According to the science section of the New York Times today, the discomfort of two mice, who have been administered a 30-minute stomach ache, is enhanced if the two mice are acquainted. If you can follow along, when mouse #1 knows mouse #2 as a cage-mate, rather than a stranger, then seeing mouse #2 in distress heightens the distress of mouse #1. If mouse #1 has not previously been acquainted with mouse #2, then mouse #2's distress has a more limited impact on mouse #1. To paraphrase Bill Clinton: "I won't really feel your pain as my own... unless I've come to know you. Then I will."
What is the relevance to gays and transgendered persons in Indiana? There are two lessons. The first is what we know to be confirmed by other studies: People who know gays and transgendered people personally are much more apt to feel our pain and favor legislative nondiscrimination measures and measures protecting our rights as couples. Therefore, in my opinion, gay people have a responsibility to come out of the closet to family, friends, and colleagues to the extent that their circumstances of personal safety allow. If it is merely a matter of convenience or discomfort that impedes your coming out of the closet, get over it. You outting yourself is ever more important if you are circulating among people who are comfortable in their bigotry, for only by their coming to know you personally as gay will they begin to feel our pain.
The second is that the wholesale defection of gays from the Republican Party, while understandable, has produced a situation in which too many Republicans have been able to progress through their careers without their prejudices eroding in the face of ongoing personal interaction. It is the ongoing personal interaction that leads them ultimately to feel our pain. No different from the caged mice, for Republicans most to feel our pain, they must look upon us not only as among strangers or among opponents, but also as among those sharing their space.
The fact that we are born to Republican families as much as we are born to Democratic families, provided we come out of the closet increasingly and confidently to our families, I believe will ultimately prove as influential in defeating their prejudices as any protest. Probably more so.