Friday, June 25, 2010

Coming Out in Smalltown USA

As the expected smears & attacks against OUT IN THE SILENCE & LGBT People & Our Allies in Venango County finally come from Diane Gramley of the American 'Family' Assoc. of PA & Jane Richey of 'Christian' Radio Station WAWN / Lighthouse Ministries of Franklin (See item#7 in the June 23 Fishermens Net Newsletter), a recent review of OUT IN THE SILENCE in Christianity Today offers a more reasoned view of what's possible in the quest for fairness & equality for all.

It's time to stand up, speak out, and join with the courageous folks working for change in rural & small town America like never before!

Review of OUT IN THE SILENCE in Christianity Today: A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction:

Documentary Explores a Pennsylvania Town's Attitudes About Homosexuality

by Mark Moring, June 21, 2010:

When Joe Wilson got married, he put an announcement in his hometown newspaper in Oil City, Pennsylvania. Nothing unusual about that, except that Wilson had married another man--and a picture of the two of them appeared in the paper. Angry, even hateful, letters to the editor poured in; one said that it would've been better for Wilson not to have been born. Wilson responded not in anger himself, but by revisiting his hometown, with his partner and a couple of camcorders, to look into the town's attitudes.

The result is Out in the Silence, a 65-minute documentary that ends up following four main subplots in Oil City. First, a gay teen who was verbally and physically abused at the local high school, and the quest that he and his mother take to confront those attitudes and the school district's refusal to make things right. Second, a lesbian couple that buys a crumbling downtown art-deco theater and renovates it into a functioning civic showcase again. Third, a woman representing the American Family Association who seems to be on a crusade against gays, more anxious to speak out against their "agenda" to take the time to meet or listen to any of them.

Fourth -- and likely most interesting to CT readers -- a local Christian pastor and his wife who had written one of the letters to the editor decrying homosexuality, only to later show tolerance and love toward the filmmakers as they got to know them in the months ahead. The pastor didn't compromise his biblical beliefs at all; he continues to believe that homosexuality is a sin. But, for the first time in his life, he actually gets two know gay people, and by the end of the film is calling them friends. There's some interesting dialogue between the two "sides" as their unlikely friendship unfolds throughout the film. It's really a Christlike response from the pastor.

Though the film is made by two gay men, it doesn't seek to promote a "gay agenda" or to stereotype the "religious right." It's simply a matter of trying to understand attitudes in small-town America. The filmmakers end up advocating for the teenager to the school board and in a civil rights lawsuit, and the local school board ends up admitting they should've done more to help the boy who was abused; they incorporate staff training as a result. Despite some initial opposition, the two women end up re-opening the theater to a warm reception of both gays and straights. The AFA rep never changes, and refuses to look the gay men in the eye or even have a conversation with them. And the pastor and his wife seem glad to have made new friends, though they clearly disagree with their lifestyle.

The film is showing at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York today, followed by broadcast on New York's two largest public television stations, WLIW (June 26, 3 p.m. ET) and WNET (June 27, 11:30 p.m. ET). For more on the film, click here. Watch the trailer here:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Oil City Urged To Adopt Human Rights Policy

Community also asked to embrace ‘Out in the Silence’ film

By Judith O. Etzel for The Derrick:

Oil City Council has been asked to embrace a film that explores tolerance in small American communities, specifically Oil City and Franklin, and recognize it as a major marketing tool for the community.

At the same time, local resident George Cooley urged the city to adopt a formal human rights policy and create a city events office to promote the arts and community activities.

Cooley, a West Second Street resident who operates an Internet business in his home and is an active member of the Oil City Arts Council, took the city to task for ignoring what he believes is a great opportunity to promote itself via the film “Out in the Silence.”

The award-winning 2009 “Out in the Silence” documentary tells the story of a gay high school student and explores small-town reaction to same-sex marriage. The film’s director is Joe Wilson, an Oil City native whose 2004 marriage to his partner, Dean Hamer, was announced in The Derrick. The announcement stirred controversy in the community and eventually led to the film that tells the story of a gay Franklin student who came out to his classmates and faced discrimination.

The film, supported by the Sundance Institute, the Pennsylvania Public Television Network and Penn State Pubic Broadcasting, also explores various aspects of the Oil City and Franklin area as the Wilson tries to connect with church and community leaders who are strongly opposed to homosexuality and finds others who are supportive.

Last month, the American Library Association reviewed “Out in the Silence” and recommended it for all viewers, noting “it deserves a place in all library collections, particularly those libraries serving small and rural communities.”

Noteworthy ‘art’

The film, said Cooley, “may be the most successful art project to ever come from Oil City ... (and) is a great public relations tool for Oil City” as it lobbies to bill itself as a community trumpeting its arts revitalization successes.

“Positive energy developed by this movie for our town is priceless, and much larger communities would pay a great deal for what we are getting for free,” Cooley told council. “Unfortunately, Oil City seems to have all but ignored this great opportunity.”

In describing Wilson and his film as supporting a movement “for fairness, equality and human rights,” Cooley said the arts council intends to recognize Wilson for his art and invite him to show the film in Oil City. There have been two recent showings — one private and one public — in the city.

In urging city council to “grab ahold of this opportunity,” Cooley suggested the city should honor Wilson in a “key to the city kind of recognition.”

Wilson’s message on the need to safeguard human rights should also be incorporated into Oil City’s organizational framework, said Cooley. He recommended council adopt a “statement of fairness, equality and human rights for all people” and create an ordinance to that effect.

Finally, Oil City should create an events office that would coordinate community activities. The new department should include a film office to coincide with the “Out in the Silence” film fame as well as the region’s Digital Film Festival and other local video projects. Initially, the events coordinator could be the city manager, said Cooley.

Mayor Sonja Hawkins told Cooley she and other city and school district representatives met with Wilson prior to a film showing here. Noting they had “a great conversation,” Hawkins suggested council should talk further about Cooley’s proposal.

Hiring an events coordinator would be fantastic, said council member Lee Mehlburger.

That was tempered by caution offered by council member John Bartlett.

“We share some of your desires,” Bartlett said to Cooley. “But, we face the reality of how to pay for it.”

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Daring to Be Gay in Small Town USA

Film Review of OUT IN THE SILENCE by Amanda Bransford for the IPS News Agency:

NEW YORK, Jun 21, 2010 (IPS) - Washington, D.C. residents Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer weren't expecting to become filmmakers when they placed an announcement of their wedding in Wilson's hometown newspaper.

A similar announcement they had placed in the New York Times garnered only congratulations, but in Oil City, Pennsylvania, the reception to a same-sex wedding was not so warm.

"It was a fascinating contrast," said Wilson, when the Oil City paper received angry letters instead of good wishes.

Wilson went through high school closeted and had long felt unwelcome in his hometown, so the chilly reception to his happy news was no great surprise.

Then Wilson received something that did surprise him: a letter from Kathy Springer, the mother of CJ, a gay Oil City teenager who had been harassed so badly in his public school that he had quit in favour of home schooling and barely left the house.

The school board refused to help CJ, and his mother didn't know where to turn. "I was the only openly gay person she knew of," said Wilson.

The movement for gay rights has tended to focus on urban areas, said Wilson, and, though Wilson and Hamer had not made a film before, they wanted CJ's story to be told.

"We realised that if we wanted this documented, we should start filming," said Hamer.

Over the course of three years, the two men traveled frequently to Pennsylvania to shoot, eventually receiving a grant from the Sundance Institute.

In the process, Wilson and Hamer were struck by the silence in which GLBT people in small town U.S.A. are forced to live. CJ had become a target by daring to break that silence and come out in high school – something no one did when Wilson was growing up in Oil City.

The increasing visibility of GLBT people has had mixed results for teenagers like CJ, said Hamer.

"The good side is that kids like CJ know that they're not the only gay person in the world, but the bad side is that there's been a backlash as a result," he said. "It's made bullying even worse as a way to tag kids that are gay."

Oil City's vocal conservative Christian community was making life especially difficult for GLBT residents.

Hamer says while that the anti-gay activists in Oil City may have seemed like an extreme fringe group, "They have power because no one wants to make them upset."

Despite the efforts of these activists, Wilson and Hamer were surprised to find an accepting community in Oil City that Wilson, growing up in silence himself, had overlooked.

"I was terrified of beginning to understand who I was," said Wilson of his adolescence. "The general dominant culture said that this was not good, and I was not seeking a community out."

Returning to document CJ's story, though, Wilson, along with his husband, forges relationships with lesbian neighbours he never knew he had who are facing their own struggles. He is even able to find common ground with some of those who had complained about the wedding announcement.

"It changed my perception of my home town," Wilson said.

Wilson and Hamer have now become unlikely ambassadors of a sort for struggling Oil City.

They took their finished film to the city council, said Wilson, and told them, "Either you can deny this all happened, or look at it as a tool to show what a great place Oil City is becoming. They did the latter."

A subsequent screening at the local community college sold out, and the filmmakers have brought "Out in the Silence" to other towns in hope that Oil City's progress can serve as a model.

"This is not just film for film's sake," said Hamer. "It's a powerful tool for community activism."

Human Rights Watch expressed interest while Wilson and Hamer were working on the project, and the film will screen Jun. 21-23 at the Film Society of Lincoln Centre as part of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival.

"Human Rights Watch saw that this isn't just a domestic political issue as people sometimes see gay rights. It's tied into the global struggle for equality," said Wilson.

OUT IN THE SILENCE also screens in the Tribeca Cinemas: Doc Series on June 28.

Friday, June 18, 2010


OUT IN THE SILENCE, a documentary about courageous local residents confronting homophobia and the limitations of religion, tradition and the status quo in their conservative small town in the hills of western Pennsylvania, Venango County's Oil City, featured in an ABC News segment on the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

U.S. Evangelicals Promote Genocide Against LGBT People

The Struggle Abroad and at Home: Ugandan Bishop Senyonjo Is Fighting for LGBT Rights

By Andrea Shorter, Deputy Director of Marriage and Coalitions, Equality California

Bishop Christopher Senyonjo is a hero. The 78-year-old civil rights leader from Uganda has paid a heavy price for speaking out for equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Bishop Senyonjo is the religious leader in Uganda who is leading the fight against the country’s proposed "Kill the Gays" bill, which would allow people with previous convictions for homosexuality and people who are HIV positive to be sentenced to death. Created at the encouragement of radical right-wing Christian leaders from the U.S., including author Scott Lively and Exodus International board member Don Schmierer, this hate-driven bill authorizes the country to engage in genocide of its LGBT citizens. "With the introduction of this new bill," the Bishop has said, "there is a lot of fear what might happen... That is why we are talking against this bill. It is a draconian bill. Inhuman."

Why are U.S. evangelicals crossing the Atlantic Ocean to try to pass anti-LGBT policies? They know that they cannot imprison LGBT people in the United States, so they are trying to spark a movement in places where our communities are less supported and less able to fight back. The LGBT movement around the globe depends on us all rallying to defeat this bill.

The Bishop has been touring internationally to raise awareness of the repression of LGBT people in his home country. He met with White House officials last week, along with Right Reverend Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the first openly gay bishop in a major Christian denomination. Both men are faith allies in the movement for LGBT equality and provide an important link between religion and LGBT issues. With U.S. anti-LGBT activists encouraging prejudice and hate abroad, Bishop Senyonjo’s work in the U.S. encourages LGBT supporters to also get involved in this crisis and stop the hate.

At the end of May, the Bishop’s tour brought him to the LGBT Community Center in San Francisco, where an ecstatic audience greeted him with a standing ovation the very moment he entered the room. He shared his story of advocacy for Uganda’s LGBT community, a story that started more than ten years ago when he began to act as a counselor for people questioning or struggling with their sexual orientation. Hearing the stories of many people who were afraid and often under threats of violence for simply being who they are, he became a fierce advocate and straight ally. He helped to found an LGBT community center and began to speak out for equal rights.

During his visit to San Francisco, Bishop Senyonjo told stories of harassment and rejection that he has faced simply for being an LGBT ally. "When I was passing along the road, people said oh, there is that man, that man supports something which is wrong," he told the crowd at the Center. "One time, one old man, I was talking to him, I said, I know these people are also loved by God. He said, ‘what do you mean by that?’ He slapped me."

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Tipping Point on LGBT Equality Has Arrived

by Wayne Besen for Truth Wins Out:

A couple of week ago I wrote, “The war over gay rights in America and other modern nations has been largely won. Too many people have come out of the closet and will never go back in for the clock to be turned back.”

This trend towards acceptance has only accelerated since my column and may have reached a tipping point. New York Times columnist Charles Blow wrote about a new Gallup Poll that found, for the first time, the percentage of Americans who perceive “gay and lesbian relations” as morally acceptable has crossed the 50 percent mark. Also, for the first time, the percentage of men who hold that view is greater than the percentage of women who do.

Blow attributes these advancements to LGBT people coming out and the realization that it is primarily weirdoes and socially stunted hypocrites who are obsessed or threatened by homosexuality.

“Virulent homophobes are increasingly being exposed for engaging in homosexuality,” wrote Blow. “Many heterosexual men see this, and they don’t want to be associated with it. It’s like being antigay is becoming the old gay. Not cool.”

Blow is correct. Normal, healthy, functional heterosexuals do not become paranoid or fixated on homosexuals. It is primarily people with sexual hang-ups, extreme religious indoctrination or deep, dark secrets that are preoccupied and consumed by the sexual orientation of others.

Of course, this does not mean that all supporters of civil rights for LGBT people are comfortable with the idea of gay sex. The good news is they don’t have to be. While speaking across the nation I have found an easy way of diffusing this issue. I ask the crowd to look at people they assume are heterosexual in the audience. Then, I ask if they would want to see all of the people they stared at having sexual intercourse.

The answer is inevitably and resoundingly, “No”. Then, I simply make the point that there are many people, heterosexual and homosexual, they would not want to witness in bed. And, they never have to unless they elect to do so – making any objections in terms of the “ick” factor moot. As simple as this sounds, it works and audiences “get it.”

Adding momentum to the LGBT struggle for equality is a cute McDonald’s television commercial in France that dealt with a teenager who had not yet told his father he was gay. The message of the campaign is, “come as you are, just leave a little fatter.” Okay, I added the last part.

While such an ad is not likely to air in the United States anytime soon, it does not have to in order to have a positive impact. Thanks to the Internet and talk shows, millions of people will see the ad and associate the message with their beloved Golden Arches.

Speaking of the impact of social media, in Newsweek, Joshua Alston made the case that websites such as Facebook are accelerating the demise of the closet. He wrote about the, “painstaking labor that goes into being secretly gay in the age of information sharing.” His advice to a friend who was outed by a seemingly innocuous tweet: “if you want to be in the closet, you can’t be on Facebook and Twitter.”

Crucial to the sudden surge of success is the falling of ugly stereotypes, such as the old canard that LGBT people are a threat to children. This week, the research journal, Pediatrics, published a study by Nanette Gartrell, a professor of psychiatry at University of California, San Francisco and Henry Bos, a behavioral scientist at University of Amsterdam. The article discussed a landmark study that measured the long-term affects on children who were raised by lesbian parents.

“We simply expected to find no difference in psychological adjustment between adolescents reared in lesbian families and the normative sample of age-matched controls,” says Gartrell. “I was surprised to find that on some measures we found higher levels of [psychological] competency and lower levels of behavioral problems. It wasn’t something I anticipated.”

Finally, The Human Rights Campaign reports that Kaiser Permanente updated its Patients’ Bill of Rights to fully protect LGBT patients and their families from discrimination. These changes make Kaiser Permanente the first large health network to have a fully inclusive non-discrimination policy for LGBT people.

Sure, full legal equality may take two decades and the battle against bigotry will last forever. But, there is no denying that the LGBT movement is on the move like never before. The homophobes are finally the minority and appearing more secluded and deluded by the day. It’s not time to crack open a bottle of champagne, but feel free to treat your self to a cold beer and appreciate the progress.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

OUT IN THE SILENCE To Screen In The 2010 Human Rights Watch International Film Festival In New York - June 21, 22 & 23

NEW YORK – Now in its 21st year, the 2010 Human Rights Watch Film Festival — the world’s foremost showcase for films with a distinctive human rights theme — creates a forum for courageous individuals on both sides of the lens to empower audiences with the knowledge that personal commitment can make a difference. A co-presentation of Human Rights Watch and The Film Society of Lincoln Center, the festival will run from June 10 to 24 at the Film Society’s Walter Reade Theater.

Thirty extraordinary works from 25 countries will be screened, 28 of which are New York premieres. A majority of the filmmakers will be on hand after the screenings to discuss their films with the audience.

“The Human Rights Watch Film Festival reflects the condition of the world we live in, including the top news events around the world,” said John Biaggi, the festival director. “No one is immune to the rippling effects when human rights are violated, whether here in our country or far away. It affects us all.”

This year’s festival is organized around three themes, beginning with Accountability and Justice. OUT IN THE SILENCE, screening on June 21, 22 & 23, delves into aspects of this theme by following three Americans caught up in a same-sex marriage controversy as they confront three of society’s most formidable forces—the church, the school system, and prevailing social norms.

The film captures the controversy that ensues when filmmaker Joe Wilson's same-sex wedding announcement is published in the newspaper of Oil City, the small Pennsylvania hometown he left long ago. Drawn back by a plea for help from the mother of a gay teen being tormented at school, Wilson's journey dramatically illustrates the challenges of negotiating the morally charged issue of sexual orientation and the potential for building bridges when people with differing opinions approach each other with openness and respect.

A Human Rights Watch Podcast of an interview with filmmakers Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer, along with HRW's Boris Dittrich, can be heard HERE.

More information about the film festival screenings can be found HERE.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Study: Children of Lesbians May Do Better Than Their Peers

from TIME Magazine:

The teen years are never the easiest for any family to navigate. But could they be even more challenging for children and parents in households headed by gay parents?

That is the question researchers explored in the first study ever to track children raised by lesbian parents, from birth to adolescence. Although previous studies have indicated that children with same-sex parents show no significant differences compared with children in heterosexual homes when it comes to social development and adjustment, many of these investigations involved children who were born to women in heterosexual marriages, who later divorced and came out as lesbians.
(See a photographic history of gay rights, from Stonewall to Prop 8.)

For their new study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, researchers Nanette Gartrell, a professor of psychiatry at University of California, San Francisco (and a law professor at University of California, Los Angeles), and Henry Bos, a behavioral scientist at University of Amsterdam, focused on what they call planned lesbian families — households in which the mothers identified themselves as lesbian at the time of artificial insemination.

Data on such families are sparse, but they are important for establishing whether a child's environment in a home with same-sex parents would be any more or less nurturing than one with a heterosexual couple.
(See a gay-rights timeline.)

The authors found that children raised by lesbian mothers — whether the mother was partnered or single — scored very similarly to children raised by heterosexual parents on measures of development and social behavior. These findings were expected, the authors said; however, they were surprised to discover that children in lesbian homes scored higher than kids in straight families on some psychological measures of self-esteem and confidence, did better academically and were less likely to have behavioral problems, such as rule-breaking and aggression.

"We simply expected to find no difference in psychological adjustment between adolescents reared in lesbian families and the normative sample of age-matched controls," says Gartrell. "I was surprised to find that on some measures we found higher levels of [psychological] competency and lower levels of behavioral problems. It wasn't something I anticipated."

In addition, children in same-sex-parent families whose mothers ended up separating, did as well as children in lesbian families in which the moms stayed together.

The data that Gartrell and Bos analyzed came from the U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS), begun in 1986. The authors included 154 women in 84 families who underwent artificial insemination to start a family; the parents agreed to answer questions about their children's social skills, academic performance and behavior at five follow-up times over the 17-year study period. Children in the families were also interviewed by researchers at age 10, and were then asked at age 17 to complete an online questionnaire, which included queries about the teens' activities, their social lives, feelings of anxiety or depression and behavior.

Not surprisingly, the researchers found that 41% of children reported having endured some teasing, ostracism or discrimination related to their being raised by same-sex parents. But Gartrell and Bos could find no differences on psychological adjustment tests between these children and those in a group of matched controls. At age 10, children reporting discrimination did exhibit more signs of psychological stress than their peers, but by age 17, these feelings had dissipated. "Obviously there are some factors that may include family support and changes in education about appreciation for diversity that may be helping young people to come to a better place despite these experiences," says Gartrell.

It's not clear exactly why children of lesbian mothers tend to do better than those in heterosexual families on certain measures. But after studying gay and lesbian families for 24 years, Gartrell has some theories. "They are very involved in their children's lives," she says of the lesbian parents. "And that is a great recipe for healthy outcomes for children. Being present, having good communication, being there in their schools, finding out what is going on in their schools and various aspects of the children's lives is very, very important."

Although such active involvement isn't unique to lesbian households, Gartrell notes that same-sex mothers tend to make that kind of parenting more of a priority. Because their children are more likely to experience discrimination and stigmatization as a result of their family circumstances, these mothers can be more likely to broach complicated topics, such as sexuality and diversity and tolerance, with their children early on. Having such a foundation may help to give these children more confidence and maturity in dealing with social differences and prejudices as they get older.

Because the research is ongoing, Gartrell hopes to test some of these theories with additional studies. She is also hoping to collect more data on gay father households; gay fatherhood is less common than lesbian motherhood because of the high costs — of surrogacy or adoption — that gay couples necessarily face in order to start a family.

Monday, June 7, 2010

So, am I proud to be gay?

Gay Pride - A Message from Betty Hill, Ex. Dir. of Pittsburgh's Persad Center, the nation’s second oldest licensed counseling center specifically created to serve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community.

During the month of June in the Pittsburgh region, we will celebrate Gay Pride. There are many events scheduled that will bring visibility to the GLBT community. Persad will be participating in an Advocacy Rally, Pride in the Streets, the Pride March and Pride Fest. In addition, Persad is sponsoring several youth activities including a dance and a picnic. A complete list of activities planned can be found at

So, am I proud to be gay? It seems like a strange question. It’s like asking if I’m proud to have blue eyes. It’s really not an option – it is simply a given. I am gay. It wasn’t something I planned. In some religious traditions, pride is a sin. It is right up there with arrogance and other forms of narcissism. So why do we celebrate Pride?

Pride is to counter all of the messages of Shame that are put upon the GLBT community. It says we will not accept Shame and Discrimination. Gay Pride is an effort to combat all of the ways that the community is made invisible and excluded. This year’s Pride theme is “You Belong”. It demonstrates the strengths and positive qualities of the community and acknowledges our significant contributions in the world.

I AM proud of our local GLBT community. I’m proud of our friends at Delta Foundation who have made Pride a significant event in the City of Pittsburgh and who have recently begun a political advocacy project that will help bring about change. I’m proud of our Gay and Lesbian Community Center that moved this year into downtown space that provides a safe place for groups to meet. I’m proud of our youth from Dreams of Hope who are moving audiences to realize the impact of discrimination. I’m proud that there are a variety of social groups that bring the community together like G2H2, Lez Liquors, Prime Timers, the bowling league and other sports groups, and GLEC. I’m proud of GLSEN and their push to teach students and teachers to make schools safe for everyone – this year providing more training programs than ever. I’m proud of the Initiative for Transgender Leadership for creating a significant internship experience for transgender youth. And, of course, I’m proud of Persad Center and our work to improve the well being of our community.

There’s a lot of positive energy and talented GLBT people working in Western Pennsylvania and making a difference. Working together we can put an end to ignorance, discrimination and shame. Happy Pride!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Gay? Whatever Dude

For the first time, the percentage of Americans who perceive “gay and lesbian relations” as morally acceptable has crossed the 50 percent mark. Also for the first time, the percentage of men who hold that view is greater than the percentage of women who do.

And This Is What Scares The Hell Out Of Venango County's Extremist Homophobes

The Times They May Be A Changin' ... But We've Still Got Lots Of Work To Do To Vanquish The Harm Caused By The American Family Association Of Pennsylvania And "Christian" Radio Station WAWN Once And For ALL !!

by Charles Blow for the New York Times:

Last week, while many of us were distracted by the oil belching forth from the gulf floor and the president’s ham-handed attempts to demonstrate that he was sufficiently engaged and enraged, Gallup released a stunning, and little noticed, report on Americans’ evolving views of homosexuality. Allow me to enlighten:

1. For the first time, the percentage of Americans who perceive “gay and lesbian relations” as morally acceptable has crossed the 50 percent mark. (You have to love the fact that they still use the word “relations.” So quaint.)

2. Also for the first time, the percentage of men who hold that view is greater than the percentage of women who do.

3. This new alignment is being led by a dramatic change in attitudes among younger men, but older men’s perceptions also have eclipsed older women’s. While women’s views have stayed about the same over the past four years, the percentage of men ages 18 to 49 who perceived these “relations” as morally acceptable rose by 48 percent, and among men over 50, it rose by 26 percent.

I warned you: stunning.

There is no way to know for sure what’s driving such a radical change in men’s views on this issue because Gallup didn’t ask, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t speculate. To help me do so, I called Dr. Michael Kimmel, a professor of sociology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and the author or editor of more than 20 books on men and masculinity, and Professor Ritch Savin-Williams, the chairman of human development at Cornell University and the author of seven books, most of which deal with adolescent development and same-sex attraction.

Here are three theories:

1. The contact hypothesis. As more men openly acknowledge that they are gay, it becomes harder for men who are not gay to discriminate against them. And as that group of openly gay men becomes more varied — including athletes, celebrities and soldiers — many of the old, derisive stereotypes lose their purchase. To that point, a Gallup poll released last May found that people who said they personally knew someone who was gay or lesbian were more likely to be accepting of gay men and lesbians in general and more supportive of their issues.

2. Men may be becoming more egalitarian in general. As Dr. Kimmel put it: “Men have gotten increasingly comfortable with the presence of, and relative equality of, ‘the other,’ and we’re becoming more accustomed to it. And most men are finding that it has not been a disaster.” The expanding sense of acceptance likely began with the feminist and civil rights movements and is now being extended to the gay rights movement. Dr. Kimmel continued, “The dire predictions for diversity have not only not come true, but, in fact, they’ve been proved the other way.”

3. Virulent homophobes are increasingly being exposed for engaging in homosexuality. Think Ted Haggard, the once fervent antigay preacher and former leader of the National Association of Evangelicals, and his male prostitute. (This week, Haggard announced that he was starting a new “inclusive” church open to “gay, straight, bi, tall, short,” but no same-sex marriages. Not “God’s ideal.” Sorry.) Or George Rekers, the founding member of the Family Research Council, and his rent boy/luggage handler. Last week, the council claimed that repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” would lead to an explosion of “homosexual assaults” in which sleeping soldiers would be the victims of fondling and fellatio by gay predators. In fact, there is a growing body of research that supports the notion that homophobia in some men could be a reaction to their own homosexual impulses. Many heterosexual men see this, and they don’t want to be associated with it. It’s like being antigay is becoming the old gay. Not cool.

These sound plausible, but why aren’t women seeing the same enlightening effects as men? Professor Savin-Williams suggests that there may be a “ceiling effect,” that men are simply catching up to women, and there may be a level at which views top out. Interesting.

All of this is great news, but it doesn’t mean that all measures relating to acceptance of gay men and lesbians have changed to the same degree. People’s comfort with the “gay and lesbian” part of the equation is still greater than their comfort with the “relations” part — the idea versus the act — particularly when it comes to pairings of men.

As Professor Savin-Williams told me, there is still a higher aversive reaction to same-sex sexuality among men than among women.

For instance, in a February New York Times/CBS News poll, half of the respondents were asked if they favored letting “gay men and lesbians” serve in the military (which is still more than 85 percent male), and the other half were asked if they favored letting “homosexuals” serve. Those who got the “homosexual” question favored it at a rate that was 11 percentage points lower than those who got the “gay men and lesbians” question.

Part of the difference may be that “homosexual” is a bigger, more clinical word freighted with a lot of historical baggage. But just as likely is that the inclusion of the root word “sex” still raises an aversive response to the idea of, how shall I say, the architectural issues between two men. It is the point at which support for basic human rights cleaves from endorsement of behavior.

As for the aversion among men, it may be softening a bit. Professor Savin-Williams says that his current research reveals that the fastest-growing group along the sexuality continuum are men who self-identify as “mostly straight” as opposed to labels like “straight,” “gay” or “bisexual.” They acknowledge some level of attraction to other men even as they say that they probably wouldn’t act on it, but ... the right guy, the right day, a few beers and who knows. As the professor points out, you would never have heard that in years past.

All together now: stunning.

(I now return you to Day 46 of the oil spill where they finally may be making some progress.)