It seems a California pretty girl blew her chances to be Miss USA because she let a little homophobia slip out. Weird. Since when does blatant stupidity preclude representing one’s country in a bathing suit? Huh! I guess I have been wrong my entire life, and beauty pageants really are about intelligence, integrity and talent….
Or maybe this little episode illustrates that a tipping point has been achieved. Despite Proposition 8 and the increasingly freaky Christian right, perhaps gayness has become as American as apple pie. We’re the new normal, gosh darn it. And heaven help the underwear model who forgets it.
According to a 2008 Washington Post/ABC poll, 75 percent of Americans believe that openly gay folks should serve in the military. That’s up from 44 percent in 1993. At first I cynically wondered if Americans were thinking we make great cannon fodder. After all, in times of war, someone’s got to do it. But other stats prove me wrong. It seems they like us! They really, really like us! Newsweek, another conservative and mainstream news source, has reported that 55 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage or civil unions. That’s up from 40 percent a mere five years ago.
Why? Because we had the courage to come out. In 1994, only 53 percent of Americans knew a homo. According to the Newsweek poll, that figure jumped to 78 percent in 2008. In other words, to know us is to love us. Or at least recognize our basic civil rights. Another reason could be a change in faith and dogma in American’s lives. Organized religion has been a long-time opponent of gay rights, and its influence is on the wane. The recent American Religious Identification Survey shows that the number of self-professed Christians has dropped 11 percent since 1990, and a full 15 percent of Americans now declare themselves as having no religion, up from 8 percent in 1990. Hallelujah!
We are here, we are queer, and most Americans seem to accept that. If we needed any further proof, American Idol has just wrapped up its eighth season, and nail polish-wearing Adam Lambert took second place honours. Months ago, the blogosphere was abuzz with rumours that eyeliner-Adam was a sodomite, even circulating photos of the songster in a lip-lock with another dude. Before Fox cut off press access to him and his family, Lambert admitted to kissing guys, saying, “I have nothing to hide. I am who I am.”
That a performer of musical theatre could be gay is hardly shocking. But flash back to 2003 when Clay Aiken, another American Idol contender, kept speculation about his sexuality firmly in check, either for personal reasons or fear that it might destroy his career on Broadway. Aiken kept mum about his peccadilloes for the next five years, finally coming clean in 2008.
It seems that, finally, being gay in the US is no big deal. And because the inestimable effect of American pop culture north of the 49th parallel, this is good news for us, too.
Of course Canada has always been ahead of the States on gay rights. Why, we had a gay Canadian Idol winner months ago! According to Gallup polls, Canada has the third highest rate of homosexual acceptance globally, third only to the Netherlands and Spain. It has been 40 years since we decriminalized homosexuality in this country; in contrast, the US Supreme Court didn’t strike down the last anti-sodomy laws until 2003.
Which brings me back to Carrie Prejean, the Miss USA wannabe. Really, the surgically enhanced Christian should be pitied and not scorned. The tide has turned in the US, leaving poor Carrie a social and political dinosaur caught in a 2009 beauty contestant’s body. Perhaps we could invite her north for some anti-homophobia education. We live in a society replete with tolerance, legal protections, and women who would be happy to both discipline and retrain her.