I watched a show on PBS recently. It discussed the current situation for gay couples and what they still face here in America, in terms of getting to the point where they can live in a climate of peace.
In more than half of the 50 states, it is perfectly legal to be fired from the work-place for being gay. This is true despite the fact that, according to recent polls, more Americans are becoming more open-minded toward gay rights—a vague notion, referring generally to the right to legalized union between same sex couples, but includes, as well, the appeal to live in the spirit of equality and acceptance, without the prejudice that allows continued hate crimes and discrimination.
So, if more people are moving in this direction, how can it be that a gay woman can be fired for introducing her life-partner as her life-partner at the company cocktail party?
Because most people are simply unaware that this is true, that this can be seen as grounds for dismissal.
The speaker in the televised discussion explained what accounts for the slow, but undeniable move toward tolerance: simply knowing someone who is gay. He went on to explain why it is so important for gays to “be out.” If personal acquaintance plays a notable role in changing general attitudes toward gays and reducing homophobia, then it is imperative that they tell their stories and make it known that discrimination in most social venues, not only continues, but is perfectly legal.
What happens in the backward parts, where people live sheltered lives and don’t and won’t associate with anyone who seems “different?” That’s where social media comes in. Sometimes television really does serve a useful purpose. In programs like Glee and Modern Family, where the central characters are gay, viewers are able to follow the stories of these characters and as in all forms of this ancient art of story-telling, one comes to care about the characters’ lives and about what happens to them. In shows like Ellen, viewers see a vibrant, funny and all-around good person, and because she is open about it, they also see that she is gay.
Familiarity not only enables the viewer to care about the story, which translates into a growing sympathy toward gay issues “in the real world,” but it lessons the aversion many people have toward gays simply because that feeling has been culturally conditioned.
The take-away? Equality comes from people telling their stories. So, gays must come out and tell their stories. Also, TV is not always bad and it’s good that we have shows in which gays are prominently featured.