The gay cousin: learning to accept gay rights

J Homosex. 2001;42(1):127-49. doi: 10.1300/j082v42n01_07.


In 1996-97 the author interviewed 73 civic leaders in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, on their attitudes toward gay rights. Twelve respondents opposed gay rights, 40 were moderately favorable to gay rights, and 21 were strongly favorable. Almost all favored basic equality rights (education, housing, employment), and only 10 said they had difficulty with gay sexuality. Twenty-seven volunteered a concern with gay "flaunting," but this did not mean that they necessarily opposed gay rights. Respondents had the most difficulty accepting the rights of gays to marry and to adopt children, although almost all of those who opposed gay marriages agreed with the idea of a legal domestic partnership. Most agreed that children should be taught about homosexuality in schools. These 73 civic leaders reflect the rapidly changing attitudes to gay rights in Canada as a whole. Their more favorable attitudes were often a consequence of learning that someone close to them was gay or lesbian. They also responded to changes in religious teaching. Most respondents, including recent immigrants, were influenced by the dominant Canadian values of equality, respect for privacy, and respect for diversity. In general, the process these civic leaders were undergoing was one of humanizing gays, no longer thinking of them as the Other. In their view, human rights for gays did not mean mere formal equality, but rather concern and respect for gays.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adoption / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Adult
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • Homosexuality / psychology*
  • Human Rights / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marriage / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Ontario
  • Politics*
  • Public Opinion*
  • Sex Education / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Social Values
  • Spouses / legislation & jurisprudence