Changes

I was reading Slate the other day and came upon this article:

The Wedding

It’s a long article but I found it very touching. It’s a love story about two military guys who, despite traditional upbringings and previous straight relationships, fall in love and get married. And more than that, it’s about the cultural shifts not only in society as a whole, but even within the military when it comes to gay marriage and gay relationships.

As I’ve discussed in previous posts, one of the things that fascinates me is change. How it happens, why it happens and how people adapt or don’t adapt to it. Societal attitudes towards gayness seem to have shifted relatively quickly. I know it probably doesn’t feel that way to most gay people who had to live a semi-closted, discreet existence for  years, but as an outsider, it seems like society suddenly shifted in the other direction when it comes to gay marriage — for decades, most of society was against it and then one day most of society was for it. I read recently that nearly 60 percent of Americans are now pro-gay marriage, including 80 percent of young people. I think that even a decade ago, those kinds of numbers would have been inconceivable.  When I was a kid, even in high school, people didn’t come out. If you had a gay uncle his partner was introduced as a roommate or friend. There was a girl in my neighborhood who was rumored to have two moms and this was considered a great tragedy for the girl. Things improved a little in college, especially if you attended a liberal arts college, but this was an atypical and temporary haven unless you happened to live in a major city. It seems like things didn’t truly start shifting until the mid to late 2000s.

And I think that the vast majority of arguments against  gay marriage have lost a lot of ground because honestly, a lot of people really don’t care. Some might argue that gay marriage leads to gay families which is unfair to children who deserve to be raised by a mother and a father. But how many people are actually raised by a mother and a father? I’d bet half the world is raised in less than traditional households, mostly by single moms.

I’m always impressed and surprised by human progress. Putting aside performance enhancing drugs, people really have gotten faster and stronger over the years. Runners run faster, swimmers swim faster, ice skaters rotate more times in the air. Records are frequently broken. Attitudes shift. Fifty years ago, it would have been perfectly acceptable for me to tell my family I wanted to be a typist. Today, if I told my family my career goal was to be a typist, things would not go over so well because my potential goes beyond being a typist and beyond being a wife and mother. I might be encouraged to be an engineer, doctor, teacher — to have a career — although it seems it’s going to be several more decades before I’d be paid as much as a man. It is so interesting to me the way human behaviors change and shift through the years, how once widely accepted views become taboo and how it seems that over the course of the last 1,000 years we have progressed from a very prescriptive society to one where more and more previously unacceptable behaviors and attitudes just aren’t that big of a deal anymore. So even if global warming will cause the world to end in however many millions of years if we don’t do anything about it, at least things are getting better in some ways.

 



Categories: Serious Stuff, The Urban Anthropologist Files

Tags: , , ,

2 replies

  1. I love the historical perspective here. Changes really ARE incredible when you step back and look at them.

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