The question is asked at least a couple times a week by email (and in our queertheology.com webinar last week it was asked in different ways by about 10% of the participants): How do I talk to people who wonâ€™t listen? â€¨â€¨Whether itâ€™s LGTBQIA+ issues, different interpretations of the Bible, or even politics, people are struggling to figure out how to talk to people who believe differently than they do. I know what they are asking: give me a roadmap. Tell me the arguments to make. Share with me your powerpoint for changing peopleâ€™s minds. Show me how to do this.
On the surface it seems like people are asking with detachment about how to argue better, but underneath? Underneath I can feel the desperation. Itâ€™s deeper than arguments; people are trying to figure out how to bridge the gap between such different world views, because those world views are causing harm.
Hereâ€™s what people are really asking:
How do I talk to my dad about the rightness of my relationship when he believes that itâ€™s a sin to be gay? How do I convince my wife to accept my need to transition? How do I help my grandmother understand that the way she votes has a direct bearing on my ability to get healthcare or protect my family? How do I get my pastor to understand that when he preaches against gay people and trans people from the pulpit using really dehumanizing language that he is wounding my soul?
This isnâ€™t about trying to convince people to agree with you, itâ€™s about trying to get them to stop hurting you.
The thing is, I don’t have much of an answer. I havenâ€™t seen arguments work. I havenâ€™t seen people be convinced because I was finally able to lay out a coherent framework using Scripture (because I can). I havenâ€™t seen people be convinced because I made my points with facts and figures and specific data (because I can). When someone enters into a conversation unwilling to be changed, they are not entering in in good faith. When someoneâ€™s mind is so closed, facts and truth wonâ€™t change it. â€¨â€¨Thatâ€™s depressing to hear isnâ€™t it? Because then what do we do? How do we change things?
Thereâ€™s an article thatâ€™s been going around titled â€œI cannot convince you to care about other people.â€ And I think thereâ€™s a lot of truth in that title. I canâ€™t make my family use the right pronouns. I canâ€™t force someone to change their beliefs. I canâ€™t make them care about transgender or queer people. I canâ€™t change someoneâ€™s mind for them.
But what I can do is continually live my truth out loud. I can keep talking about how policies and theologies and actions harm me and my community. I can continue to ask for respect around pronouns and partners and identity. I can continue to set boundaries about what I will and will not talk about, about the places I will and will not go, about the situations I will and will not put myself in.
Do I have hope that chance will come? I do.
But in the meantime? Iâ€™m going to protect my heart and my body and my soul. Iâ€™m going to refuse to spend significant time around people who wonâ€™t use the correct pronouns. Iâ€™m going to leave churches that preach toxic theology. Iâ€™m going to keep my distance from people who vote for individuals that are trying to kill people like me.
I might not be able to change someoneâ€™s mind but that doesnâ€™t mean I have to allow them to be hateful and harmful to me. I donâ€™t have to take harmful words or toxic theologies. And I donâ€™t have to argue for my own dignity and humanity to someone who refuses to see it.