Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Homophobia and America's Huge" Closet"

Sarah Rice—Getty Images
Despite advances in gay rights compared to even 15 years ago, the number of men who remain in the closet remains shockingly large and demonstrates that homophobia and fear of becoming a social outcast and/or losing one's job is very much alive and well, especially in "conservative" states an regions.  Don't believe me?  Try a simple experiment: check out Craigslist and see how many "MWM" - married white male - and "DL" - down low - individuals that you will find on any given day.  There are LOTS of them.  Odds are these individuals do not respond to surveys admitting their true sexual orientation.  Hence, the true umber of gays is, in my view still, way under reported.  A piece in Time Magazine looks at America's huge closet and the damage that it does. Here are some highlights:
After determining that the percentage of men attracted primarily to men is roughly equivalent in states throughout the country, based on dating site and adult-content searches, Stephens-Davidowitz was able to draw some preliminary conclusions. The barriers preventing men from building openly gay lives in certain parts of the country are clearly specific to the local social climate. For instance: The rate of Craigslist searches by men seeking casual encounters with men is higher in Mississippi than in New York, while there’s a higher rate of gay men seeking dates and relationships on in New York than in Mississippi.

“The closet doesn’t just mean you don’t announce your sexuality on Facebook,” Stephens-Davidowitz said. “It’s influencing people’s lives in a big way.” For a closeted gay or bisexual man in Mississippi or someplace like it, in other words, a relationship with a man may seem impossible. Some men in this situation are married to women or are trying to pass as heterosexual while seeking secretive, casual encounters on the side.

Stephens-Davidowitz points to one horribly confining and terribly sad effect of homophobia in conservative parts of the country and even in conservative areas of more liberal regions: It allows gay and bisexual men in these regions to seek only furtive, often dangerous sexual encounters with other men rather than making free choices about their sexual and emotional interactions and enjoying the rites of passage of dating and relationships just as heterosexuals do.

Looking at Google searches, Stephens-Davidowitz found that the question “How do I know if my husband is gay?” is far more common than “How do I know if my husband is cheating?” or “How do I know if my husband is depressed?” Moreover, the highest percentage per capita of “How do I know if my husband is gay?” searches come from conservative parts of the country, with South Carolina at number 1, followed by Kentucky and Louisiana.

Stephens-Davidowitz determined that, . . . about half of gay men nationally do not identify publicly as gay or bisexual. In more conservative places, again using Mississippi as an example, that figure goes up to 80%.

Far fewer people are openly gay (or, we can assume, openly lesbian or bisexual) than we have come to think, even in perhaps the most liberal places, and it’s extremely difficult to be out in many parts of the country. The presumption of victory whitewashes the hardship of millions of Americans — not just lesbians and gays themselves but also the spouses and children of people living in the closet.

“In Gallup polls, among people under the age of 30, more than 6 percent of adults tell pollsters they’re gay,” Williams Institute Demographer Gary Gates told the Chicago Sun-Times in 2013 . . . a large piece of that is younger people are growing up in an environment where this is acceptable, so they’re willing to identify themselves as gay.”

The closet is very damaging, both for gays and their families - I know, I lived in the closet for 37 years.  It made me miserable much of the time and certainly prevented me from being as good of parent as I might otherwise have been.  Self-hate and self-loathing and living in fear of having one's "secret" discovered does not make for a happy life or quality relationships.  Yet, thanks to the "godly folk" and the embrace of ignorance and bigotry, millions still suffer because of homophobia and the closet.  This needs to end NOW.

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