So what is the best way?

Over the past couple of days a reader and I have been going back and forth about my last post. Our conversation was cut short but there was one thing they said that struck home with me and frankly I’ve been stuck on it ever since I read it.

They had a number of good points but the biggest one:

You seem to be more focused on your right to call other people assholes than on finding the best way to rid society of religious and/or homophobic zealots. Since you seem to be unwilling to discuss,  let alone consider, other less swearword-based ways to convert idiots like Eich to more rational, tolerant people, I am probably also within my right to categorise you as an asshole, too.


Earlier in our conversation I mentioned that anyone who pushes their beliefs on wether someone else can get married or not is an asshole…basically I said asshole a lot.

After reading that sentence it struck me that calling someone an asshole (even if they are being one) in this context is clearly not the best way to convince the person or others like them into changing their ways or even possibly considering it.

But now I’ve been thinking.  What is the best way?

Whenever I find out someone I know is against gay rights the first thing I usually do is..well..react with disbelief.  If I’m not struck speechless I’ll ask them if they know what year it is, if they have any clue how backwards their beliefs are and while I don’t call them an asshole to their face I’m sure my facial expression shows what I think of them.

Really I have no clue what the answer is.  How do you react to finding out someone you know and maybe love is against gay rights in a way that can possibly sway them the other way when there’s a good chance their beliefs are just as deeply embedded as mine are?


Well … I tried explaining it by comparing it to their own experience:

“And I think that once we accept this, it becomes paradoxically easier to explain how it feels. Do vanillas get turned on by things without rhyme or reason? Yes, of course. The same way male chimpanzees get turned on by pink buttocks. And you didn’t decide to become a breast man or a leg man, or to get a thing for Asian women or men in uniforms. It’s the kind of thing we learn about ourselves by trial and error. We don’t choose what to imprint on.” – A Coming-Out Letter

“It’s not really a hunger. It’s a path. And it starts and ends in the same moonlit places as any story of electric intimacy. It’s just that instead of a companion, you have a guide.” – Self-Esteem for Bottoms

But I was talking about BDSM. I think that with homosexuality, it might be more fruitful to point out that homosexual intercourse is extremely common in our closest cousins, bonobos (a.k.a. pygmy chimpanzees). It’s not like it’s not natural. Do you think that would work?

I know that as a teacher I once really got a Christian student’s attention when I happened to mention that dolphins masturbate. He was rocking his chair and the whole class heard it come down as he said, “WHAT?” Hilarious.

“Poisoning the well” i.e. calling someone an asshole, is generally an ineffective debating technique – closing someone’s mind rarely leads to changing it.

In my responses to your previous post I discussed how very alarmed I am that “Progressives” find it progressive to fire people for “Wrong Speech” or “Wrong Thought”. The acceptance and outright promotion of the Orwellian concept of “thoughtcrime” is something I find ghastly. Enough said on that.

We are going through major social change. This change reverses many generations of tradition. That tradition may be bad science and morally wrong, but it is real and deeply embedded. Homosexuality remains contrary to the written laws of most major religions. As religion said recently, quoting Mark Twain, “the rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated”. If “… religion is the opiate of the masses…” Vladimir Putin is this century’s latest pusher – he has ridden that opium to political power. What is the most recent social-legal (as opposed to military) push of Putin’s new democratic society? Enforcing draconian anti-gay laws. I point this out not to commend religion, but to recognize its power.

The first US State to recognize gay marriage was Massachusetts on May 17, 2004 it has not yet been a decade. This kind of social change takes time. About 2 years ago i saw Fran Leibowitz do a long tv interview in which she said (I must paraphrase) – if you had ever told me that the two great gay rights issues of our time would be the right to serve in the military and the right to marry I would never have believed it. It is that dramatic a social change.

Progress is being made, of course it is not fast enough, but people now have choices. If they feel they must marry today they can – but they may have to move. In a few years few will have to move to exercise that option. Should any be required to? No. But today it is a viable choice – today 17 states have legal same sex marriage. Soon it will be more.

Just remember that the social practices and political tactics that are used today, e.g. “the Senate Nuclear Option”, can and will come back to haunt the practitioners if, and when. their opponents take power.

And what will happen to you when you are guilty of “thoughtcrime” and disagree with the great hacker/nerd/programmer consensus? Time to look for a “Dirty Job”?

So the question is: “How to change someone’s mind over a deeply held belief?” Wouldn’t it just be easier drive a camel through the eye of a needle?

Whenever someone says that they are against gay marriage, I just respond that I’m for love. That I think society does better when people love one another, and that a society that affirms love is a better society than one that fosters hate. Ask people what they have against love.

If they quote the Bible, you’ll never change their mind. But if you insist, you can say that the Bible advocates slavery, and the stoning of those engaged in premarital sex. The Bible says a lot of stuff that no one does. And that Jesus himself never said a word against gays, but he did say that judgement belongs to Him, and not to Man.

But stick with the “love” thing. No one is against love!

Also, when people want to change their mind, let them. Don’t hold old statements against them. Welcome them.

one of the best things I have seen about this is asking people who are “in the other camp” so to speak when they made the choice to be heterosexual…oh, here is the link, via Huffington post.

I don’t usually encounter this as an issue. Not sure why. I live my vanilla life as a lesbian–my wife and I have been together for over 30 years and I have *never* had an issue. Ever. Lucky? The only issue I’ve ever had is regarding with my kids (who are biracial and adopted).

I’m not sure there is an “answer”…people will believe as their heart guides them…and it is very hard to shake people out of their complacency.


Well I don’t think that “Asshole” does much to launch off an intelligent debate.

When you look back ,how often has it happened that someone has said to you “You know what ,you are right. My deeply held opinions/prejudices/inclinations have been changed by your arguements” ???

If I run up against someone who disagrees with me on the subjects of sexuality or politics
I mentally shrug my shoulders. To paraphrase Blaise Pascal “If a man does not keep pace with his companions , let him march to the music he hears”

BTW I know that everyone says “a camel and the eye of the needle” but I read somewhere that this was a mistranslation which has stuck,and the word shoud be “rope”. Makes more sense that way (and just as hard)

Perhaps the conversation can start with asking the person if they ever had a time they were being unfairly treated and what that felt like? If they can’t think of a time, it may not be worth having the conversation. At that point, they may only be a person who is good at following the herd. The trick to changing that way of thinking may simply be to focus on growing a bigger herd by focusing on those who can identify with the question. Isn’t that what’s happening with gay rights today – the herd is growing bigger?