The task of a civilized world is not just to cease acts of terrorism but to curb and eliminate dehumanizing hate. We must expand the concept of ‘us’ until it includes every human being and the idea of ‘them’ falls into disuse as an obsolete stereotyping device. This can be achieved only [. . .] by a first-rate education and supportive culture that protects the rights of all people. (Dozier 280) One group of people to have overcome much hatred is homosexuals. Daniel Demers states that supporters of the gay rights movement do not stop often enough to take stock of how much progress gay and lesbian people have made in overcoming hatred. “[C]ontroversy serves to show and put into historical perspective the contrast between society’s current attitudes and those of a hundred years ago” (Demers 29). Demers uses historical evidence to bring light to just how far homosexuals have come in overcoming abhorrence, making reference to the London Chronicle. “So vulgar was the word ‘homosexual’ that the polite Victorian standards of the day restricted [. . .] ‘the same vice which caused the downfall of Oscar Wilde.’ Wilde was convicted under British law of ‘gross indecency’ and served a two-year sentence at hard labor” (Demers 28). The thought that someone could be criminally convicted for homosexual behavior is considered ludicrous in modern society. Although homosexuality and marriage equality have held negative stigmas in the past, modification to modern society’s viewpoint has resonated from such sources as leadership, accepting environments, and scientific knowledge.
One factor that has contributed to the shift in opinions of homosexuality is the perceptiveness of leaders. Leaders may be local, state, or national; and they may be political, religious, or educational. For example, local educational leaders are the administrators and teachers in schools. These individuals greatly contribute to the way homosexuality is viewed. Arthur Lipkin notes that teachers are key to students’ understanding and accepting diversity. When teachers use the words gay and homosexual in an accepting manner they create “the potential for a tolerant environment” among their students (56). Teachers can help change opinions on the local level; however, politicians are more apt to have an influence on the state and federal levels. Politicians like Senator Ed Murray have been instrumental in changing society’s views concerning homosexuality. “On February 13,  [. . .] Washington became the seventh state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage [. . .] through the efforts of State Senator Ed Murray of Seattle, who has tried to pass a marriage equality law during every legislative biennium since 1991” (Guy). An example of the disgust harbored for homosexuals that leaders like Murray are working to overcome comes from an interview with Cardinal Keith O’Brien uses the word ‘grotesque’ to describe the issue of same sex marriage (qtd. in Jones 11). If not for perceptive leaders in government, those who share O’Brien’s point of view would have never been overcome. Leaders provide one influential factor to changing society’s view of homosexuality.
Not only have perceptive leaders created a momentum for societal change of opinion about homosexuality, but the changes in public policy pushed by leaders have also. Over the course of the past decade, eleven countries, parts of Mexico and Brazil, as well as numerous American states have made same-sex marriage a legal option. Nelson Jones jests, “In none of those places has the sky fallen in.” Jones goes on to write, that the list is developing and remains growing because in many countries that have implemented the conciliation of civil partnership, “the debate has moved on inevitably to the next step of abolishing the artificial distinction between [marriage and civil partnership]” (12). The distinction is closer to diminishing, but strife toward homosexuals is still persistent. Guy presses that the National Organization for Marriage and its partners are more than likely going to attain the 10,377 signatures needed to put the issue of same-sex marriage back before voters in Washington State, and are quickly gaining the resources to fund a movement to sway voters. Guy goes on to say, “A University of Washington poll [. . .] [taken in] fall,  showed that voters would uphold the law [of legalized same-sex marriage] by a margin of 55 to 38” (Guy). Changes in public policy have been fundamental to a societal change in opinion about homosexuals.
In addition to changes in public policy a more accepting environment has led to a societal shift of opinion about homosexuality. A survey of the perceptions and attitudes of Chinese college students about homosexuality indicated that the subject of sexual orientation should be presented in an environment in which homosexuality “is not treated as abnormal or deviant” (Cao, Wang, and Gao 727). In both political and instructive environments, the issue of sexual orientation has come to be presented in a way that is accepting of same-sex relationships. Homosexuality was rarely presented in an accepting manner until recent years as exhibition of homosexual behavior was considered a matter of law. It was only in 1957 that the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offenses and Prostitution published a report stating otherwise. The committee concluded, “It is not [. . .] the function of the law to intervene in the private life of citizens, or to seek to enforce any particular pattern of behaviour” (qtd. in Roberts). The actions of the committee were the first step taken to the accepting environments of today. Joseph Margolis publishes real-life classroom teachings of 1982, consisting of “representative arguments which seek to show that homosexuality is unnatural, self-indulgent, a disease, or morally wrong” (Margolis 43). The teachings documented by Margolis would be eagerly ousted in most modern education systems as they promote environments that are unaccepting of homosexuals. Accepting environments have created a major alteration to the way society views homosexuality.
Along with generally accepting environments, contact with information has contributed much to the increase in acceptance of homosexuality. The earlier a child comes in contact with subject matter, the more likely he is to form a positive opinion of the subject; and in present society, people have come to not only gain knowledge of sexual behavior sooner in life, but also come in contact with such information more frequently than in the past. Early contact with information can be attributed to parenting techniques as well as accepting viewpoints toward homosexuals in media “In the investigation of first contact time, the earlier [. . .] students were exposed to the word homosexuality, the better understanding they had and the more tolerant were their attitudes. Therefore, it is important to have early education on beliefs about sexual orientation” (Cao, Wang, and Gao 727). The parents of children play an immense role in the age at which their offspring come into contact with information about sexual orientation. Mark McCormack pens that while the parents of gay children that have been bullied have, in the past, been too embarrassed to address the issue of the acceptance of homosexuals. In contemporary culture, “some loudly condemn bullying and demand better protection at school[s].” Much acceptance has also come from accommodating stances in the media. McCormack presses on, “The young are much more liberal than their parents. [. . .] [T]here are many more openly gay performers, [. . .] which helps to normalize homosexuality. [. . .] [T]he internet [also] lets lonely provincial teenagers reach beyond their town limits [using] [s]ocial-networking websites, [which] encourage frankness about sexual orientation.” While the influences of nurturing mechanisms and media outlets on youth are making an immense difference, contact with political jargon also has given way for a wave of acceptance.
Though acquaintance with information has led in society’s shifting attitudes toward homosexuality, the stint may also be attributed to bountiful scientific knowledge. A survey of Chinese university students’ perceptions of and attitudes toward homosexuality demonstrates that the area of study in which a student falls underwrites a significant difference in that student’s attitudes toward homosexuals. “Generally speaking, the science students had much more knowledge about homosexuality and more tolerant attitudes than did liberal arts students.” The study provides that since the science students have “more comprehensive cognitive views,” they are much more neutral in their attitude and approach on the issue of homosexuality (Cao, Weng, and Gao 727). Dozier agrees with this study, saying that we must practice the techniques of modern science “in order to rid our nations of hate” (282). Scientific thinking has been central to the way populations view homosexuality. A plethora of scientific knowledge has significantly underwritten a transformation of human attitudes toward homosexuality. The transformation of societal opinion has come from numerous important elements, leadership, accepting environments, and scientific knowledge. Dozier expresses, “In order to create a more enlightened future, we must dispense with primitive stereotypes. The primitive [. . .] can literally warp our view of ourselves and others” (289). While human society is still nowhere near utopian, the rush of acceptance for homosexuals has shown that Dozier’s referenced idea of “us” has expanded, and the idea of “them,” with some effort, may someday cease to exist.
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