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We've Come a Long Way But Not Quite Far Enough

I was watching a popular talk show the other day when the host proclaimed that more and more gays and lesbians are feeling freer and more accepted in this day and age of "Gay TV." According to the host, the images of gay role models on TV has been softening the way that the community at large views homosexuals and paving the way for a more accepting society. Huh?

I'm not sure what communities were studied for this evaluation, but I'm quite sure that the man who yelled "Dyke" at the top of his lungs at me from his open car window as I was biking in the park last month has not been softened at all by positive gay TV characters. And I really don't think that the young, MTV influenced male at the local pub was making polite party conversation when he hackled my girlfriend and I and asked who the top was. Ah, but if nothing else, they are learning the terminology. That's something at least. I'm not sure how comforting it is, but I'll take it.

Still, while I'm a bit skeptical how all of this positive "Gay TV" has influenced the straight crowd, I have seen a profound impact among the gay community. In fact, the numbers speak for themselves. Did you know that as little as 10 years ago the average coming out age was 26? Today it is an unbelievable 16. Myself, I was 27, which must be the average age for my area because people I went to school with are just now coming forward with their sexuality.

But we're all a bit older and did not benefit from "Gay TV." Actually, our generation watched as Ellen was forced to leave the airwaves because American TV was not ready for an openly gay character. We also got to witness some of the most graphic and violent hate crimes geared toward gays. So, who could blame us for being a little hesitant?

Anyway, what "Gay TV" has done in my opinion is change the way we feel about ourselves. By watching people just like us on TV, we get the sense that we are not alone - even if we live in the not-so-accepting bible belt. This sense has given us the courage to be open about our relationships and stand defiant in the face of ignorance and adversity. It is this attitude that I feel is beginning to soften the attitude that some Americans have against gays. So, "Gay TV" aside, I think the credit goes to every person who has the courage to live their lives openly and allow others to see through them that gays are not second-class citizens.

Just how far this thaw toward gays will progress remains to be seen. Honestly, I think it is over exaggerated in the press, but I do agree that there has been some thaw, more in some communities than others. Myself, I live in a state that views the horror of gay marriage as something to be banned by the state's constitution. (It passed by more than 60%) And the recent gay marriage bill veto by California Governor Arnold Schwarzeneggar proves that even that liberal state hasn't thawed quite enough yet.

And I'm also reminded of a story that one of my online chat buddies shared with me recently. She and her girlfriend live in a state in the far west, and her girlfriend is a high-school educator in the public school system. Anyway, her girlfriend has been dodging advances from a male coworker, and I guess it's getting a little out of hand because he shows up at sports games where both girls coach. When I asked her why they didn't confront him and tell him that they were partners, she said that they couldn't do that because it would jeopardize her girlfriend's job. And we live in an accepting society?

Well, I guess I should be thankful that the neighbors haven't keyed my car or spray-painted my house. And I guess I should be thankful that my daughter was able to take down the boy who jumped her at school because she had two mommies. Maybe he was tired from staying up to watch The L-Word and just couldn't get that final punch in. And maybe the neighbors put away their spray paint because "Gay TV" showed them the error of their ways.

The point I'm trying to make here is that the fight is far from over. Prejudice still exists and no amount of TV programming is going to change the reality that we have to deal with everyday. Yes, we've come a long way, but there's an even longer road ahead of us. Granted, TV role models deserve praise for their courage to bring the topic of homosexuality into every living room and make it a hot political topic, but the majority of the credit I think goes to those who stand up everyday without a TV screen to protect them from the ugliness.

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