I live in upstate New York, where people are far from sophisticated. When I moved here about 20 years ago, I left gay people behind. There just aren't any gay people here. Oh, you'll see one every few years, but that's about it. (And there are old gay people who never struck out for the big city, never made their gay mark. But that's a whole 'nother post.)
I'm a recovering alcoholic and I attend AA meetings. When I moved here, I'd just had a relapse. So I found myself trying to get sober among a zillion straight people. After attending gay meetings in Manhattan for many years, this seemed really weird to me. But as it turned out, no one was against me for being gay. They all seemed very accepting.
This continued to be the case for many years, during which I remained sober (with the help of a great straight sponsor). And after I'd been sober for some time, lots of straight guys asked me to be their sponsor. I would say to each, when they made this request, "You know I'm gay, right? This is about your sobriety, so if you have even a slight problem with this, pick another sponsor. But if you're truly okay with it, sure, I'll be your sponsor." No one turned me down and the fact that I'm gay was never a problem.
However, in my quieter moments I used to tell close friends that I thought people accepted me because I don't have a boyfriend. It's one thing to say you're gay, and quite another to show that you're gay by hauling your boyfriend everywhere, maybe hugging him in public, holding hands, etc. That, I wasn't sure people would accept. But since I'm happily celibate, it never came up.
With Michael Sam, it's already come up. I'm sure many people who initially said they were "fine" with him being gay, had second thoughts when he kissed his lover on live TV. Being visibly gay is different from saying you're gay.
I'll be interested to see how this plays out in the coming months and years. Any comments from the peanut gallery?