To What Extent Should We Respect Others’ Opinions?

The politically correct answer: Respect everyone’s opinions, all the time.

My opinion:

I disagree. I agree that we should never shove our opinions down other people’s throats (not only because it’s self-righteous and rude, but also because it just doesn’t work… ahem some Christians ahem), but respect is an entirely different thing. I’m not going to yell at you for having what I think is a stupid opinion. But I will silently judge you for it.

You may say something like “Oh, you can’t call anyone’s opinions stupid, that’s subjective, blah blah blah”. But the fact is that some opinions are stupid, and that’s why we raise awareness about issues like equality and human rights. So that people can hopefully change their stupid opinions into smarter, more informed ones.

Examples of what I consider “stupid” opinions:

– Thinking that whites are better than blacks

– Thinking that homosexuals are disgusting and hence should be jailed and/or killed for their “unnatural” sexual orientation

The fact is that a lot of these people are close-minded, selfish, and have no real basis for their opinions. And that’s why I think they’re opinions are stupid. But if we raised awareness; if we really did our best to explain to them why racial and LGBT equality are right; if we backed up our beliefs with science, past experiences and logic; if we had a calm two-way discussion with them about these important issues — then maybe we could really change some of their minds, and hence the world, for the better.

Of course, if someone has an opinion that’s different from mine but he’s able to justify it, then I’ll respect his opinion.

A question I have though, is…

What do I do with regards to, for instance, this opinion:

“I think homosexuality is disgusting, but I believe homosexuals deserve equal rights and should be allowed to marry.”

Some people have told me that I can’t change everyone’s minds. And if people think like this, just be grateful that they don’t want to ban gays from getting married or jail or kill them. They said that I should “respect” those people’s opinions/preferences, because “everyone’s entitled to their own opinions” / “everyone has different preferences”. They said that there’s nothing wrong with finding gays disgusting, as long as they don’t hate on them / vote against their rights / etc.

Well what if we turned the tables around. What if we were talking about racial equality? According to their proposed logic, is it alright then to find other races “disgusting”? To be fair, sometimes people don’t find homosexual people disgusting, but rather they find homosexual acts disgusting, eg. gays kissing. But is that even right? Should we really just “let them be”, or should we work on changing their views of what’s “disgusting” and what’s not, too? I personally believe that it still is important to change people’s opinions if they think that homosexual acts (in this example) are disgusting.

Why do I think people should ideally not find homosexual acts disgusting? I don’t have a proper answer to this. But I just feel like finding gays kissing disgusting, and not finding straights kissing disgusting, is kind of like discrimination. And I feel like you’re not fully respecting homosexuals, if you’re disgusted by them doing acts that you’re not disgusted by when other people do it. I mean, if you’re against the idea of PDA in general, then that’s a different story. But what I’m talking about is when you dislike PDA by gay couples more than PDA by straight couples. If you don’t think there’s anything wrong with straight couples holding hands and kissing in public, then why do you think it’s wrong when gay couples do it? Like I said, I believe this is just a form of LGBTQ discrimination on a personal, individual level. And what we discriminate on a personal level always naturally has an impact on what we discriminate on a community, national and global level. Which is why I think it’s important that we try to change this mindset.

I mean… People can’t choose what they’re comfortable or uncomfortable with, sure. But I think that it’s just a matter of exposure. The more exposed you are to a different culture for instance, the more you accept it and become comfortable with it. When it comes to a culture however, everyone else has accepted that said culture is the social norm of that location, and hence the “uncomfortable people” learn to adapt to it. But if we allow people to believe that they’re “right” for thinking homosexual acts are disgusting, then they’ll never adjust to the idea of it being a norm, and continue believing it.

For example in Malaysia, where homosexuality is illegal, people who follow the typical gay boy stereotype are often given disgusted glances and stares. Whereas in the UK people are generally accepting of the LGBTQ community. So I believe that if the “regular” opinion in Malaysia changed — if LGBTQ equality laws were advocated and implemented etc — that the people who once found homosexuality disgusting would eventually get used to the idea that it isn’t.

But then this still doesn’t answer the question of… Should we continue trying to convince them that homosexual acts aren’t disgusting? Is it even important to do so, if it doesn’t affect the wellbeing of homosexuals? I mean, one possible argument is that we could instead better utilise that time and effort to convince people who still think that homosexuals don’t deserve equal rights. But let’s ignore the concept of opportunity cost for now.

On one hand, sexual orientation is a very personal, individualistic thing (which is the basis of the argument that LGBTQ deserve equal rights and all). You can’t change what you’re sexually attracted to; it’s innate. And so in that sense, I suppose it makes sense to say that what you don’t find attractive — what turns you “off”, to put it simply — is uncontrollable as well. So that may stand as an argument for why it’s okay for people to find gays kissing disgusting — they’re not gay, they’re not attracted to gays kissing, so they shouldn’t be “forced” to be okay with it.

Except that gays see straight people (I’ll call them “straights”) kissing and stuff in public all the time, and they don’t think straights are disgusting, do they? If you’re a homosexual and you do think that straight people kissing/etc is disgusting, please let me know! But anyway, if my assumptions are right, then straights should be able to get used to not being disgusted by gay acts, too.

And it’s not like we’re forcing them to watch gay porn. Nor am I going to bring up the issue of making out in public — that’s something that some people just generally aren’t comfortable with, it’s a completely different topic of its own and I don’t really have a solid opinion on whether or not it should be okay, so just assume that when I say “kissing” I’m referring to regular pecks on the lips. Same goes for “homosexual acts” – I’m referring to anything that’s generally accepted for straight couples to do in public too. So things like holding hands, hugging, kissing (pecking on the lips).

On the other hand, can we really “convince” people that something isn’t disgusting? Can we talk them into it, or do we just increase their exposure to it? It’s not something that can be done overnight, that’s for sure. But I do however think that discussing it with them — getting them to answer why they find homosexual acts disgusting, and see if they can come up with any solid arguments to justify their opinion (I doubt they would be able to, they’d just say they’re not comfortable with it due to innate preferences or whatever), and try to open up their mind to why they shouldn’t think it’s disgusting — might help them slowly get used to it. What do you think?

I also think it’s intriguing to note that the word “respect” in this context often implies that you should stop convincing them, stop trying to change their opinions on the matter, stop arguing with them — when that’s not necessarily the case. I mean, if we take it to an economic argument for example, just because I respect your opinion, doesn’t mean I wouldn’t still hold an economic debate with you regarding the topic at hand.

Please note that I was only referring to homosexuals / gays, despite at times addressing the entire LGBTQ community, for simplicity’s sake. I am specifically addressing this issue simply because it’s more common, and I happened to talk to people about it. What I discussed above can be roughly applied to for instance, transexuals as well.

So yeah, I don’t agree that we should respect every single opinion. In particular, I disagree that we should respect people’s opinions that gays are disgusting, so long as they’re not causing gays any direct harm. Because I think that mentality may have a bigger, indirect impact on our society and world.

Note to self: Try to think of more ways to justify why finding gay acts disgusting is wrong.

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