Conversation Guide: How to Talk to Your Friends & Family About LGBTQ Nondiscrimination this Holiday Season

November 27, 2019 • 8:10 am

The holidays are a great opportunity to reconnect with friends and family — but it’s also a time when many of us may be nervous about personal or political discussions.

Sometimes, it can be awkward or uncomfortable to talk about LGBTQ nondiscrimination with friends and family who are not familiar with what it means to be LGBTQ or why it’s important that states pass LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections.

This guide serves as a starting point to having meaningful conversations with people who you believe may be able to take steps toward supporting LGBTQ nondiscrimination. As a supporter of LGBTQ nondiscrimination, you have a powerful voice. And in order to win nondiscrimination legislation in all 50 states, everyone who is safely able to do so must make the case for nondiscrimination to potential supporters.

Before you head home for the holidays:

Think about whether or not you feel safe to engage in this conversation and whether the family member you may engage with is open to taking steps toward supporting LGBTQ nondiscrimination. Especially if you are LGBTQ, it’s important that you take care of yourself. Think back to previous interactions you’ve had around LGBTQ topics. Your Uncle Dave might not be open to genuinely listening to someone else’s views over turkey, but maybe your usually-quiet Aunt Susie is interested in opening up on the way home from a movie the next day. This guide isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay!

How to get started:

When starting a dialogue, think about your family member’s values, and what you might have in common. Starting with common ground is a great and effective way to begin the conversation. Some examples of basic values that most people understand and believe in regardless of political leanings or religious traditions include:

Work values

We all deserve the right to work hard, earn a living, and provide for ourselves and our loved ones. We all take pride in a job well done. In the workplace, a person should ONLY be judged on how they perform their work duties – nothing more, nothing less.

American values

Everyone should have the opportunity to live their lives with dignity and respect, and have the freedom to pursue the American Dream.

Personal and faith values

We are all God’s children, and we believe in the golden rule: everyone should treat others as we’d want to be treated.

Having the conversation:

When engaging with your family member, ask open-ended questions, and listen at least as much as you talk.

Normalize unfamiliarity, and use language and terms that are easily understood.

Many people have questions about what it means to be transgender. That’s okay. Define terms when needed, but emphasize that it’s not necessary to know every detail about LGBTQ people in order to support nondiscrimination. Your goal may be to share stories about LGBTQ people in your life now, and bring up nondiscrimination later.

Keep the focus on the people involved, not the politics.

LGBTQ people are our friends, family members, and neighbors, and people from all walks of life, including a majority of progressives and conservatives, agree that our country needs nationwide protections for LGBTQ people. If your family member is conservative, it can be helpful to point this out and share stories from FFAA’s Conservatives Against Discrimination coalition.

Focus LGBTQ (especially transgender) people in context of friends, neighbors, and loved ones.

Many people assume that LGBTQ people live in isolation. Talking about the relationships between a transgender person and their coworkers, or as part of a faith community, can break down those stereotypes and show that LGBTQ people are friends, neighbors, and community members.

Show, don’t tell.

Sharing another story about someone’s journey to become supportive may allow your family member to see themselves taking steps toward supporting nondiscrimination. This story is a good example.

Quick facts:

  • Most Americans don’t know that in 30 states, LGBTQ people are not fully protected from discrimination in all areas of life — employment, housing, and public spaces. This is an important misconception to clarify.
  • Right now, the U.S. Supreme Court is considering three cases of employment discrimination against LGBTQ people that could make it legal to fire LGBTQ workers just because of who they are. Regardless of how the Court rules though, we will still need Congress to act to ensure LGBTQ people have protections outside the workplace- such as in public spaces like parks, restaurants, movie theatres, and other businesses that are open to the public.
  • For the first time, a Public Religion Research Institute study showed that majorities of Democrats, Republicans, Independents, every race, and every religion support LGBTQ nondiscrimination.

Finally, try to end the conversation on a positive note. You can always revisit the topic later. And if you have a powerful conversation this holiday season, let us know what worked for you! Email us at info@freedomforallamericans.org.


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