Hi. My name is Andre and I’m new to this site. I joined a couple of days ago and answered the questions for the profile page which you can obviously check out if you want to. Within hours of joining, I received the following message:
“Hi Andre... thanks for joining us here! I'm really interested in what you have to say about listening... after the weekend rally (see blogpost) I'm left wondering how to help the homophobes listen... and how can we listen better to whatever is going on for them?”
This is how I replied.
Ah I guess you ask the newbies the easy questions first. This really should be what I call a “port conversation” – sitting with a friend, glass of port in hand of course, and trying to explore a complex issue and find some meaningful way of working to a solution. I know I have no simple, silver-bullet type solution though I’m sure we all wish one could be found.
I guess before I share some of my thoughts it might be useful to just make one or two points about me. I’ve lived with the secret of my sexuality for too many years and it was only in the middle of last year that I finally came out. I have had wonderful support and acceptance from all my family and friends and have encountered limited homophobia from some people I’ve had to associate with. So I’m no expert in dealing with homophobia. And the other thing worth noting is that I have lived a very middle class existence in which I have rarely had to deal with overt anger or physical threats directed at me by strangers. My life has mostly been populated by people and situations in which it has been mostly possible to deal with differences through reason and discussion.
So had I been at the rally, and I now wish I had attended, I would probably have been angered by the fundamentalist protesters and joined in efforts to shout them down like most others did. But, unfortunately or fortunately depending on your point of view, I would have inevitably started to reflect on what had happened and why people did what they did and lots of other things. And that’s when I start to wonder about why some people think some of the things they do. What is it in their lives that brought them to where they are now?
So who were these people on the weekend? I know almost nothing about them other than the little I read on their website and saw of them on videos posted on Youtube. But I guess we all know their type. They are fundamentalists and as such they are the people I fear most. They are people who know they are right and therefore have a certainty in the message they preach. Looking at their website, you can see they attack many groups including other church denominations who they say have been led astray. They preach a literal acceptance of the Bible and are adamant in their belief that every word of it is the divine word of their god.
And, for me, the trouble with dealing with fundamentalists is that they have a belief and reasoning, logically with them won’t change that belief. But I still want to know them and understand them. I would love to sit with one quietly and let him talk and find out what it is that his god saved him from. I believe fundamentalists seek the certainty of their beliefs because they are scared about something in their lives – not being able to cope with whatever it may be. And that’s what I would be seeking to understand – what are they afraid of? So if I do this can I get them then to listen to me? I don’t know but I think I have more chance than if I don’t understand them at all.
But I wonder if they are really such a problem to the LGBTI community. I suspect whatever we do we have little chance of changing their minds. There is probably a much larger group of less rigidly minded people who we probably could get into dialogue with and open up to a wider acceptance of our right to love the people of our choice. And there are probably many who haven’t really thought about the issue because they don’t see it as being important to their lives. And these are people who we as individuals could more likely get to know and talk to and have them listen to us.
I guess some might read these words and criticize what seems to be an approach bordering on appeasement rather than confrontation. And to some extent that would be valid. Inevitably, I feel, for each of us there comes a time when we can no longer try reasoning and understanding but feel, legitimately, a need to take more direct action. And I’ve done that a few times myself. But afterwards I always start to ask questions again.
I’m sorry to have rambled on so much and probably without making a lot of sense. But this is what tumbled out of my head in response to your comment. And that’s without even having a glass of port!
Tonight I found this response.
“This is a wonderful, thoughtful response... one we could all benefit from pondering. The
talking/listening you describe so eloquently is part of the 'everyday activism' I've written about elsewhere... It'd be great if you'd like to cut and paste your response into a blog here. It's really easy you just click 'add' in top right hand corner and when you've finished you can also share on facebook and twitter if you like. I guess the thing is for me... I don't have the time or energy to share a glass of port and quiet conversation with all the many 'moderate' people that I meet (and you describe as potential 'converts' to our cause!) so I hope, to some extent, circulating our Digital Stories in social networks can 'stand in' for us... personal stories that help open a few eyes...
In the meantime glad to meet you,
And that is why I have posted this here. I’m here to learn so feel free to comment. I’d be interested in your views.