What can be done to promote greater acceptance and understanding of same-sex relationships?

While public attitudes toward homosexuality have changed dramatically over the last decade, many still remain polarized. For example, a majority of Americans now agree that gay and lesbian couples should be given the same legal rights as heterosexual couples. But partisan and generational differences remain stark. Today, a significant percentage of both Democrats (64%) and independents (65%) support this policy, while only about one-in-five Republicans (23%) do. 

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The rise of same-sex marriage has been accompanied by a growing support for same-sex relationships among younger generations. In 2003, only 17% of those born between 1928 and 1945 supported the idea; today more than three-quarters do. 

Despite this, there are still important barriers to same-sex relationships, including stigma and discrimination. Research has found that despite these barriers, same-sex relationships are not less satisfying than heterosexual ones. 

There are several ways in which people can help to diminish stigma and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and support the full and equal enjoyment of sexuality. Some ways are simple, while others require a coordinated educational effort. 

Work on your own biases: It is important to learn how to not make assumptions about those around you, and to be a better listener. This can include being sensitive to your LGBTQ friends’ preferences and lifestyles, avoiding conversations that assume everyone is straight and cisgender, and making an effort to be inclusive when planning social gatherings. 

Consider forming a student organization: School-based groups have the potential to shape school climate, address inequality, and affect academic performance. These groups provide a safe and affirming space for LGBTQ students and can help to reduce bullying and discrimination. 

In addition, schools can educate their students about HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, and help to prevent the transmission of these viruses. Educating teens about their own identities and the sexuality of others can also help to build positive self-esteem and to promote healthy, fulfilling relationships. 

Supporting the children of lesbian, gay and bisexual parents is a key component in promoting greater acceptance of same-sex families. Often, when a child comes out early, they are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of their identity, such as social isolation and family discord. Providing social and emotional support to children who have come out as LGBTQ can significantly increase their opportunities for a successful and happy adulthood. 

Create a cultural shift: This can happen by creating more diverse and accepting environments at all levels of society, addressing racism in the workplace, and changing the way society views LGBT people. It can also be achieved by ensuring that all people have the opportunity to participate in the democratic process, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. 

Be a role model: This can be as easy as being open and honest with your own life choices, but it can also be as difficult as taking a stand against discrimination and violence in the name of a cause you believe in. This can be especially challenging for parents, as they have to work closely with their kids to ensure that their identity is not a source of tension and stress in the household.