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Alain Giguère

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Are you in favour of same-sex marriage? 74% of Canadians and 80% of Quebecers support it (and Death in Venice by Benjamin Britten)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 11-20-17 at 4:19 p.m.

Within the last year, CROP conducted the largest study ever done in Canada on sexual minorities and the LGBT community. We concluded that, although the community is much more accepted today, we still have a long way to go before achieving true social equality.

Our study clearly highlighted the emotional distress that this community faces at times and the lack of resources with which it has to contend.

In hindsight, without minimizing the challenges facing these individuals, I believe that our conclusions might not have sufficiently stressed just how rapidly Canadians have changed their mindset in recent years, with Quebec leading the way.

We have been tracking the attitude of Canadians toward same-sex marriage since the 1990s. Since then, their openness to this phenomenon has grown at a rapid pace. Despite the road ahead, we are seeing a real movement toward the social legitimization of homosexuality.

From 1997 to 2017, we went from 41% of Canadians in favour of same-sex marriage to 74% (from 43% to 80% in Quebec, the most supportive province in the country).

Since 1997, for comparison purposes, we had been using the same question we asked before the legalization of same-sex marriage in Canada. In 2017, we modified the question slightly to reflect today's statutory environment, without compromising the comparability of the data.

The future of homosexuality's legitimacy

We are undoubtedly witnessing a social phenomenon, a "sociocultural trend" of substance-a unique, historical process of social change. As individuals, we no longer accept the imposition of life choices by our society and its institutions, be it on our relationships as a couple, our sexuality or on any aspect of our lifestyle. These choices now belong to the individual. Individuals convey this legitimacy to themselves and to others around them. Humanism is on the rise; people are applying it to themselves and to others.

In 1967, Pierre Trudeau, prime minister said commenting his Omnibus Bill that “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation”. Today we could say that there’s no place for the society in the bedrooms of the nation.

The younger generation is by far the demographic group with the highest level of acceptance of same-sex marriage. While 45% of Canadians "totally agree" with same-sex marriage, such agreement is 61% among 18-24 year olds and 58% among 25-34 year olds (all agreement totals 82% and 86%, respectively). We can therefore postulate that as the demographic weight of these younger generations increases, the legitimacy of same-sex marriage-and consequently, homosexuality-will also grow.

Unfortunately, the databases we use to track the changes in values over the years contain no information about sexual minorities other than gays and lesbians. Hence, our tools do not permit us to draw exact conclusions about the evolution of Canadians' attitudes toward other sexual minorities. However, we can assume that these attitudes are probably correlated.

For example, in the last Quebec municipal elections, the citizens of a small village in Montérégie elected the first transsexual mayor in the province (in Très-Saint-Rédempteur near Rigaud on the Ontario border: a stunning redemption after so many years of intolerance!). Proof positive that the times are changing.

Note: while 74% of Canadians and 80% of Quebecers (the highest percentage in the country) are in favour of same-sex marriage, Albertans, at 68%, are the least in favour

A holistic connection with life or an ardent nostalgic traditionalism

When we look at people's values based on their attitudes toward same-sex marriage, we find a sociocultural divide!

Those most in favour have a deep desire for personal fulfillment, to express their uniqueness and individuality-all of which they wish to extend beyond their own account to society at large. They embrace diversity, be it ethnocultural, sexual or lifestyle. Diversity "nourishes" their development. They also feel deeply connected to nature, to life and to the people around them.

Those most opposed to same-sex marriage see our society as morally depraved. They espouse an extremely traditional view of society, where God, religion, morality and strict social codes predominate. They consider non-traditional sexual mores to be against nature, an aberration. They vehemently oppose any kind of modernity that they deem amoral, and from which they feel excluded in any case. They express a fundamentally nostalgic traditionalism, from a time when conservative morality prevailed. Obviously, there is no place in this conservative worldview for homosexuality and sexual minorities!

Social diversity as the backbone of the societies of the future

While we must be cautious about predicting the future, we can assume that tomorrow's society will be even more urban, multicultural and populated by individuals with customized identities. Diversity will undoubtedly be at the heart of the social fabric. The real question is whether this diversity will be "ghettoized" or generalized throughout a social mosaic (in Blade Runner, it is ghettoized!).

Whichever scenario prevails will certainly depend on the way wealth is distributed. The more egalitarian a society, the more it tends to be humanistic, less conservative and more open to diversity, both multicultural and sexual. We shall see.

In the meantime, Canadian society appears to be on the path of openness and increased sensitivity to sexual minorities, although much remains to be done to improve their daily lives.

Death in Venice by Benjamin Britten

To my knowledge, few operas address the themes of homosexuality and sexual minorities. Consequently, my lyrical clip of the week turns to Britten's operatic adaptation of Thomas Mann's novella, Death in Venice.

The story deals with a theme that is certainly taboo in our society: the homosexual fantasies of an old man for an adolescent boy. (Note that in this opera, it is all fantasy; there is no actual "sexual misconduct," to use the current buzzword).

The musical excerpt depicts the moment when this mature homosexual man recognizes his passion for a young boy, which inspires his work as a writer. It is all expressed with unbridled lyricism!

Benjamin Britten: Death in Venice, English National Opera Orchestra, Edward Gardner, Deborah Warner, John Graham-Hall, 2014.