We can’t move LGBT rights foes to our side with purely logical arguments

haberman-hardyI watched dumfounded recently as Charles Moran, a Trump delegate from California, was on TV extolling the virtues of the GOP when it comes to LGBTQ issues. He saw the candidacy of Donald Trump as being consistently supportive of LGBTQ rights.

This is a stance that even the Log Cabin Republicans don’t share.

How could this man see Trump as an LGBTQ ally when Trump has pledged to appoint Supreme Court justices who will overturn marriage equality? When he chose as his running mate Indiana’s rabidly anti-LGBTQ governor, Mike Pence?

It is the same kind of logical disconnect that allows low-income white voters to see Trump as the man who will stop their jobs from leaving the country for China and Mexico, despite the fact that Trump has shipped the manufacture of his products overseas and bought boatloads of Chinese steel and aluminum for his buildings.

The same illogic reasoning that has unemployed garment workers in the U.S. wearing Trump’s “Make America Great Again” hats that were made in China.

It is a case of “confirmation bias” and it’s something I have been guilty of as well.

It’s the tendency to hear only information that confirms an already-held belief. For example, if I strongly believe that Trump is utterly and completely anti-LGBTQ, I ignore the statements he made about making sure “LGBT citizens” were free from persecution (though that sentiment appears nowhere at all in the GOP platform.)
So the folks who are already strongly biased against LGBTQ rights will rally behind Trump, believing he shares their hatred. They already believe he shares their racial bias, because he questioned President Obama’s birth certificate, and he wants all Muslims to be banned from entering the country. They believe he is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, even though he agreed with Democrat Hillary Clinton that people on the “no-fly” list should not be able to obtain firearms.

That confirmation bias works against Hillary Clinton, as well. The trope that Clinton is a liar has little or no basis in fact, but if her statements are carefully “cherry-picked,” you can find enough examples to support that belief.

In fact, watching one woman in a CNN focus group vehemently insist that all the politicians are liars except for Trump, because she just “know[s] they are lying to my face,” just drove the point home.  She was more willing to believe a man with a proven track record of deceit and deception in his business dealings than to believe a politician deemed by fact-checkers to be one of the most candidates in a long time, because she “believes” politicians are all liars.

How do you reason with people like this?  How can you sway their opinion?

Well, I don’t think you do it by giving them a litany of facts.  Facts are not what motivates them, feelings are.

If progressives are ever going to successfully make a case that can convince people like many Trump supporters, it will have to be made in terms that resonate with them. That means we have to start framing our arguments in more emotional language while not losing track of the facts.

We have to start making our case in ways that draw at the gut and the heart and know that the mind will follow.

For LGBTQ Americans, this means finding ways to let people know how deeply discrimination affects not just us but our families and friends.  If we speak to the heart of the matter, that hatred and bigotry are doing real emotional damage to our community, we might have better results than trying to educate folks on the Constitution.

We must make the case that young people are committing suicide, not because they are LGBTQ, but because of the way their families, friends and fellow Americans treat them. We must make the case that denying services to a woman strictly because of who she loves harms not just her but her children and family.

We must make the case that humiliating a transgender woman by refusing her access to bathroom facilities says more about our lack of common decency than trans women’s morals. We must make the case that firing a highly-qualified and beloved teacher strictly because he is married to a man harms his students and the community at large.

We must make the case that publicly humiliating a member of a church congregation by shunning him because of who he loves reflects on the church’s lack of compassion and puts the entire Gospel of Jesus in a bad light.

We have to start talking to people’s hearts and guts and their minds will follow.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 28, 2016.