I read yesterday that one quarter of Australians (or, to be more accurate, one quarter of those surveyed in the Human Beliefs and Values Survey) said they wouldn’t want gay neighbours, according to Love Thy Neighbour: How Much Bigotry is there is Western Countries, a paper interpreting the survey statistics by Brisbane economist John Mangan.
His co-author was Professor Vani Borooah of the University of Ulster – an interesting little irony as the northern Irish topped the list of bigots, with 36 percent not wanting to live next door to homos and 19 percent thinking immigrants and foreign workers weren’t desirable neighbours either.
Now, there are statistics, lies, etcetera, etcetera, and I haven’t read the paper. But as one of the apparently undesirable, I find these results intriguing. It never would have occurred to me that so many of my countrypeople would not want to live next door to me. What intrigues me is exactly what they think would be the problem.
But perhaps (like most things in life) it’s not all about me. I don’t know how the question was worded, but if the generic “gay” was used, or “homosexual”, I imagine that most respondents would have thought of men. Two men living next door. Quel horreur!
Is it just a question of an abhorrence of gay sex and what people think might be going on behind closed doors? Do they imagine that used condoms would be flung from the windows to litter their lawns? Or that no condoms would be in use and HIV would spread like wildfire up and down the street?
If it isn’t all about unspeakable sexuality, I’m somewhat at a loss. Maybe they imagine being bombarded by loud music in the form of the Pet Shop Boys – or the Scissors Sisters – till four in the morning most weekdays. Or worse still, Elton John.
Don’t they know that gay men are usually in the avante garde of gentrification and gay neighbours could be good news for property prices? Or would they fear that their own property will lose value in comparison to the impeccably stylish renovation next door?
Of course, there can be no concrete reason behind a statistic like this. Gay people, men and women, make just as nice or lousy neighbours as everyone else, in every part of the country, rich or poor, rural or urban.
So it comes down to bigotry and I know bigotry is based on irrational fears. Even so, I’ll admit to still being surprised that so many Australians live such straightlaced lives that the prospect of someone different living next door apparently sends them into a spin.
Added: Thanks to Woulfe in comments, here is the full text of the paper.