Sunday, May 10, 2015

Homosexual Acceptance and Cultural Change

Minnesota for Marriage – Minnesota State Fair (7992941428)

As time has gone by we have had numerous cultural shifts in society where a group has gained acceptance and better treatment. When this happens, quite often large cultural changes result as previous behaviors and traditions become no longer morally or logically justifiable. The acceptance of black people as being equal to whites; women being equal to men; disabled people being worthy of the same respect as the able bodied; violence not being an acceptable way to discipline children; animals being more than just objects for us to use for our own ends.

When these shifts occur there are often large changes as society adapts. White people had to learn to co-exist with black people rather than segregating them. Men had to learn to co-exist in workplaces with women. People speaking up when they see someone beating their child (or wife!). Animal fighting sports become less socially acceptable.

A recent change that has the potential to cause large social changes, and that will almost certainly require a lot of people to be dragged into accepting that change, is the acceptance of homosexuals as first class citizens. For the most part, if homosexuals weren't outright persecuted, then typically the attitude of society was more like, "as long as you keep to yourselves and don't make us have to change to accommodate you, then we're cool". But as fights for homosexual rights and equality are being won, this kind of attitude is becoming less acceptable and society at large has to start addressing the behaviors and traditions we have that are not inclusive of homosexuals.

There is a rather unique area of cultural change required here, and that is the various social customs of segregating males and females. What makes this so unique is that homosexuals basically throw a spanner in the works of any social segregation that is justified by the argument that people who are sexually attracted to each other need to be kept apart under some circumstances.

Public restrooms; change rooms in gyms; schools; military and other high stress environments where sexual interest is considered a distraction or danger; prisons even. People will argue that this segregation is about things like modesty, respect, etc, but this is just a red herring. Except for some rare exceptions such as sports where the strength differences between men and women make for an unfair playing field, all of these places in society where we segregate males and females come down to perceived problems of having people who are sexually attracted to each other having to interact in ways that they may feel uncomfortable doing.

This is not controversial. Most men will fart or go to the toilet with other men around, but not feel comfortable doing the same around women. Most women will change at their local gym with other women present, but would never do so with men around. And so on.

But this is where homosexuals force society to rethink these conventions, because the same social structures simply don't work for them. When two groups are attracted to each other, you can keep them separate. But when members within a group are attracted to each other, this is no longer an option. The largest heterosexual group you can create without sexual attraction being a potential issue is effectively infinite: all heterosexual men or all heterosexual women. The largest homosexual group you can create without sexual attraction being a potential issue is two: one homosexual man and one homosexual woman. Add any other homosexual or heterosexual person and you have a potential sexual attraction issue.

Here's the thing though: we expect homosexuals to deal with it. We expect the homosexual man to deal with taking a shit in the men's restroom, and get over the potential embarrassment. We expect the homosexual woman to get changed at the gym surrounded by other women. We expect the homosexual teenager at the all boys or all girls school to deal with the distraction that these schools exist to remove. They simply don't have a choice. It's either isolate yourself or learn to deal with it.

So this is the cultural shift that we need to start dealing with. If homosexuals can handle being in close proximity with those they are sexually attracted to, maybe the rest of us can too. Maybe we should hold everyone to these same high standards. Or are we going to just say that homosexuals are more mature people and heterosexuals are immature and can't be trusted to behave? It would indeed be a strange kind of discrimination for society to say that homosexuals aren't equal: they're better people!

If you've read this far and these ideas make you feel uncomfortable, then congratulations! This is what cultural shift feels like. All of those people who came before you spending their lives with a social convention that was then changed underneath them felt the same way. This is why it's often said that for real social change to happen the old people need to die out to make way for the new ideas. And when you're living through social change, you get to choose if you're going to be part of that change, or if you're going to be one of the people that society waits to die so that progress can happen.