A good friend of mine for decades has long identified as conservative. In a recent conversation, we discussed his support for single-payer health insurance, a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants (in part to get national ID laws that are fair and free), and more.
When they expressed their support for lower taxes and limited government, I asked “what does lower mean?”
He answered, “as low as possible.”
I said, “As low as possible to support what the government needs to be run successfully, yes?”
“Ok, so then when you say limited government, you mean limited to what? What’s something the government does today that you don’t think it should be doing?”
They admitted, “That’s a good question.” They had no specific examples, and when we dug into a couple of ideas (transit was one), it was relatively easy to convince him that it’s very possible the government should be doing this work.
In the end, their conservatism largely came down to a statement I let go by, unready and unwilling to engage with it at the moment. They off-handedly said, “Well I’ll never be a democrat, because I don’t believe an 8 year old should be able to declare their gender.”
Honestly, I wasn’t ready to address the casual transphobia that I know was informed by beliefs they were taught in their church. The conversation was primarily focused on the mess that is the current GOP around voting.
But it’s bothered me for days since that I didn’t confront them about their casual transphobia. In fact, the whole conversation was about how liberals shut down conservatives by having clear moral lines when, in fact, they could and should convince more conservatives that their policies are good. And within that context, it felt like a really tough thing to dig into their beliefs on social issues.
Yet, causal transphobia being left unchallenged will spread.
What I wish I had said, even if it was just briefly at the end was this. “Before you dismiss the experience of trans people entirely, I think you should have a conversation with someone who is trans. Learn about their experiences. I wonder if after that, you could find it in your heart to have a lot more kindness and compassion to accept them as people.”