(My most recent "Gay and Gray" column is up at Time Goes By. Here's how it begins. Drop by over there to participate in the experiment I propose in conclusion.)
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-USAToday 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-USAToday 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:
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.