One of the welcome side-effects of the increasing acceptance of marriage equality is an increasing likelihood that people will become familiar with people who are gay or lesbian. There is a synergy at work here, and the effect is undeniable. There was a time when the accepted image of gay men was licentious, surreptitious and promiscuous; and that of lesbians pointless and tragic on one hand, or brutal and cruel on the other — and on both sides pathological. Beginning with the removal of legal restrictions and psychiatric categories, people began to see that these old stereotypes were just that: no more expressive of the family members and friends they had finally come to know than were minstrel coon caricatures actually reflective of real African Americans.
This growing familiarity has robbed the homophobic of the effectiveness of some of their favorite tropes. This has not stopped the continued trumpeting of these pet libels, though the mistaken trumpet is not rousing many in its call to arms. The recent Position Statement from the self-styled Anglican Mainstream is a case in point. Even though the discussion has moved on to marriage equality, the bigots (in the strict sense of those who seem unable to change in spite of evidence) continue to hammer away on gays and lesbians as licentious hedonists, disturbed and troubled souls stricken with a pathology from which they can be delivered if only they seek the right aid, but otherwise doomed to lives that will be short, nasty and brutish. They marshal discredited or misrepresented studies in support of claims that most people now know to be utterly irrelevant to their own experience of the gay and lesbian people they know and love.
There is a double effect here: the more extreme and irrelevant (and false) the claims of the homophobe, the stronger the reaction against it. The “moveable middle” instinctively moves away from what they perceive more and more actually to be nasty, mean, and wrong. And as they do so, friends and family who have kept their identity closeted begin to feel more comfortable opening the doors.
As the Gospel has it, the truth will make you free. Lies and fear will bind you. It is easy to see what one should choose.
Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG