By Alexandra Temblador
Fox’s new show Empire is attracting a lot of attention. The characters and their scheming ways have caught audiences so much that the number of viewers has risen every week since its premiere. Last week’s episode rose to 11.1 million same-day viewers. However what has most people talking is one of the main threads of the show: the drama created due to Lucious Lyon’s (Terrence Howard) disdain for his homosexual son’s sexuality.
This particular story line has been discussed in a variety of ways. For instance, it has been praised for how it represents many gay men, not the stereotypical flamboyant character that’s been represented in TV and film before. Or for how it takes a look at gay musicians in the entertainment industry, specifically in hip-hop, and lastly, the intent by its director Lee Daniels to expose homophobia, specifically in the black community. This last discussion brings up a more interesting question: does acceptance of homosexuality differ across racial and ethnic communities and how?
Currently, about 51% of Americans are supportive of marriage equality. But who are these fifty-one percent? Politically, more democrats and independents favor gay marriage than Republicans as do women than men. Younger generations accept gay marriage more than those 68 and older. Fifty-two percent of Americans support gay and lesbian couples adopting children. And most Americans favor gay and lesbians serving openly in the military. Social acceptance can be broken down by age, gender, and political affiliation and now by race and ethnicity:
It seems Latino Americans are the most accepting of homosexuality. Fifty-four percent support gay marriage, 64% support civil unions, 83% support anti-discrimination laws that would protect gay and lesbians, and 74% support gays and lesbians openly serving in the military. What’s notable is that a Latino American’s religion and clergy are very influential to their social acceptance of homosexuality. Those with clergy who are anti-gay are less likely to support gay marriage. Protestant Latinos are more likely than Catholic, agnostic, atheist Latinos to believe homosexuality is a sin. What’s even more interesting is that the majority of Latino Americans, whether born in America or abroad, accept homosexuality. Fifty-three percent of foreign-born Latinos and 68% of second generation Latinos accept homosexuality.
Caucasian Americans are quite accepting of homosexuality as well. Currently, 53% of the white population supports same-sex marriage. White mainline Protestants and white Catholics are more likely than their counterparts to be accepting of marriage equality. However, 47% of white Americans see homosexual behavior as a sin.
In 2014, a picture on Instagram of two gay black men getting their children ready for school went viral and a lot of criticism ensued over the fact that a gay black couple were raising children together. Homosexuality is not accepted as much in African American communities. Only 42% support gay marriage, a surprising number considering African Americans make up the largest percentage of LGBT in America. Although more odd is that a majority (6 in 10) believe wedding businesses should not be allowed to discriminate or refuse service toward gay and lesbian couples. Seventy percent also believe homosexuality is a sin and most black Protestants (51%) say that homosexuality should be discouraged.
There seems to be a consensus among many about the reasons for homophobia or non-acceptance of homosexuality in the black community. Many cite religion, the need to maintain stereotypical gender roles, and the importance of masculinity.
About 53% of Asian Americans believe that homosexuality should be accepted in society. The majority of Asian Americans born in the U.S. accept homosexuality while those that were born outside of the U.S. do not. Views differ between the different groups of Asian Americans. Japanese and Filipino Americans have the highest rate of acceptance of homosexuality (6-in-10) while Korean Americans are least accepting (only about 40%). Chinese Americans born in the U.S. accept homosexuality more so than those born outside of the U.S. Similarly, Buddhist and Hindu Asian American practitioners are more accepting than those who are Protestant or evangelical.
However, what is most interesting about Asian American acceptance of homosexuality is certain social and linguistic barriers that it must cross. Many Asian American cultures have the practice of not discussing “one’s problems” which make homosexuality a topic (among many others) that is not discussed within families. Similarly, it is difficult to even linguistically discuss homosexuality in many Asian languages since second generations Asian Americans don’t know what words to use and those they do know are considered offensive slurs.
Ten Native American tribes allow same-sex marriages. As federally recognized sovereign nations they have the ability to make gay marriage legal within their tribes regardless of their state’s marriage equality status. Despite this, some tribes still oppose gay marriage such as the Cherokee and Navajo tribes which are two of the largest in the nation. Still Native American tribes have historically been more accepting of homosexuality by highly respecting those they considered “two-spirit”, androgynous men and women or feminine men or masculine women married to the same gender. These individuals were honored for having two spirits, both a man and a woman’s spirit and were sometimes placed in important positions such as teachers or religious leaders.
Unfortunately not a lot of statistical data has been gathered concerning Arab Americans and their views on homosexuality within the past five years. Although there are personal accounts that explain how Arab Americans don’t have a very open policy of discussing homosexuality and that conservative Muslims are less likely to support homosexuality.
Despite the research presented here it is important to remember that many people support and accept homosexuality and the numbers are rising every day. There are many people in the black community like Lee Daniels trying to bring homosexuality and race issues forward through TV and film. There are many Asian Americans who are desperately trying to teach the older generations what it means to be homosexual. Although race has been something that has separated us in American history, it has the ability to be something that unites us in the social acceptance of homosexuality.