Living in a state that had a sodomy statue until 2003 and which otherwise has some of the most anti-gay laws in the nation - Arkansas may now be worse with it's new anti-gay adoption law - is often not easy. One finds them self frequently encountering bigotry - even at the hands of some judges who are supposed to be unbiased even in matters of sexual orientation under the Canons of Judicial Conduct. In contrast to this nasty legal reality, one does encounter open and accepting people. My experiences over the holidays to date is a case in point.
The boyfriend is somewhat the social butterfly and we have been to a number of dinner parties at the homes of his friends - in some cases as the only non-family members - and in every instance we have been accepted as a couple and no one has had a second thought about the fact that we are gay. Last night for instance, I had a wonderful conversation with a member of the House of Delegates who has a progressive track record at a dinner party and the experience was light years away from the hate and homophobia that prevails in the minds of other members of that legislative body.
What is the defining difference? I believe that one is that all of the people we have encountered are well educated - religious bigotry and anti-gay attitudes correlate with lower education levels. The second is that all of these people know gays socially and/or in the professional realm and know that we are "just like them." The message to be learned? That it is ever so important for gays of all walks of life to be "out" and open about who they are. Being out and living your life openly is our most powerful weapon against those who would seek to marginalize us. Yes, it is scary at times and not without challenges, but it is something that we all need to do to the maximum extent practicable.