Sylvie Tissot presents her research findings about gay-friendliness in both New York City and Paris at a lecture Tuesday.

Nandita Mohan / Staff Photographer

Sylvie Tissot presents her research findings about gay-friendliness in both New York City and Paris at a lecture Tuesday.

September 26, 2017

Prof: Not All Gay People Are Accepted Equally

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Gay-friendliness is a norm that comes with its own presuppositions, said Prof. Sylvie Tissot, political science, University of Paris at her lecture Monday, reporting her findings from her studies on “gay friendliness” in New York and in Paris.

Tissot said she studied two neighborhoods in her research: Park Slope in Brooklyn and Le Marais in Paris — chosen for their historically liberal attitudes and notable friendliness toward gay marriage.

From the study, Tissot discovered that gay-friendliness tended to be found in the upper middle class, straight women, the college-educated and young people.

“The strongest correlation between gay friendliness and attitudes was age and sex,” Tissot said. “So, who is gay friendly? Women and younger people.”

The difference in attitudes was most striking across generations.

Among her sample, the oldest age brackets were the least gay-friendly. However, among 30- to 45-year-old individuals, it was “uncool to be un-gayfriendly.” For the youngest group, gay acceptance was a “non-issue.”

With this knowledge of growing acceptance across generations in both Park Slope and Le Marais, Tissot investigated why there were gay-friendly attitudes at those locations, interviewing upper middle class and self-defined straight residents of both neighborhoods across all age groups and genders.

Tissot focused her interviews on how individuals perceived the gay-friendliness of their communities.

When Tissot asked her subjects to explain why they had accepting attitudes, they attributed their friendliness to greater exposure to gay relationships and to education.

“If you are educated, if you had the chance to go to college, you have more of a chance to interact with people who are not like you,” one 50-year-old male interviewee had said.

In Le Marais, an affluent and highly gentrified area in Paris, respondents commonly said the underprivileged and largely-Muslim suburbs were the most homophobic.

Tissot said she could not prove this to be true, but rather said that this was such a dominant view that “it is common sense in France.”

While claiming gay-friendliness, the respondents defined their social identities in such a way that upheld their privileged status, Tissot argued, showing that homophobia has been replaced by another norm yet upheld by a different set of stereotypes.

Multiple audience members aired concerns about the sample size of Tissot’s study and were curious about the perceptions of communities that are not conventionally accepting, such as rural areas in France and the southern United States.

Tissot rationalized her methodology by explaining that her interviewees from these wealthier locations can serve as a controlled subset from which we can learn.

“It’s important to study the people in power,” she said. “The people who have managed to create this value of gay friendliness and succeeded in building a moral authority through this value.”

Tissot aims to contribute to the growing field of LGBT studies, but hopes that other researchers will expand the scope, even where acceptance and gay-friendliness seem commonplace.

“Acceptance is the norm,” Tissot said. “But acceptance does not mean the end of rejection. Homophobia has not disappeared. [However,] boundaries are changing between what is accepted and what is not.”

  • newyork1974

    The Catholic Church led the fight against gay marriage in France. So while I’m sure she’s right about Muslim communities, they are not the only ones. And obviously, university educated people are not necessarily upper middle class in either country, not at all. Additionally, there are plenty of upper middle class communities in the US where political and social opinions are sharply different from Park Slope or Manhattan’s Upper West Side, or the Marais in Paris. They vote Republican in such US districts, often for quite reactionary Republicans, apparently not much troubled (if at all) by the social attitudes of Vice President Pence and others.

    I didn’t hear her talk, but from what I learned from this article, I’m a little bewildered that she would limit her study the way she did, obeying and reinforcing another set of stereotypes.

    • George Glass

      Gee, I can’t wrap my mind around why people don’t regard gays who engage in unnatural acts, suffer from diseases (like HIV / AIDS) never before seen by man, have no children and no stake in the future, and live as materialistic hedonists as equals.

      Trying to compare the love between an Amish man and Amish woman with 10 children and the “love” between two gay men is insane.

      • newyork1974

        Good grief. Gays did not invent HIV/AIDS and the illness is unfortunately widespread in heterosexual communities. In fact, before gays were blamed, the blame was assigned to other easily targeted communities, first Haitians, later Africans — a little like syphilis, another venereal disease, known in England as “the French disease,” in France as “the Italian disease,” and of course there has recently been the inevitable attempt to blame Native Americans for it.

        We sometimes like to think that the attitude represented by George Glass has died away. A Supreme Court justice, Lewis Powell, who voted against equal rights for gays and said that he had never met any gays, came around to a position of at least some intelligence and knowledge when he learned that his clerk was gay.

        Professions of ignorance and professions of hatred were long seen by some closeted gays as a way to deflect suspicion; most have by now realized that nobody falls for it any more, and have adopted at least the pose of tolerance and learning. Obviously not everybody: gays (or people thought to be gay) continue to be beaten and killed simply for walking down the street, or massacred in a dance hall, by people who want to show that they aren’t gay. So we have a long way to go.

        By the way, people who have ten children do not necessarily have a stake in humanity’s or the world’s future. Certainly not any more than gay couples who adopt children and give them a loving family.