[EDITORIAL NOTE: Gay and Gray is a monthly column at Time Goes By written by Jan Adams in which she thinks out loud for us on issues of aging lesbians and gay men. Jan also writes on many topics at her own blog, Happening-Here.
It's a strange and wonderful time to be gay. And it can seem a particularly strange time if you're an elder. Most of us who are over 60 lived at least some part of our lives in semi-voluntary invisibility or, if we chose to allow our sexual orientation to show, feared rejection and stigma.
Yes, there has been an LGBT civil rights movement since the 1950s, a movement that gained momentum in the 1960s and never looked back. Lots of us "came out." But it wasn't easy. As recently as 2004, eleven states voted to ban same sex marriages - and in 2006, seven more followed. Then this spring the California Supreme Court ruled that forbidding same sex marriages was illegal discrimination within that state.
And all of a sudden, popular opinion seems to have taken a discontinuous leap. A Gallup-USA Today poll published June 3 reports that nationally 63 percent of us believe that "government should not regulate whether gays and lesbians can marry the people they choose, a survey finds." As far as a majority is concerned, gay marriage (and presumably a responsible gay life) is on its way to being seen as a self-evident individual privacy right.
There are still holdouts of course - and for an elder, the Gallup-USA Today picture is uncomfortable: approval of same sex marriage wins "among all ages except 65 and older: among younger groups, the results are: 18 to 29 (79%), 30 to 49 (65%), 50 to 64% (62%) and 65 and older (44%)."
Our age peers are finding change harder than the younger set. The social attitudes of our generation are being pushed aside. Anna Quindlen writes in Newsweek:
"The opposition is aging out."
Is this really because, as a group, older people have a harder time dealing with the unfamiliar? Perhaps. But I am sure the answer is more nuanced than just that we are bunch of stick-in-the-muds.
Just for fun, I'd liked to suggest a little experiment. Play this YouTube version of an ad from the United Kingdom. It's short and completely work safe. (:28 seconds)
Then, if you are willing, share your reactions in the comments. Do you like it? Did you laugh? If it makes you uncomfortable, can you share why?
The British advertiser pulled the ad after less than a week, after receiving numerous complaints. I doubt U.S. networks would have run it at all. But maybe I'm wrong.
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lia tells a story of satisfying comeuppance we can all cheer in Collective Critical Censorship.]