Give Others’ Opinions Time to Evolve

I met this guy on the train this week. I’m always meeting somebody on a train, I know. But this guy was fabulously well-dressed, so I surreptitiously checked him out. Not to judge, but to admire. Anyway, we got to talking. He works in the mailroom for one of the big financial services firms, but his passion is selling designer clothes. Apparently he used to have a store on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue in the 100s.

After mutual compliments over the other’s outfit, we bonded over a mutual distaste for knock-offs, and got to talking about all that’s wrong with the world, as you only can with a complete stranger.

Then he started talking about his distaste for homosexuality. I guess he thought we would be of like minds there as well. But the conversation stalled. I think absolutely everyone has the right to love whoever they want to. I am also a proponent of gay marriage. Why not? At the end of the day it’s none of my business who gets up to what with who anyway, is it?

And there are endless studies that talk about the benefits of marriage. There are even tax incentives. Why shouldn’t gay people be able to take advantage? To not allow them to is a clear-cut case of discrimination, of which I am certainly not a fan.

But though our conversation lagged, it eventually picked up and continued. The benefits of maturity I suppose, that two strangers with very different, very set ideas on a controversial topic did not come to verbal blows. Perhaps it was our mutual appreciation for Bottega Veneta that provided the bridge?

Anyway, I started thinking about my stance on gay marriage, and gay anything. I don’t think I was always this liberal, nor was I this definite in my stance. I was never anti-gay. But when I was younger, I was more see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil on the topic. Which is interesting because that approach suggests there is something wrong. Something to avoid. Something if not evil, then at least a bit questionable. But I didn’t know enough — having no openly gay friends, relatives or prior knowledge to draw from — to form a solid opinion.

I didn’t want to be bothered. I was just hands off. Not unlike many people in matters of diversity. It’s a case of, well, that’s not me. Or, let’s talk about something else. Something less fraught. Less emotional. Less potentially prone to incite anger, disgust or drama of any kind.

Granted, I have no prior knowledge of any journey this man’s thoughts or opinions may have gone through, but my train-riding buddy was open and honest about his opinion immediately. It came out naturally in the course of conversation. He was definite about things. Much like I am now that I have some personal and professional information with which to form an opinion.

But maybe I, maybe we, as in the general public, should be more patient with those who are tiptoeing around the different dimensions of diversity, those who have not formed solid opinions about its worth or use or whether it’s something to care deeply about. Maybe it’s not that they’re hiding something, or that they’re uncaring. Maybe they just don’t have the right information. I suppose I’d rather think that than anything else.