The Gay Divide

20141011_LDP001_0Originally published on economist.com

There was a teenager in Arizona in the 1970s who “could no more imagine longing to touch a woman than longing to touch a toaster”. But he convinced himself that he was not gay. Longing to be “normal”, he blamed his obsession with muscular men on envy of their good looks. It was not until he was 25 that he admitted the truth to himself—let alone other people. In 1996, he wrote a cover leader for The Economist in favour of same-sex marriage. He never thought it would happen during his lifetime. Yet now he is married to the man he loves and living in a Virginia suburb where few think this odd.

The change in attitudes to homosexuality in many countries—not just the West but also Latin America, China and other places—is one of the wonders of the world. Recently, America’s Supreme Court gave gay marriage another big boost, by rejecting several challenges to it; most Americans already live in states where gays can wed. But five countries still execute gay people: Iran hangs them; Saudi Arabia stones them. Gay sex is illegal in 78 countries, and a few have recently passed laws that make gay life even grimmer. The gay divide is one of the world’s widest. What caused it? And will tolerance eventually spread? Continue reading