Let me be absolutely clear: I am thrilled with the Supreme Court’s decision and I believe LGBTQi people deserve equal rights in marriage and all other facets of life.
And I am challenging myself, my fellow LGBTQi allies, and the LGBTQi community: let us not become that which we protest against.
For centuries, homosexual people of all stripes have been labeled as “other”, “immoral”, “misfits”, “dregs”, and even “evil”. People have been hated, despised, and persecuted for their sexual orientation. At the root of all of this is one group, certain heterosexual people, perceiving itself as superior to another group, homosexual people. In fact all intentional violence can be boiled down to “I’m better/more important/more righteous/more pure/more powerful/superior to you.”
Let us not turn the blessing of this victory into a curse. Viewing others who we disagree with as less than is at the root of all contempt. And contempt breeds disconnection, physical and emotional violence, and self-righteousness. When we portray ourselves as better than others because we support gay marriage and they don’t, then we are becoming that which we protested against.
So what’s the alternative? Can we, those who support gay marriage and the LGBTQi community, listen to those people who oppose gay marriage with compassion? How do you listen to someone with compassion when that person is arguing certain groups of people don’t deserve a particular right or privilege? Why should we even try to do that?
We need to try to listen to the other side with compassion because if we don’t then we’ll listen to them with contempt. We’ll listen to them through the filter of “they’re confused/immoral/backwater/morally corrupt/bad”. And viewing “others” as “bad” is at the root of all violence and dehumanization, whether it is physical, emotional, verbal, or social violence. As we know from Brown v. Board of Education, the end of segregation doesn’t mean the end of racism. The national conversation about sexual orientation and discrimination will continue. We’re bound to continue to hear voices of those who oppose homosexual marriage and treat LGBTQi people as “other”.
So how do we do that? First it takes time and patience. We need to be willing to admit when the conversation is getting too hard for us to stay in connection. Instead of trying to “stay in it”, be willing to confess “I’m feeling overwhelmed, can we continue this conversation at another time?” So often we stay in a conversation far past our breaking point, and that is when the real vitriolic words start to fly.
Second, stop trying to convince anyone. Logical or illogical persuasion has never been transformative. What is transformative is relationships. So stop trying to persuade others that they are wrong, or your friends that “those people” are wrong. Start having relationships with those “others”. Ask them how they’re families are, what they like to do on vacation, what’s their greatest passion in life. It is through relationships that people are changed. So let us all commit ourselves to building relationships with those we disagree with.
And may we not join these relationships to change the other, may we enter these relationships in the hope of being transformed ourselves.
KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.