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05/08/2015

The major psychological shift coming to America—and soon!

by Jeremy Hooper

201505082035As those of us who fight for LGBT rights ponder the next phases and stages of this debate, many of my fellows have suggested ideas for what the anti- groups might have cooked up as a next phase in this fight. Some have suggested they'll go harder on the state level with these "religious freedom" bills and assorted whatnots. Others think they'll get even more aggressive and more person in how they attack our families, particularly in terms of adoption and other paths to parenting. Many believe they'll keep up their insistence that a SCOTUS marriage ruling in "the new Roe v. Wade," the likes of which we must keep debating for forty years to come. And most everyone believes that they'll focus more on transgender rights.

While I would be the first to agree that the anti-LGBT forces will stick around and continue to rage, and while I would even suggest that there is the potential for things to get worse in certain areas (e.g. less progressive communities where the resistance to LGBT people, and particularly minors, gets even more fierce), I do want to posit another point of view. Namely, I want to talk about the huge mind shift that I believe will happen in this country within the immediate weeks and months following a fifty-state marriage ruling, and how I believe it will diminish the resistance groups and personalities quicker and even more fully than they realize.

In every state that has passed marriage equality, we've seen some minor version of this. During the marriage fights, the local anti-LGBT group(s) become omnipresent. Local media gives them platforms, they hold rallies that people see a need to attend, they do ad buys and host events that attraction attention, and they recruit all kinds of chatter about how bad things are going to be if/when marriage equality passes in the state. But then, virtually the moment marriage passes into that state by whatever vehicle brings it there, all of that falls away. By and large, people stop talking about the issue altogether and move on. The victory is so jubilant and so hard-fought that local and national LGBT groups refuse to even dignify the other side for a second longer. But even the locals who oppose come to a begrudging place of acceptance, of their fates if not the newfound married people in their midst. At the very least, the opposing troops take a "nothing more to say" approach. When your fighting against people's happiness and you take that "nothing more to say" approach, the happy people automatically win.

It's astounding to me how many of these state groups that used to be on my radar—and some in a major, refresh-their-websites-everyday way—are now teeny tiny blips that don't even register. The marriage fight, as the one that our movement has held up (and rightly, in my estimation) as the big sack of potatoes in a winner-take-all "culture war," has that kind of power attached to it. When this plays out on the national level, I believe this is going to multiply and escalate many times over. I know it will.

We've already seen shades of this stemming from the 2013 Windsor and Perry decisions. By that following fall, pop culture was already talking about marriage equality like it was a done deal. I remember watching an episode of the short-lived sitcom Trophy Wife in the autumn of 2013 where one of the jokes had an offscreen voice congratulating a couple who she mistook for lesbians on the recent Supreme Court victory. The joke wasn't at the expense of anyone's sexual orientation. Instead, the joke was at expense of one of the two non-lesbians who didn't have any clue as to what SCOTUS victory this offscreen voice was referring. The other non-lesbian was like, "Really?" The idea being that the Supreme Court victory was such a big and defining deal that everyone should certainly know about it, and know that it was a huge victory for (falsely identified) lesbian couples everywhere. Because that's the kind of thing that happens following historic civil rights victories—and the kind of thing that will happen on a *MAJOR SCALE* following a victory as massive and definitive as the one we expect to win come June.

When this happens, particularly in a high profile and high stakes presidential election season, it is going to rob the anti-LGBT movement of far more capital than many people on both sides seem to realize. When they try to present some of these discriminatory bills, particularly at the national level but even at the state, the whole game and the thinking behind it will have changed. Even thought leaders who might wish we still lived in a marriage inequality America will understand that this national mind shift, court-tested many times over and backed by a consistent majority of citizens, will have made a playing field that was already unfavorable to the anti-LGBT cause infinitely more inhospitable than it was the day before the landmark ruling. When facing off against Democrats who are now unanimous in their support for rights that have gone through so many hoops and come out victorious, all GOP candidates and thinkers are going to realize that their attempts to unwind this clock have gone from tricky to downright disastrous. They're going to realize it or they are going to be left in the dust.

A few years back, people liked to talk about how visibility from shows like Will & Grace and Ellen had helped change things. But think about now. By the time 2016 rolls around, people who were eight-years-old when the Prop 8 disaster started awakening previously dormant minds will be of legal age to vote. Eighteen-year-olds of 2016 will have lived all of their cognizant years in a country where at least one U.S. state had marriage equality, and who lived their most formative years yet in an America with several states who had come over to the right side. And in terms of pop culture, support for marriage equality is barely even a discussion at this point. The current television landscape is one where same-sex marriages and relationships are as common as laugh tracks and wisecracking housekeepers were to those of us who grew up in the late twentieth century. For rising generations, a fifty-state marriage equality ruling is a way past due exclamation point on a consensus potion, not just another development in a continuing conversation.

So yes, the Family Research Council and NOM will try to do or say something. They'll try to pass this or that nonsense. But where's the capital going to come from? Who is going to fund or turnout for such an exercise? They can't just force the rest of us to acknowledge their existence. They can't make national news outlets give them coverage just because they continue to waste their own hours on a fight they already lost. They can't just make us see them as viable players because the Reagan Revolution installed them as part of our political consciousness. If we, the majority, stand up and claim our victories and vow to move forward rather than look back at their regressive agendas, they don't get to remain players just by force of will. They have to actually have support to remain viable. I just don't believe they are going to have it, at least not for long.

I truly believe that the national consciousness is about to be rocked in a major way, and that it could spell the relatively quick defeat of a "culture war" that seemed like it would never go away. That is, of course, if we win.

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