It used to be all about tolerance. We wanted the straights to tolerate us and teach their children to be tolerant. Sort of like how you’re tolerant of a yapping dog or an old lady wearing too much perfume.
Somewhere in the last decade, though, being tolerated wasn’t enough and we switched to asking for acceptance.
But what does accepting someone as gay mean—accept like a compliment? Accepting it as a fact? As a fate (like terminal cancer)?
Sometimes we’re told we are accepted: Conservative Christians often promise they accept us, they just disagree with us. But their acceptance doesn’t come with the right to marry, to serve in the Army or to teach their children. So what’s it worth? Does it mean you let them live next door to you? Or does it mean you believe they and their values are equal to you in every way?
Even us gays have trouble accepting sometimes: We might promise Christian activists we’d never force them to perform a gay marriage if they didn’t want to, but how many cities have laws telling reception halls, florists, caterers and the like that they can’t turn us way?
And as the malicious words of bigots damage more and more young LGBT people, will we start insisting they embrace us?
Is there a hard-and-fast rule about acceptance or is it more a case-by-case definition? Or maybe it’s time for a new word again.