I simply had the thought that there are many other issues within our community that deserve attention as well. As with all my writing, I wanted to raise an interesting idea, share it with others, and engage in a mature and respectful conversation.
It seems that my goals were a bit too lofty. At first, I was really happy that people were a) reading the article (always a good thing!) and b) responding by leaving a comment. I always make an effort to respond to comments, The first couple were positive and agreed with most of the views I presented. Then, there was a negative comment. My first one that I had ever received. (This being only my second published article on the website).
I was actually totally fine with getting a negative comment. There was an initial little sting, but I really was OK with it. I made sure to write back. I thanked the poster for sharing her view as I genuinely enjoy hearing all different opinions, even those different to my own. And then it started….
Within a day or two, the article had received over 200 comments. Normally this would be great. Except in this case, the conversation had gotten waaaay off track. People were hurling personal insults at one another, accusations were flying around, the comments got off topic and became nasty. Watching this unfold, all I could ask myself is ‘Why?’
Why is it that we, as humans, seem to have such a hard time having a conversation with others when views different to our own are presented? Personally, these are the types of conversations I enjoy and value the most in my life. I genuinely try to reach opinions in my own life based on considering a wide amount of information. Conversations where I become aware of other opinions are great, because I’m broadening my information base for any particular opinion I may be holding. If the information is compelling enough, I may even change my opinion, and develop a new one.
Because you can do that with opinions. They don’t have to be static, immoveable things that hold us down. They can change. And changing an opinion doesn’t make me a weaker, or less intelligent person. For me, it’s actually a sign of strength and intelligence. If new information comes to hand and you don’t evaluate and consider it, isn’t that the weaker, less intelligent option?
I’m also of the opinion that discussions don’t have to unfold in a binary manner. I think what happened in the comments section of the article was that people had their opinions (which they considered to be right), and they were fighting against people with other opinions (which they considered to be wrong). I don’t feel that a ‘right vs wrong’ binary delineation is necessarily useful in conversations where multiple points of view are being presented.
Let’s say five completely different opinions are offered during the course of a conversation. There are no rules that state any one of the opinions has to be right. Aside from the question of what is ‘right’ anyway, we can all be ‘right’ or we can all be ‘wrong’. Does it even really matter? Doesn’t the value of expressing our opinions come from the bonds we create whenever we express and share our inner thoughts and feelings with others? And is our inability to take on other people’s (different to our own) viewpoints more a reflection on us, than whatever opinion they may be expressing?
I honestly don’t know what the answer to these questions is. I just hope that we, as an adult, mature community, can find ways of allowing everyone to express an opinion. No matter what the topic is, no matter what we believe about it, I believe there is great value in having a mature, inclusive and respectful conversation about a range of topics. There’s a lot going on in the world as far as gay rights and gay issues go. It would be a real shame to silence voices and not hear a broad range of view points.
And hey, if at the end of the day, we still can’t agree – well, let’s just agree to disagree?