Thursday, May 8, 2008

Do you hate someone because they are gay?

Being a gay man affords me one advantage that most minorities don't have - invisibility. People are less inclined these days to speak their thoughts in public for fear of being labelled a bigot, but that does not mean people do not harbor such irrational fears / hatred. People who only see me in public and don't know me would have no idea that I'm gay. This has been obvious in many situations where people let their opinions slip after initially striking up a conversation with me; assuming that I too can't stand 'fags' or that 'gay marriage' is an abomination.

Recently ABC's television show, "20/20" tested people's 'tolerence' towards homosexuality by hiring actors to engage in activities commonly seeen in public by heterosexual couples. The results might surprise you. In Birmingham, AL people called 911 to have the police put a stop to a couple that was cuddling on a street bench and in Las Vegas a man who was visiting from San Diego shared with an undercover cab driver that he would like to see gay men "put down". I'm not sure these people would be quite so candid if they knew they were being recorded. The experiment was very interesting to watch but for anyone who identifies as a minority - I doubt hearing this would be much of a surprise.

I think that the US is one of the best places to live if you are a minority, and continued efforts to create greater equality through legal protections and education have made a significant difference. Nobody would argue that the US is moving backwards or the rights of minorities were better 10, 20, 30 or more years ago, but as the video shows - we still have a long way to go. I have been physically threatened and had epitaphs shouted from moving cars more times than I care to remember. However, living in certain parts of the country one can avoid most of those unpleasantries - Boston is a great example of a city one can live in (for the most part) free of those situations. Although no city is totally safe - every city still has residents who harbor irrational fears and hatred that are based on preconceived notions and bigotry towards people who look, act and talk differently from them.

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