by Abie Kopf | Change.org
We’re all familiar with the more annoying practices of evangelism such as people who bike to our front doors or folks who hand out tracts after a ball game. But telling others about our beliefs is something that we don’t do enough of in the gay community.
We might assume that people don’t want to hear about gay rights or that they will attack us if we try to bring up who we are and what we’re fighting for. Despite these fears, it’s absolutely essential that we reach out to others. We’re at a critical point in our fight for equality and we need all the soldiers we can get for the war on gay rights.
Gay advocates should take a cue from evangelicals because they’ve gotten the art of presenting their case down to a science, especially when it comes to converting others. The National Organization for Marriage website provides “Marriage Talking Points” that outline the best ways to talk about the dangers of same-sex marriage. These talking points are researched, they’re thorough and they are absolutely frightening … because they work.
At the Creating Change Conference in Dallas this past weekend, I was fortunate to sit in on a session hosted by the Williams Institute that taught activists how to neutralize gay-rights opponents with factual evidence and current statistics. The know-how to confidently and thoughtfully debate gay issues might allow us to win a few over to our side, but there are some things to keep in mind before trying to convert gay non-believers.
1. Know your audience
Not all conservatives are implacable and ignorant know-it-alls who won’t listen to reason. But some are. When faced with someone who is unwilling to listen to any side but her own, it’s of no use to debate the validity of gay issues. There’s a difference between someone who shows reticence toward the cause and someone who’s looking to pick a fight.
2. Get your facts together
Unlike opponents, we don’t have a bible that we can turn to for all the answers. However, the Williams Institute damn near has provided us with a gay bible. You can learn everything from gay census data to the negative impact of anti-gay legislation. Armed with statistical proof of the harm of gay prejudice, even hard-core haters won’t have much wiggle room in the debate.
3. Tell personal stories
Though factual knowledge is absolutely imperative in fighting anti-gay arguments, there’s nothing that can change a person’s view quicker than a testimony. Hearing firsthand how hurtful and harmful gay prejudice has been in your life can frame the gay debate in a deeply resonant way, especially for those who know you personally.
4. Don’t get angry
Have you ever been writhing in rage when you hear the typical anti-gay propaganda? It’s easy to get angry when others espouse backwards or downright hurtful views on gay issues. But reacting in anger will always give away your power and make what you’re saying less effective. We’re fighting for our right to love one another without facing discrimination. Make your cause about our love and not their hate.
5. Give it time and follow up
If you’ve told a family member, co-worker or friend about gay rights issues, they may seem unreceptive in the beginning. But many of us have known once-opponents who, given some time to mull things over, might reconsider their stance. Even if you’re faced with someone who outright rejects you and your beliefs, be persistent and follow up with them regarding questions and arguments. Winning people over isn’t a race. The more you talk to someone the more comfortable they will feel with what you’re saying.
Above all, we must be fearless and confident when it comes to telling others about our cause. As the saying goes, “There’s no zealot like a convert,” and if we’re able to change even one mind we might find a remarkable ally in the cause.