Have you ever looked into the eyes of someone who is telling you that being gay is wrong, sick or even sinful? How about someone who loves you and “really does like gay people but do you have to call it marriage?”
Many of us have. It’s painful and infuriating. Your blood starts to boil, your face gets red, and you just want to scream! WHY DO YOU HATE GAY PEOPLE?!
I’ve had my fair share of dramatic rant-filled verbal explosions over the years at people who had varied levels of anti-LGBT and anti-equality opinions. Since then I’ve learned that yelling at someone and telling them how they feel about you isn’t going help you win an argument.
On our side of the equation, we say things like Prop 8 was fueled by lies and hate.
Now this might be true, but we have to take a step back and recognize that most people that voted Yes on Prop 8 were not the fuel… maybe more like the kindling. Most people like the gays… if only enough to give fashion tips and cover the Academy Awards. Everyone, from the family down the street that had a ‘Yes on 8’ sign in their yard to your coworker that still has his ‘Yes on 8’ bumper sticker on his SUV, doesn’t hate you. They may not understand you, but they probably don’t hate you.
Now I’m not saying that there isn’t hate on the other side. Don’t get me wrong. I saw the violence that was sparked during the campaign and has remained an ongoing threat to our community. What I’m talking about here is how we approach people in matters of conversation. Many of the reasons for not supporting marriage equality stem from either a religious basis or an internally unrecognized adherence to a socially constructed gender role. Both of these are very deeply engrained, so arguing and accusing someone of hate isn’t going to bring them along to understanding your point of view.
In some future article I’ll talk more about faith and marriage equality, but for now I really want to impress upon you the importance of why using words like hate and bigot (or even some other choice words I’ll leave out for the time being) isn’t the way to bringing folks along to a place of understanding.
Even when we use the now popular “NO H8” it’s a step back. We are looking forward to our own Yes campaign and 8 will not be its proposition number. We need to focus on more positive messages instead of negative ones with the wrong number so folks aren’t confused and vote the wrong way again.
Asking genuine questions about people's thoughts, feelings, and beliefs around the issue of marriage equality is a surefire way of allowing them to gently bring down their own barriers. Their comments may sting, but will ultimately bring you insight and bring them understanding.
These types of conversations are guaranteed to hurt the most, while resulting in the greatest success when had with those closest to you.
If you’d like to practice on perfect strangers first, I recommend volunteering on a Saturday with one of the local groups for some door knocking. You get a great training in the morning and if you happen to lose your cool you won’t damage your friendships or your heart in the process… and I would just H8 it if that happened.
Fernando Lopez had long been an equality advocate for schools and workplace. He began his work with the marriage equality issue in 2001 and since that time he has built teams of dedicated equality advocates and organizers. Fernando is the former San Diego Chapter Leader for MEUSA and former regional field organizer for Equality California, as well as the founder of the Marriage of the Minds coalition he currently sits on the National Board of Directors for Marriage Equality USA.