Can Homophobic People Change?

I’ve spent the last week watching lots of episodes of the reality TV show 30 Days, created and hosted by Morgan Spurlock, who’s known for directing and starring in Super Size Me. In the show, Spurlock or another person spends 30 days immersed in a lifestyle that’s completely new to them. Often, people who are politically opposed spend 30 days together learning about each other’s beliefs.

In one episode, a hunter moved in with a family of vegan animal rights advocates. At the end of the 30 days, the man left considering himself an animal rights advocate and supporting an end to animal cruelty. In another episode, a gun control advocate moved in with a gun enthusiast. The gun control advocate began to understand how guns could be used as a sport and for protection, and that they were not always used for evil. And in another episode, a minuteman who patrolled the border moved in with a family of undocumented immigrants. By the end of the episode he understood what life was like for the immigrant family and he stopped patrolling the border when he returned home.

But one episode stuck out as different from the rest. A religious woman who was opposed to gay adoption moved in with a gay couple and their adopted children. During the 30 days, she grew to see that the fathers were loving, responsible parents. She was exposed to the foster care situation, and was upset that so many kids weren’t being adopted. She got close to the family and saw that the couple’s four kids, who were adopted out of the foster care system, were doing well. Yet, she left with her mind unchanged.

At the end of the 30 days, she was just as adamantly against gay adoption as she was before.

Why is it that it’s particularly difficult to change a homophobic person’s mind, and why couldn’t this woman be convinced to support gay rights, after being welcomed into a stranger’s home and family?

Not only did the woman not change her mind about same-sex parenting, but her arguments consistently went back to the phrases we’re all familiar with by now. She resorted to “God says it’s wrong” (when did God say anything about gay parenting?) and to the “ick factor.” She was bothered that the children were sleeping down the hall from gay sex, even though gay and straight parents alike typically keep their sexual lives private from their children, making their sex lives irrelevant.

Are most people who are opposed to gay rights simply grossed out by homosexual sex? Or is it actually because of religious reasons? Many of the people who use religion to justify their beliefs on homosexuality are perfectly fine with other things that could be considered sacrilegious, like condom use and divorce.

Or is it, in the case of this woman from 30 Days, a bit of both? Either way, both seem nothing more than an excuse — albeit a poor one — for discrimination.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons