The word by Sheila

Over the past couple of months, we’ve seen a variety of news items relevant to the status of gay, lesbian, bi & trans people. France and Ireland moved closer to the recognition of same-sex marriage. Anderson Cooper came out (much to the surprise of absolutely no one). In his decorous and moving statement, he acknowledged the importance and significance of that action, saying:

“I’ve also been reminded recently that while as a society we are moving toward greater inclusion and equality for all people. The tide of history only advances when people make themselves fully visible.”

The reason I say this battle is over however isn’t because yet another celebrity has decided that it is safe to be honest, and it isn’t because increasing numbers of Western nations have decided that gay lesbian, bi & trans citizens are deserving of equal treatment by their governments. It is because Anderson Cooper’s observation about visibility is exactly right, and because that visibility — with its welcome, everyday humdrum, taken-for-granted nature — is increasingly part and parcel of American culture and experience.

My husband and I watched Wheel of Fortune most nights after dinner. (Hey we’re old!) Last week, when Pat Sajak asked a contestant if he was married, the young man said “Yes, to my wonderful husband Garrett for seven years.” No one raised an eyebrow. You don’t get more middle-American than Wheel of Fortune.

I’ve previously noticed the presence of numerous gay and lesbian couples on HGTV — couples whose family rooms are redecorated or kitchens remodeled, all without comment or any other indication that these same-sex couples are any different from the heterosexual folks whose god-awful bathroom was “crashed” the preceding week.

If you need further evidence that overt homophobia doesn’t sell even in a state like Indiana, take a look at the campaign commercials being aired by Mike Pence, the congressional culture warrior who wants to be their next Governor.

Talk about redecorating and rehabbing! As Pence tries to recreate himself into some¬one likable and someone residents might actually elect he is doing everything he can to suppress his real persona.

This hasn’t extended to taking any actual policy positions, mind you, but he certainly has abandoned the anti-gay rhetoric (along with reminders of his war on Planned Parenthood, immigrants and people who don’t share his brand of “Christian” beliefs) in favor of content-free paeans to “Hoosier values.”

This does not indicate a change of heart; it is a strategic decision. If Pence thought homophobia would help him get elected, he wouldn’t be soft-pedaling his own.

So I repeat: this battle is effectively over. There’s considerable mopping-up left to do, of course. Just as the civil rights movement didn’t eradicate racism, there’s plenty of anti-gay animus to confront: bullying of schoolchildren, legal discrimination and inequity; gay-bashing… I don’t mean to minimize the task ahead. But the cultural shift has occurred.

The law will follow.

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