It Goes Both Ways!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

It Goes Both Ways!

It's well known that the American public's ideas about gays and lesbians has been in a period of radical flux over the past decade or so. But a new marketing survey shows that attitudes and expectations of gays and lesbians about themselves is changing too.
Two-thirds of lesbians and a third of gay men in the United States plan to add children to their families over the next three years, according to a marketing survey to be released this week.

Those numbers have increased dramatically over the past four years, according to Jeffrey Garber, president of OpusComm Group, which conducted the annual survey of gays and lesbians with Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

In 2002, just 15 percent of lesbians and 5 percent of gay men told the researchers they would add children to their families.

"People are saying they're more comfortable with their sexuality, that they have a right to a life partner. And along with that -- if they have a loving home -- why not a child?" Garber said.

In the same time period, the proportion of gay people surveyed who reported being "out" increased from 93 to 97 percent.
Yes, I know because it is a marketing survey it's not scientific, however, that doesn't mean that attitudes by gay and lesbians about marriage and parenting aren't shifting rather dramatically. This is especially pronounced by comparing LGBT people in their teens with people who are 30 or older.

I am cringing as I write this, but, back in my day when I was a teenager there were no "out" students or teachers in my high school. I was closeted to nearly everyone but a few of my closest friends-- most of whom were glbt as well. I'm not saying this out of any self of self-pity, but we all suffered a lot for it. I had a friend who was harassed so much for being suspected of being gay that he had to drop out of public school and go to a private Catholic school-- because the school itself and the teachers didn't think anti-gay harassment was a problem. I had another friend who contemplated killing himself because he feared what his future as a gay man would be like, he feared being rejected by his family. I look back and am very thankful that we all made it to adulthood, to see that most of our fears only reflected the times we were in, not the way things have turned out to be.

Sometimes when I think about the life I have now, at the age of 30, I am keenly aware that I have a life I never could have imagined for myself at the age of 15. Happily married to a woman I am deeply in love with with the full love and support of my entire family? Not to mention that we are planning on having children soon? Nope. Honestly, I don't think it crossed my mind. It just wasn't on the menu.

Even when I think back to my early years, even though I grew up in a very progressive, feminist family, the subject of homosexuality might have been mentioned once or twice, but only in passing. This is in spite of the fact that my parents were big proponents of giving us a lot of shame-free, age-appropriate books about sex and sexuality as we were growing up. But homosexuality was never a subject in any of those books, there wasn't even a cursory paragraph that explained that "sometimes women love women" or "men love men." In all my conversations about sex with my mom lesbianism never came up. It just didn't occur to her to bring it up.

Steroetypically, I grew up feeling and knowing I was "different" but didn't know why. But kids growing up GLBT today? An entirely different experience. I can't even imagine what our community is going to look like in 20-30 years.

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