“And if your son came to you and said, ‘Dad, I’m gay,’ how would you respond?”
If you’ve ever joined in a living-room chat, there’s no way you haven’t been asked that question. The uproar surrounding Jerusalem’s Gay pride events has abated, and now, a couple of weeks' later, we have some answers: According to a Ynet-Gesher poll, 73 percent of respondents would accept a gay child, even if it’s difficult, but for 27 percent a child’s coming out of the closet would affect the relationship with the child.
The survey was conducted by Mutagim among a representative nationwide sample of the adult, Hebrew-speaking Jewish population.
A mother’s heartIn answer to the question, “How would you respond if your son or daughter informed you that they have homosexual tendencies?” 43 percent stated that they would be very sorry but would accept their child and the child’s partner as they are, while 30 percent stated that “if this is what is good for him, I have no problem with it,” making a total of 73 percent who said they would accept their child’s homosexual tendencies.
In contrast, 15 percent said they would be very angry with the child but would maintain the minimal contact necessary, and 12 percent stated that homosexual relations are in the category of “be killed rather than transgress” and that therefore they would cut off contact with a gay child.
An analysis of the findings shows that women have greater tolerance on this issue than men: 79 percent of the mothers said that they would accept their children in spite of their sexual preference, and only 21 percent would let it harm their connection with their child, as opposed to 66 percent and 34 percent respectively for fathers.
Harder for haredim
Haredim, as expected, would have a very extreme response, with 55 percent stating that they would cut off all contact with the child, 35 percent saying they would cut off some contact, and only 10 percent stating that they would accept the situation.
Among the religious, 40 percent stated that they would be sorry but would be forced to accept the situation, 27 percent would cut off contact, 26 percent would maintain minimal contact, and only 7 percent stated that “if that is what is good for the child, I have no problem with it.”
Among respondents who are religiously traditional and secular there is more acceptance (70 percent and 86 percent, respectively), but there are still those who would cut off all contact with their child (8 percent of traditional respondents and 9 percent of secular respondents).
Fear of the unknown
For the survey’s second question respondents were read a list of four potential neighbors who were supposed to be problematic, and asked to state which of them they would not want to live next to.
Thirty-eight percent stated that they would oppose living near a musical family that makes noise during hours of rest, 18 percent are more fearful of a haredi family with many children, 13 percent recoil from Christians whose lifestyle is clearly Christian, and only 12 percent chose the homosexual or lesbian couple.
Gesher director Shoshi Becker stated that the findings indicate a fear of the unknown “other” that is present among all segments of the population. Nevertheless, she added, “the fact that most respondents would be very much bothered by a family of active musicians shows that a technical disturbance is greater than an ideological disturbance.”
According to Becker, exposure to information, to stimuli, and to complexity makes it difficult, from an educational standpoint, to place walls around children and around ourselves. “We must educate people to cope with differences and with the ‘other,’ even if we don’t agree with the lifestyle of the ‘other.’”