The study confirms what many have already known anecdotally: “Coming out works as a strategy for changing minds” on LGBTQ rights.
When Dr. Nelson Bonheim first discovered that the new female physician hired by his medical practice was living with another woman, he was “a little uneasy about inviting her to his golf club,” he recalled. Now, 25 years later, the 76-year-old retired gastroenterologist looks back on that uneasiness and thinks about how much he has evolved.
Bonheim said once he got to know his colleague, a lesbian 15 years his junior, they quickly became close friends. In fact, he said he eventually considered himself the younger doctor’s “surrogate father or brother.”
By the time his colleague married her female partner, Bonheim said he realized they “were like any other couple.” He even spoke at her wedding, a wedding he said her own parents, who are Orthodox Jews, refused to attend because they didn’t fully accept her relationship.
“I was never opposed to same-sex marriage; people have a right to do what they want to do,” Bonheim added, “but I wasn’t as accepting as I am now.”
He said he and his former colleague, who’s now in her 60s, still regularly have dinner with each other and their spouses.
Bonheim is not alone in evolving on LGBTQ rights and acceptance after befriending a gay person. A new study confirms what many have already known anecdotally: Having at least one gay or lesbian acquaintance not only makes straight people more likely to support gay rights, but also makes them more accepting of gay people in general.
The phenomenon is known as “contact theory,” according to Daniel DellaPosta, the study’s author and an assistant sociology professor at Pennsylvania State University. DellaPosta, who is gay, said he has both a “personal and academic interest” in the topic and was inspired to research it after finding data that showed acceptance of homosexuality grew five-fold between 1973 and 2016.
“I wanted to understand the sources of that drastic change,” he told NBC News.
DellaPosta said his study, titled “Gay Acquaintanceship and Attitudes Toward Homosexuality: A Conservative Test,” is the first to provide an empirical examination of how straight people are affected by tangential relationships with gay and lesbian people. In order to do this, he compared data from the 2006, 2008 and 2010 General Social Survey (GSS), which since 1972 has been gathering thousands of Americans’ opinions on a range of social issues.
His analysis, which has since been published in the peer-reviewed journal Socius, found that “respondents who were acquainted with at least one gay or lesbian person in 2006 exhibited greater shifts toward increased acceptance of homosexuality and gay marriage in 2008 and 2010.”
In 2006, about 45 percent of people with a gay or lesbian acquaintance supported same-sex marriage, but by 2010 the figure had increased to 61 percent. Of the respondents who did not have a gay or lesbian acquaintance, only 22 percent approved of same-sex marriage in 2006. Four years later, just 18 percent of the same respondents supported gay marriage.
DellaPosta said he “wasn’t surprised by the baseline findings” but rather by “who was changed” and how. He said his analysis showed that straight people with no gay friends who encounter a gay or lesbian individual superficially, like in a grocery store or on the subway, could have their prejudices “reinforced.” But things change when you go one step further.
“If you take the next level to mere acquaintanceship — someone whose name you know, someone who, if you saw them on the street, you might stop and chat with them for a moment — the ‘contact effect’ sets in,” he told NBC News. “When you suddenly have to interact with someone from an ‘out group’ as an individual, it forces you to reconsider your biases.”
DellaPosta also found that while “older, politically conservative” straight people were the ones most likely to be against same-sex marriage in 2006, they were also the ones most likely to change their views on homosexuality and gay rights upon gaining a gay or lesbian acquaintance in subsequent years.
Liz Owen, a spokesperson for PFLAG, the first and largest organization for LGBTQ people, their family and allies, said “the data bears out what we’ve known anecdotally.”
“Those who were previously opposed or ambivalent about gay and lesbian people can change their hearts and minds,” Owen said.
A big “takeaway” from this study, according to DellaPosta, is that “coming out works as a strategy for changing minds.” This philosophy dates back to at least the beginning of the gay rights movement of the ’60s and ’70s and one of its pioneering leaders, Harvey Milk, whom DellaPosta said inspired his research.
Milk, who was assassinated in San Francisco 40 years ago, famously encouraged gay people to come out in a letter that was only made public after his death.
“I would like to see every gay doctor come out, every gay lawyer, every gay architect come out, stand up and let that world know,” Milk wrote. “That would do more to end prejudice overnight than anybody would imagine. I urge them to do that, urge them to come out. Only that way will we start to achieve our rights.”
DellaPosta acknowledged that not everyone who has a gay acquaintance will have a change of heart when it comes to gay people and LGBTQ rights. But, he added, “broadly speaking, it works.”
Check out the original story here: NBC Out.
Tags: #BigBankChallenge #BohemianKissChallenge #EqualityActJapan #StopAsianHate 12 Dates of Christmas 2020 Olympics Aaron Schock Adam Castillejo Adam Rippon addiction ageism Aging AhTave AIDS Aime Wichtendal Alaska Alex Morse Almost Love America's Next Top Model American Medical Association Amy Coney Barrett Annise Parker Antes Que El Mundo Se Acabe Anti-Asian Violence Anti-LGBTQ ANTM anxiety Aptima HIV-1 Arizona Armie Hammer astrology At-home date Atlanta Atlanta Black Pride Atlanta GA Atlanta Nightlife Atlanta Pride Atlanta Pride Run Atlanta’s Queer History Bicycle Tour Austin Swink Austin Texas Austin TX Backpacks for the Street Basel Abou Hamrah BFI Flare Bisexual BLACK GAY MEN Black LGBTQ Atlanta Black Lives Matter Black Love Bohemian Rhapsody Boston Boston MA Boston Nightlife Brian Sims Broadway bully Bullying California Call Me By Your Name Canada Capital Pride Capitalism Cason Crane Celebrity News censorship Chemistry Chemsex Chicago Chicago IL Chris Evans Christian proselytizing Christianity Christmas Christmas commercial Christmas movie Christmas Movies Chucky Circus of Books civil unions Cody McCook Colorado Comedy coming out commentary compatibility Confidence Congress conspiracy theory Conversion therapy CoronaVirus Court Vox COVID COVID-19 Covid-19 vaccine Cubbyhole NYC daddy Dallas Dallas Gay Bars Dallas Gayborhood Dallas Texas Danica Roem Daniel Harding Daniel Howell Date night dating dating advice Dating Apps Dating Red Flags dating rut dating tips DC Pride Dead to Me Denver Depression discrimination Disney Documentary Dolf Pasker Dolly Parton Domestic Violence Donald Trump Donna Price Drag Race drag racing Dustin Lance Black election Election 2020 Election Day Elite Employment Entertainment Entertainment news epidemic Fabio Fasoli Family family gatherings Film Finding True Love First Date First Date Etiquette first date ideas first date tips Flirting Tips Flirty Dancing Florida Fort Lauderdale Franklin Graham Freddie Mercury Garrett Clayton gay gay asian gay asian men Gay Atlanta Gay Austin Gay Bars NYC Gay beaches Gay Boston Gay Boston Nightlife Gay Chicago Gay Christmas Gay Couple Gay Couples Gay Culture Gay Dallas Gay Dallas Nightlife gay dating gay dating advice gay dating app gay dating apps Gay Dating Red Flags Gay Dating Solutions Gay Dating Tips Gay DC gay discrimination gay film Gay Florida Gay Fort Lauderdale Gay Health Gay Holiday Movie Gay Houston gay kiss Gay Love Advice gay marriage gay marriage proposal gay men Gay Miami gay midlife Gay Mountaineer Gay Movies Gay New York Gay nightlife Gay Nurse Gay NYC Gay Panic Gay Pride gay relationship advice gay relationship tips gay relationships Gay Santa Gay Scene gay seniors gay sex gay singles Gay Soldier Gay Travel Gay Twitter Gay Washington DC Gay Wedding gay weddings Gay Widower Gays Over COVID gaysian Gen Z Generation Z Georgia Gert Kasteel Ghosting GLAAD GOP Gorsuch Greater Houston LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce grindr Guy Vandenberg Gym Gays Haaz Sleiman Hallmark Halloween Hate Crime HBO Max Health HGVT HIV HIV prevention HIV stigma HIV treatment HIV vaccine HIV/AIDS hobbies Holi-date Holiday Film Holiday Movies Holidays Hollywood Holyoke Homophobia hooking up hookup hookup culture Hot Vax Summer House Hunters Houston Houston Texas Houston TX Hulu Ian Jordan Indya Moore Instagay Instagram intersex Intimacy Intimacy coach Iowa Iowa caucus isolation It's A Sin Jake Gyllenhaal James Bushe Japan Jaymes Vaughan Jayson Conner Jeffrey Newman Jennifer Tilly Jewish Jewish persecution Joe Biden Jonathan Bennett Josef Salvat Jussi-Pekka Kajaala Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg JVN Jwan Yosef Karamo Brown Kristine Stolakis Lady Gaga Lesbian lesbian couple Let It Snow LGBT LGBT Austin LGBT Travel Guide LGBT-Free Zones LGBTQ LGBTQ Asians LGBTQ Atlanta LGBTQ Austin LGBTQ Boston LGBTQ Chicago LGBTQ Dallas LGBTQ DC LGBTQ discrimination LGBTQ employees LGBTQ Family LGBTQ Film LGBTQ Film Festival LGBTQ Films LGBTQ flag LGBTQ Fort Lauderdale LGBTQ Health LGBTQ History LGBTQ Houston LGBTQ Miami LGBTQ movies LGBTQ New York LGBTQ nightlife LGBTQ NYC LGBTQ Pride LGBTQ retirees LGBTQ retirement LGBTQ Rights LGBTQ Seniors LGBTQ Victory Institute LGBTQ Youth Life Lifetime Lifetime TV Network Linda Warren lockdown London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival loneliness Love Victor Love Wins Luke Evans Male Nurse Malik Brown marriage equality marriage proposal Marsha P Johnson Marvel Marvin Cortes Massachusetts mature gay dating mental health Mexico Miami Miami Beach Miami Beach Pride Miami Florida Miami nightlife Michael Cashman Michael Henry Middle-aged gay men midlife Modern Family mormon Mr. Right Muscle gays music video My Gay Match NASCAR National Coming Out Day Nationwide Conversion Therapy Ban Neil Gorsuch Netflix Netflix Special Nevada New Year's Resolution New York New York City Nonbinary North Dakota Northern Ute tribe Norway Nurse Appreciation Week NYC NYC Events NYC Pride NYC Pride 2021 Oak Lawn Obergefell v. Hodges older gay man Omander Omar Ayuso One True Pairing online dating online dating apps online dating tips online gay dating Online trolls Open Relationship Operation Hyacinth OTP Outfest Outfest LA 2021 Outfest Los Angeles Pan-African Pride pandemic Paper Moons Pat Robertson Pennsylvania Perez Hilton personality Personality Matching personality type Pete Buttigieg Pink Capitalism Poland Politics polyamorous polyamorous relationship polyamorous relationships Pope Francis Pose power bottom Pray Away PrEP pride Pride 2021 Pride Afrique Pride Flag Pride Month Prince Harry profile pic Puerto Vallarta quarantine Queer eye Queer Film Queer Films Queer Holiday Movies Queer Lawmakers Queer Love Story Queer Santa Queer Youth racism Rafa Olarra Rainbow Wave red flags Reddit Relationship relationship advice Relationship Tips relationships religion Rep. Andy Biggs Republican retirement Ricky Martin rom-com Romantic Comedy Ryan Murphy Ryan O’Connell Samaritan’s Purse same sex marriage Same Sex Relationships Same Sex Wedding Same-Sex Couples Same-Sex Kiss same-sex marriage same-sex marriage ban Santa Claus Schitt’s Creek Score Miami Score Nightclub Scott Evans Scott Wiener Section 28 self isolation self-care Senior Gay Dating Senior Gay Men senior gays Senior Prom Seven Summits sex Sex and Intimacy Sex Education sex life sexual identity sexual preference sexual racism sexuality short film Shy Gay Guys Single All the Way single gay man Single Gay Men Single Gays Single Young Gays social distancing social isolation social media Social Security Somerville South Florida sports Stonewall Stonewall Riots straight men Super Bowl ads Super Bowl commercials Super Bowl LIV Supreme Court Switzerland Syfy Syria Tan France Television Tennessee The Boys in the Band The Center on Colfax The Christmas Setup The Eternals The First The Thing About Harry Threesome throuple TikTok Tom Daley toxic gay relationship toxic masculinity toxic relationships Transgender Travel Travis Shumake true love Trump administration Turner Free TV series Tweets Twitter Unconditional Love United Methodist Church US economy US Supreme Court Valentine's day viral news viral video Virginia Washington DC Web Series Wedding When Harry met Santa Workplace workplace discrimination World AIDS Day World Pride Young Gay Guys young gay men Youth YouTube