People coming out now, don’t necessarily realize the stigma associate with being gay as little as ten years ago. Forty years ago, people could and were thrown in jail for dancing with same-sex partners in gay and lesbian bars. It was only in 2003 that the Texas sodomy law was overturned, finally making sex between two same-sex consenting adults legal. In 33 states you can still be fired for being gay.
Culturally, we are making progress. Gay marriage is legal in two states in the U.S. and a handful of countries. Many schools have gay/straight alliances, businesses offer same-sex partner benefits and civil unions are common in more and more places. Even if times are changing and we are becoming more accepting of gays and lesbians, the homophobia and negativity are still part of our cultural fiber. Even if people don’t think they’re homophobic, or even if they have gay friends, they still grew up with all the messages and stereotypes about gays and lesbians.
Gay Jokes and Gay Put-DownsGays and lesbians don’t escape those either. We’ve heard just as many gay jokes, religious condemnations, rap music put-downs, judgments and snide remarks as everyone else in our culture. To come out, there is always a little voice in the back of your head wondering, “Will I be accepted?”
And the truth is, for many people that answer is “no.” Families reject children for being gay. Churches certainly do. Others may say they’re not homophobic, yet say they believe marriage is only made for one man and one woman and don’t think gays and lesbians should teach children. Our culture still has a long way to go in fully accepting gays and lesbians. These are some of the reasons people are afraid to come out.