March 17, 2005

Prof Argues Gays More Accepted

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Prof. Ritch Savin-Williams, human development, talked about his new book, The New Gay Teenager, to a group of students, faculty, staff and Ithaca residents yesterday afternoon on the second floor of the Mann Library Addition.

Savin-Williams talked about the prominence of homosexuality in the media today, naming popular mainstream television shows, magazines and news features in which homosexual themes or homosexual people play a major part. For example, the first publicized baby born in 2003 had two women for parents. Savin-Williams also mentioned that the media has stopped censoring and, in fact, highlights lesbian kissing.

“I can see why religious people and those with objections to gay relations are upset — they’re losing,” Savin-Williams said.

Savin-Williams focused much of his talk on the large generation gap among the same-sex attracted population. He feels that, in contrast to the small generational differences in racism and sexism, sexual minorities have been very successful in their integration into society.

Speaking to the students in the room, Savin-Williams said, “There have been tremendous advances since you were [in high school].”

In a survey of high school students in the 2000-2001 school year, for example, 67 percent of those surveyed said that gay marriage should be legalized and 85 percent said that sexual minorities should be accepted by society. These figures strongly conflict with the opinions of the voting population.

Moreover, Savin-Williams’s statistics show that sexual minority youths feel they are harassed by about five percent of their peers, basically the same five percent who bully everyone.

Savin-Williams also mentioned said that it was difficult to generalize past research with today’s youth as many young people are refusing to identify as homosexual because sexuality is only part of who they are. Savin-Williams calls this the “disappearance of the gay teenager.”

“Today’s teenagers are more at ease with homosexuality — and with a more flexible and shifting view of human sexuality in general — than their parents’ and grandparents’ generation,” said Prof. Meredith Small, anthropology.

Savin-Williams brought up the concept of the “gay and lesbian prom”, saying that as quickly as it became popular, it became pass