As a key term in the national conversation about gay rights and marriage for same-sex couples, the word acceptance is often assumed to have a universally embraced definition. Yet very different senses of the term show up in public discourse. For gay activists, acceptance means a total embrace of others’ humanity, including how they see their own identity, and how they express that in same-gendered relationships. Those individuals or institutions who reflect this approach are considered “accepting” or “affirming” or “welcoming” - versus those who do not share this approach (who would be considered, by this definition, NOT accepting or welcoming).
Many religious conservatives, whose theological views conflict with gay identity and/or expressions of that identity, proffer another definition of acceptance as an approach in which people themselves are accepted, if not everything they value, believe, or do. As a result, those on the right tend to bristle when progressives deride their stance as a “failure to accept.”
QUESTIONS TO PLAY WITH:
-What exactly does “acceptance” or “affirmation” mean to you in the context of sexuality?
-Does the meaning of this term change in other areas – beyond sexuality?
-Are there any practical, real-life consequences for these different meanings of the word “acceptance”? If so, what are they?
John Backman, Heidi Weaver-Smith
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