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    May 01, 2007

    Love thy neighbor…unless he's gay

    Posted by: Chris

    Gayneighborgraph Who wouldn’t want a homosexual for a neighbor?

    Our interior and exterior decorating skills are legendary. We keep a tidy lawn and a colorful garden. And in city after city, we renovate and update, raising property values for ourselves and those around us.

    To top it off, we’re avid neighborhood activists, throwing ourselves into better policing, stricter zoning and removal of “unsavory elements.”

    Who wouldn’t want a homosexual for a neighbor? Plenty of people, as it turns out.

    Asked who they would not want as neighbors, one in five residents of Western Europe, the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand said “no” to the gay next door. That’s fully double the number who said they wouldn’t want Jews or someone of a different race for a neighbor.

    The papers may be full of stories about resentment toward immigrants and foreign workers, but gays are less welcome to the neighborhood by more than 50 percent. Even Muslims, with all their bad press, are 25 percent more accepted.

    The somewhat surprising findings are from work done by researchers at universities in Northern Ireland and New Zealand. Since few among us would admit outright to being a bigot, these academics found that the best way of measuring bigotry is a more indirect inquiry into what types of people you wouldn’t want to live nearby.

    If you believe, as many of us do, that homophobia is the last acceptable prejudice, you’ll find support in the study. In two-thirds of the countries surveyed, gays were rated the least desirable neighbors, including in the U.S., Canada and Australia, where the numbers who disapproved of gay neighbors were more than double that of Muslims, the next group down the list.

    Only in a few countries in Scandinavia and northern Europe were we welcomed by almost everyone. A special thanks to Sweden, Holland, Iceland and Denmark — the only places where fewer than one in 10 respondents were homophobic.

    As bad as that looks for the gays, it’s clear that bigotry loves company. In every country at least one in four residents didn’t like the idea of at least one minority group in their neighborhood, and in strife-torn Northern Ireland and Greece, almost half were bigoted against at least someone.

    Still, we homosexuals are the most despised group among bigots generally. In most major Western countries, including the U.S., Canada and Great Britain, more than three-quarters of those who object to at least one minority group include gays on their list of phobias. That gem led the researchers to conclude that, “Homophobia is, by far, the main source of bigotry in most Western countries.”

    What, in turn, is the source of that homophobia? Not a person’s level of education or income, as it turns out. Age and gender were much better indicators. A New York Times poll released last week backs that up, showing only 25 percent of Americans under the age of 30 opposed to any form of legal recognition for same-sex couples, while opposition among those over 30 ranges between 35 and 45 percent.

    It’s impossible to say whether the 23 percent of Americans who don’t want gay neighbors form the bulk of the 35 percent of Americans overall who don’t want our relationships to receive legal recognition — but it’s a pretty safe bet.

    I’ve always resisted the idea that opponents of gay rights are bigots. It has struck me as a cheap shot that polarizes the debate, rather than attempting to reason and address concerns. There’s not much point in reasoning with prejudice, of course; the whole idea is that’s animus without any logic to it.

    Religion can be as impenetrable to reason as prejudice, and gay rights opponents have long cited their moral beliefs as justification for our inequality. Sill, since I come from a loving, religious family that is steadfastly opposed to my equal rights as a gay man, I’ve always taken the anti-gay Christians at their word when they swear it’s the sin they hate and not the sinner.

    So how do they explain the “good neighbor” study’s most surprising finding? That being deeply religious made Christians less prejudiced against Muslims and immigrants, and much more prejudiced against gays? Being deeply religious was the single most significant factor in predicting whether someone would reject the idea of having a gay neighbor.

    Do these churchgoers simply ignore Jesus’ central commandment to “love thy neighbor”? Or are they figuring if they do have to love their neighbor, they hope for Christ’s sake their neighbor isn’t queer?

    Welchfamily As more lesbians and gay men live their lives openly, there’s hope the number of anti-gay bigots will someday soon drop down to the same levels we see for race and religion.  The short-lived ABC reality show "Welcome to the Neighborhood" effectively tested out the findings of the “good neighbor” study, allowing a group of mildly bigoted Texas neighbors to award a house on their block to either a black family, a Korean family, hippies, Wiccans or a gay couple. The series was yanked because it touched on too many racial hot-buttons, but the gay couple won over their skeptical neighbors and won the house, too.

    One objection to the show was from "fair housing" advocates, who pointed out federal law prohibits discriminating on the basis of race, religion, and national origin in the housing market. Of course that law doesn't include sexual orientation as a protected category, and absolutely no one is talking about amending it anytime soon.

    But as the gay couple on "Welcome to the Neighborhood" proved, although no one got to see it, the answer to this level of bigotry may not be in changing laws, but in changing hearts and minds. We have always been our own best ambassadors, and perhaps if we keep extending our welcome mat, one day more "deeply religious" folks will do the same.



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    1. DaveinPa on May 1, 2007 4:57:50 PM:

      Wow, not much good gay news these days.

      After lurking here and reading I often go to the opposing viewpoint sites (anti-gay) and see what their spin on events are. Where i found this from townhall.com:

      "A couple of weeks ago, it was learned that the alleged high-profile "hate crime" involving 72 year-old "gay"-identified Andrew Anthos, which was used by liberals in Congress to justify introduction of The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (H.R. 1592), was in fact a fraudulent report. Let that sink in a minute. The very "hate crime" intended to whip up an emotional frenzy in support of "hate crimes" legislation, which would grant homosexuals and cross-dressers superior victim status over children and the elderly, never even happened. "

      While this doesn't relate to the story above, it certain relates to the Hate crimes blogs and HRC gaffes mentioned. Is it true that this story was fabricated by the gay media?

    1. Joseph Kowalski on May 1, 2007 5:59:38 PM:

      It doesn't surprise me that the more religious a person is, the more anti-gay they are.

      Irrational hate rises from fear of the unknown. Once our neighbors see they have nothing to fear from us, they will accept us as good neighbors.

      In time, neighborhood opinions will change as long as gay people continue to come out and live their lives openly among their neighbors.

      As for the Andrew Anthos story, no, it was not fabricated by the gay media. A concise story about the events surrounding the Anthos death can be found at http://www.clickondetroit.com/news/11605700/d

      If for no other reason, the poor response of the local Detroit police department is reason enough to see the need for sexual orientation to be included in hate crime legislation.

    1. North Dallas Thirty on May 1, 2007 6:24:18 PM:

      Translation: the investigation didn't turn out the way that the professional victim organizations wanted.

      But here's what they're leaving out:

      "Detroit police spokesman Leon Rahmaan said investigators interviewed Anthos and his friend, who told police he thought Anthos may have been attacked but did not see it. The witness heard a noise, turned and saw Anthos on the ground, Rahmaan said.

      The witness helped police create a composite sketch of the man he saw, but no suspect has been found."

      ( http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/nation/20070329-1520-gaymansdeath.html )

      Of course, what happens then is that the professional victim organizations, which claim to speak for gays, stamp their feet and start throwing temper tantrums about how homophobic the police are, how unqualified the coroner is, how everyone is lying and covering up how hateful they are, how the whole city is full of antigay bigots, and how they need the Federal government to step in and force these people to do what gays want them to do.

      One wonders how much more positive press and reception we would get if we weren't so prone to scream "homophobic bigot" at everyone who doesn't give us exactly what we want, when we want it.

    1. KJ on May 1, 2007 6:55:50 PM:

      I saw part of "Welcome to the Neighborhood" online. If I remember right, one of the oppositional neighbors had a gay son whom he had difficulty accepting. The father's heart was completely changed by the experience of getting to know his new neighbors. However, I might be confusing my TV "reality shows".

    1. Citizen Crain on May 1, 2007 7:16:54 PM:

      Your memory serves correct, KJ. If you follow the link in my post about "Welcome to the Neighborhood," it will take you to a New York Times story about the TV show that details how getting to know the gay couple helped a homophobic neighbor reconcile with his own son.

    1. dan on May 3, 2007 10:07:38 AM:

      I know this is a few days late so i doubt it will be read, but i'm trying to see the good here; the opportunity. I wonder what the numbers would have been 20 years ago, or even 10? I think that these numbers no doubt reflect progress, but they also reflect, as many posters have stated, a lack of exposure. Gay men and women have often congregated in major metro areas, and gay ghettos. Thats changing, thank God, because that sort of "only living next to each other" mentality is exactly what we are talking about. As gay men and women move into the country and the suburbs, the exposure will change the viewpoint. But as other posters have pointed out, we need to end our culture of victimhood as well. We need to stop looking for problems, stop our tendency towards heterophobia, stop screeching shrilly about perceived slights, and just be the best community members, the best neighbors we can be. There will always be the holdouts and the assholes who still mutter "faggot" under their breath, but as we become cherished friends and neighbors, those are the people who will find themselves on the fringe. Lets stop looking at news like this and hunkering down in our bunkers saying "they hate us" and instead see it for the progress and opportunity it represents. We're awesome, we know it, and more and more people are finding out just through the simple act of watching us go about our lives. Change takes generations, and lets remember that Stonewall only happened 40 years ago. Listen less to those who have a financial stake in your victimhood and instead think for yourself and be the one who steps forward into the human community first.

    1. Ian Johnson on May 11, 2007 3:54:20 AM:

      Chris, I have been wondering what to do with this research for some time and your article is the answer. I know of you from our http://www.OutNowConsulting.com Netherlands violence and harassment research that was included in news reporting at the time you were gay bashed in Amsterdam.

      Today we cited your article in http://www.GayMarketNews.com at http://www.gaymarketnews.com/2007/05/gay-boy-next-door.html

      It is nice to read your work - great writing.

      Ian Johnson
      Out Now Consulting

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