Since the making of Philadelphia, Will and Grace, Queer as Folk, and The L-Word, gay roles have become less unusual in film and TV. The number of straight people playing wildly lauded roles where the character is gay or vice versa seems to corroborate my agents' contention that any stigma these roles may once have had has disappeared. Tom Hanks, Neil Patrick Harris, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Portia De Rossi, Heath Ledger, Ian McKellen, Michael K. Williams, Cynthia Nixon, Eric McCormack, Ving Rhames, Sean Penn, Michael C. Hall, Wesley Snipes, John Leguizamo, and so on.
While there is no ready tool or survey to measure homophobia or its absence within Hollywood, it seems that I can't blame my own discomfort with the Logo commercial on the prejudices of others. ***
If you ever want to feel really wretched about what a big jerk you are, there are worse ways to do it than logging onto Harvard's Project Implicit. Psychologists at Harvard created a series of tests that measure your reaction time when you associate positive and negative concepts with different social groups. The results give you an indication of how racist or sexist or agist or generally prejudiced you are on a subconscious level.
My implicit association scores tell me that I have a moderate subconscious preference for lighter skinned people (like 27 percent of all test takers, 70 percent of whom show a slight, moderate, or strong automatic preference for lighter skin). I also moderately prefer young people to old people (like 29 percent of all test takers; 80 percent prefer young people to old). And I moderately prefer straight people to gay people (like 27 percent of test takers; 68 percent show some preference for straight people.)
I take some solace in the fact that my preferences are only moderate. But even if it's temperate about it, my subconscious is essentially racist, agist, and homophobic. It is the backwater redneck of my brain. And, apparently, I'm prejudiced against backwater rednecks.***
My uncle spent 20 years of Christmases leaving his partner at home while he visited my grandparents. He pretended to be single. At my grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary, my grandfather tried to introduce my uncle to single women. My uncle came out of the closet only a few years before my grandfather died. There were tense days, but then he was accepted.***
Christianity imagines the period leading up to Christmas as one of great joy. It encourages us to offer good will towards men, which is a start, but it seems to me that the Jews have it right to place the emphasis of Yom Kippur, their big holiday, on just apologizing.
The essential, uncomfortable, flaw with all the progress on gay rights is that even after legislation is passed and everyone's rights are equal on paper—which still sometimes seems a long way off—there is the longer, trickier work of trying to divest each person of the ugly human prejudices we all inherited when we were born.