LGBTQ: From Tolerance to Acceptance to Celebration

The LGBTQ community has been making very steady gains in terms of rights and other legal protections for decades in the U.S. as well as in other majority-white countries. As I have thought about the changes over my lifetime, it is truly astounding. I think that these changes can be understood as part of a change in non-LGBTQ people’s perceptions of the LGBTQ community over time in three stages: tolerance, acceptance, and celebration.

In the 1960s, I was totally unaware that gays and lesbians existed. In the 1970s, a guy brought an issue of Time magazine to school; on the cover was a man, with the quote, “I am gay.” By that time (high school), I had heard of gays. Then one day while I was reading a novel, I came across the word “lesbian,” and I had no idea what it meant. Moving on to the 1980s, I heard and read about mostly gay men in San Francisco and a couple of other cities being diagnosed with something that later became known as AIDS. Perhaps this is when the idea of tolerance began to take hold in the U.S., as some felt compassion for those whose bodies were being ravaged by this mysterious illness. However, the vast majority of people understood that homosexuality was a behavior of choice. In 1977, only 13% of Americans believed that people were born lesbian or gay, whereas in 2019 that figure had jumped to an astonishing 49%.

Although that huge percentage change tells us a lot about changes in people’s perceptions over four decades, it’s impossible to document the change from tolerance to acceptance; it’s been gradual, I suppose something like the change from one season to another. “Tolerance” means allowing something that you don’t like or agree with; “acceptance” means agreeing with or going along with. And some have written about “forced acceptance,” which is not true acceptance at all. However, eventually the push for more and more rights by the LGBTQ community causes backlash. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the public restroom issue; those who are transgender are allowed in some places to use the restroom of the gender that they identify with. Target became well-known for its “inclusive” policy established in 2016, but experienced backlash. As a result, Target installed more single-occupancy restrooms in all of its stores. However, in 2018 a man exposed himself to a girl in a Target women’s restroom. Target defended itself by saying that the man was drunk and that there was “no indication” he was transgender–which completely misses the point. These kinds of incidents will only increase as long as the push continues for people to be able to use the restroom of the gender they identify with. Eventually, the only solution will be single-occupancy restrooms only–not a bad thing, by the way, but very expensive.

Let’s move on to the third stage, celebration, which is easier to document. There are gay parades and festivals, for example, and since 2015, same-sex marriage has been legal in the U.S. It is at this third stage that there has been an especially noticeable amount of pushback against the LGBTQ community. To give one example: some non-LGBTQ people who have attended LGBTQ parades and festivals in order to show their support have reported their disgust at some of the behavior displayed at these events. When people are openly having sex in public, that’s a problem. And when law enforcement refuses to arrest such people, that’s an even bigger problem.

Another example is of Christian bakers who have refused to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples. The first well-documented one is of Jack Phillips, a baker in Colorado. The incident happened in 2012; six years later, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the baker. The second case is Melissa and Aaron Klein, bakers in Oregon in 2013; six years later, the Supreme Court again ruled in the bakers’ favor. In both cases, the Court ruled that the same-sex couples could not make the bakers do something that violated their religiously-informed consciences. While I was very happy about these rulings, what bothered me most was the fact that rather than just find a different baker to make their wedding cakes, these same-sex couples tried to punish those who refused to serve them in the first place.

Sometimes celebration is not at a gay parade, festival, or same-sex wedding, but more benignly at a workplace event. At a place where I used to work, there was a large gathering with various speakers. One of them chose to share that she now had a wife. The vast majority of people in the room spontaneously stood up and applauded; one man that I knew was one of the first up, like a jack-in-the-box. I and some of the other people in the room neither stood up nor applauded, but I felt the pressure.

I read something recently that pleasantly surprised me: acceptance of the LGBTQ community is declining, and most noticeably among young people ages 18-34. The percentage of young Americans who are comfortable with LGBT people in various situations dropped from 63% in 2016, to 53% in 2017, to 45% in 2018. These seven situations include learning that a family member is LGBT and having your child placed in a class with an LGBT teacher. Newsweek and some other media outlets blame the Trump administration, of course, but Nicole Russell of The Daily Signal writes this: “A better way to understand the survey results might be to look at how pushy, even aggressive, the LGBT movement has been in ensuring its rights supersede the rights of others. Whether it’s lawsuits for ‘bathroom rights’ or lawsuits against religious people who can’t in good conscience bake a certain cake, the LGBT community is not advocating ‘equal rights’ but supreme rights that marginalize everyone else’s. This aggressive push for LGBT ‘equality’ may actually be backfiring, causing even young people to feel discomfort and alienation.” Now that is wisdom!

And let’s not put our heads in the sand. As time marches on, there will be tremendous pressure on churches to compromise the truth by not speaking out against homosexuality and by hosting same-sex weddings. If you think that’s unlikely, just look at what is happening in the U.K.

By now, maybe you think I’m just a religious gay-hater. While there are many things that the LGBTQ community pushes for that make me angry, the truth is that I rejoice when one of them turns to Jesus Christ in saving faith and leaves their life of sin; that is an incredibly powerful testimony. Let’s continue to speak the truth in love.

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