Poll: Gays Have Tacit Permission To Be Homosexuals genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Six Degrees of Speculation

Peeping Tom

A new CNN poll suggests that a majority of Americans believe that gays cannot change their sexual preference. I applaud the shifting perspective, though I'm not sure that I can accept that being homosexual requires such an acknowledgment; any more than it would make sense to poll gays to see if they acknowledge that heterosexuals cannot change their sexual preference.

Fifty-six percent of about 515 poll respondents said they do not believe sexual orientation can be changed. In 2001, 45 percent of those responding to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll held that belief. In 1998, according to a CNN/Time poll, the number was 36 percent.

In addition, 42 percent of respondents to the current poll said they believe homosexuality results from upbringing and environment, while 39 percent said they believe it is something a person is born with -- a close division that reflects the national debate over the issue.

However, those numbers are greatly changed from the 1970s and '80s, in which fewer than 20 percent of Americans said a person is born homosexual. In a 1977 poll, the number was 13 percent.

Inherent in such polling is institutionalized prejudice and judgment...a preconceived notion that being gay is somehow open to a vote of acceptance. Such polling begins with the premise that being a homosexual is relevant to heterosexuals. In reality, the reverse is far more accurate since society is predominantly heterosexual and judgment is directed from the heterosexual majority towards the homosexual minority. Therefore, the negative impact of sexual preference is born disproportionately by homosexuals...a construct I find detestable.

When I look at the data, one item stands out in its significance...and while its meaning is the result of my own speculation, I think its worth noting and discussing. Note that 56 percent believe that homosexuals cannot change their orientation and that 39 percent believe that it is something an individual is born with. That discordance (as well as the discordance between those who believe homosexuality results from environment) is meaningful and I contend that it is a measurement of judgment and blame...although it is likely the result of religious doctrine.

Let me explain. If one believes sexual preference cannot be changed, then how would a respondent explain answering these two questions differently? The seventeen percent difference (fourteen percent in the case of those who believe it results from environment) requires an explanation and the obvious one is that the conflict is explained in a belief that homosexuality is chosen rather than a trait one possesses at birth. That leads us back to judgment...a belief that gays aren't willing to change...a state of being that would allow one to conclude that the homosexual is electing to sin and ignoring religious doctrine...making them subject to the condemnation of their heterosexual detractors.

The number may also be a measurement of the conflict some heterosexuals are experiencing between what they believe through experience and/or science, and what their religious beliefs tell them they should think about homosexuality. The good news is that it appears that experience and/or science may be winning the battle...even though the reporting still demonstrates the impact and influence of the religious indoctrination.

One might also conclude that the conscience (a mechanism of fairness) is at work and compelling the disparity...meaning that deep down...despite religious beliefs...these respondents know it is wrong to apply judgment though they can't yet compel themselves to fully discard their learned bias.

I'm hopeful that the perceptions will continue to change. At the same time, I cannot help but find it offensive that the sexuality of some Americans is open to the judgments of the remaining Americans. There's something very creepy about that focus.

Daniel DiRito | June 27, 2007 | 6:33 PM
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