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The control of persons perceived as dangerous is accomplished partly through public psychosocial discourse on AIDS. The reactions evoked by AIDS are determined not only by its biological nature as a disease but also by historically produced meanings attached to sex, health, and disease (Kaplan, 1990, pp. 337-351).
Purpose of the Study
The assumption is that the position of gays in American society has changed over the last three decades or so and that much of the militancy in the gay community has been successful enough to achieve greater acceptance, a reduction in discrimination (at least in most communities), and that the concerns that come to the fore today are different from those that were given most emphasis in the same community in the past. The purpose of this study is to compare points-of-view of the current generation of homosexuals and lesbians with those of the older generation to see what the different concerns may be and to consider why these changes have come to pass.
Research Questions and Hypotheses
Based on a reading of the literature and an analysis of the changes in the gay community over the last three decades or so, certain testable assumptions are made about the changes in concerns that will be seen among the people of the community:
1) AIDS will be a major concern where it was not thirty year ago.
2) Fear about exposure of the fact of being gay will have diminished but not disappeared.
3) Persistent concern about stable relationships and the discrimination against gay partners in terms of insurance, visiting partners in the hospital, inheritance, and so on.
4) Reduced concerns about health services for gay people as a group.
5) Increased willingness to live openly as a gay in the community.
6) Higher aspirations for success in business in the gay community.
7) Increased political involvement.
8) Increased support for gay marriage as a solution to certain issues.
The survey comparison will not show how many changes have taken place in American society or in the gay community itself, only how members of that community perceive their situation and what issues they believe remain of import to themselves and their neighbors. The fact that a group perceives an issue to be cogent does not necessarily mean that it is or that they are taking the right position with reference to it, but it is indicative of a concern that likely has some cause.
Of necessity, the gay community described herein refers to the openly gay community and not to those who are hiding their sexual preference. For one thing, only those who are open about being gay can be easily reached for such a survey, and of course this also means that what is being tested is the issues of importance to the openly gay community and not to those who do not admit their orientation. The latter might have very different concerns, one clearly being a concern with keeping their orientation secret from others. The younger generation is defined as those 30 years of age and below, while the older generation consists of those over 55. The difference is selected specifically to compare a pre-AIDS to a post-AIDS sample.
Importance of the Study
This study is important first for what it shows about the concerns raised in the homosexual and lesbian communities today. It is important as well to show how the current generation differs from the older generation, which might indicate differences in the problems faced, or differences in how the problems are viewed. The changes might suggest areas where progress is still to be made as well as areas where progress has been made, but it could take more data and more analysis to decide
Chapter Two: Review of Literature
Barak, Flavin, and Leighton (2001) note how anti-gay behavior extends even to the police and is a national problem, and they staste that police officers often tolerate the homophobic attitudes of other offices and of members of the public alike. Even as society began to give more rights to some groups in society, decisions such as that in the case of Bowers v. Hardwick upheld the constitutionality of a Georgia sodomy law that made homosexual sex a crime. Escobar (1988) considers this case and its consequences and sees an erosion of the right of privacy that is intolerable. Escobar finds a new reason to fear the tyranny of the majority in this decision:
the opinion makes clear that the right to privacy is quite narrow and may now be limited to those associations and behaviors of which the majority approve. Since homosexual sodomy is neither an approved association nor behavior, it is not entitled to protection (Escobar, 1988, pp. 161-162).
Justice Blackmun dissented and provided a different view:
It is revolting to have no better reason for a rule of law than that so it was laid down in the time of Henry IV. It is still more revolting if the grounds upon which it was laid down have vanished long since, and the rule simply persists from blind imitation of the past (Escobar, 1988, p. 162).
What is especially troubling about such decisions and about the entire issue of the criminalization of homosexual conduct is that homosexuals as a group are being treated inequitably, as something less than full persons with full rights. This one type of behavior is singled out as so offensive that society has a right to regulate even its private manifestation. Since that time, a rationale for regulating homosexual conduct has been found with the AIDS epidemic, and it is claimed that since homosexual activity is high-risk and spreads the AIDS virus, society has a reason to proscribe that activity. This rationale also falls apart when examined closely. For one thing, in spite of widespread belief to the contrary, AIDS is not a homosexual disease. It may have started in the homosexual population in this country because that population is at higher risk, but it is a sexually transmitted disease that is transmitted by heterosexuals as well as homosexuals. At present, we are being regaled on television and elsewhere with constant reminders that this is so as we are encouraged to use condoms to protect ourselves and are told not to engage in any high-risk sexual activity, of which homosexuality is only one manifestation. Again, though, society is not criminalizing heterosexual behavior because that is the behavior of the majority. Instead, society criminalizes homosexual behavior, the behavior of a minority.
AIDS was first identified in 1981, though transmission may go back further. Because of the fact that the disease was found in the gay community and was identified with homosexual sex first, the disease has been seen as a gay disease, though this is not the case at all. The health costs of AIDS are high, as is the cost in lives lost. There are many hidden costs which affect the public at large, including fear of the disease. Insurance costs have risen because of the number of cases and the expense involved in this type of case. Brostoff (1991) points out that AIDS is an expensive disease and that individual life insurance claims related to the disease reached $273.6 million in 1990, up from $221.7 million in 1989. Group life claims increased even more dramatically, from $253 million in 1989 to $374.8 million in 1990. A contrast is provided by looking at group accident and health claims, which actually dropped in 1990 from the $455 million of 1989 to $439.7 million.
A further cost can be seen in the large number of people affected by the AIDS virus because of friends and relatives who have been infected. Kanouse et al. (1991) report that 86% of their respondents personally knew someone, living or dead, who had AIDS, and among those who knew a least one such person, the median number was seven. This was from a sample of gay and bisexual men and showed that the epidemic has reached deeply into their lives. The researchers state that the experience of loss on such a scale raises the possibility of mental health consequences such as posttraumatic stress and depression for large numbers of men affected by the epidemic. The percentage of people in the population at large who have known at least one person with AIDS has also increased dramatically and is likely to continue to do so as the disease spreads into the heterosexual population.
Henry (1991) emphasizes that there is discrimination against people with AIDS from the industry and from business, calling it a case of redlining such people so that they cannot get any insurance and so that they are frozen out of company insurance plans if possible. Some companies have put ceilings as low as $5,000 on the amount they are willing to pay for treating the disease. Companies that self-insure their employees'…[continue]
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