As expected, I sat down to the usual family dinner at the family Cabin this weekend and–unsurprisingly–the legalization of Gay Marriage in the US came up. Now, some background on my family: it is huge and it is mildly rednecky. They actually ended up being more in the “it isn’t the government’s right to decide” category than anything else, which surprised me a bit. (One of my aunts also said they should get all the rights and everything, it just shouldn’t be called marriage because that’s a Christian thing. I wanted to point out marriage existed long before Christianity, and ask if she was against non-Christians getting married, but the conversation moved on before I could.)
Anyways, that’s not my point so much as the discussion that came afterwards. One of my Uncles mentioned how he didn’t care what they did, he just wished they’d all stop being so flashy about it. I knew I wasn’t going to convince him (nor any other family members that had agreed with him) that there was nothing wrong with people expressing who they are, so I tried a different tactic. I said that it’s hard to fight for rights when you can’t even be comfortable with expressing the thing you’re fighting for. My Uncle then asked what they were fighting for anymore. I told him and the rest of the family about some of the basics, like the fact that you can still be fired for being gay in a lot of states, or how that guy legally put up a sign banning gays from his business, or how conversion therapy is still legal in a lot of places. They were actually pretty astonished that these things were going on, let alone that they were legal.
Which proves my usual point even more: a lot of bigots, racists, homophobes, whatever, are the way they are because they don’t know any better. They don’t realize how bad things actually are for the people they’re against. They see a small fraction of the issue and think they understand the full thing. But if you take the time to sit down and explain things to them, to actually talk it out, there’s a good chance you can open their eyes. That doesn’t mean you’ll change their minds–my family still doesn’t like gay people–but you may be able to convince them that there are problems that need fixed and that they should stop being against fixing those problems.