the 1970s. So, it's unlikely that the mayor will find such persons outside a few religiously oriented ones. But that's not what the students hoped to hear when they approached her about having a conversation about why bullying can lead to suicides among gay teens. She doesn't seem to be listening to what they are saying. But then again, are we as a society listening?
I would like to say to the students of the Gay-Straight Alliance -- some of us are listening, but we likely aren't doing enough to stand with you.