Recently New York State celebrated an incredible victory for marriage equality. Gay couples can get married in my state and we're all thrilled about it, right? Not so fast.
Because I have gay friends and family members whom I adore, I forget that everyone is not so forward thinking. When I participated in the NoH8 Campaign shoot and blogged and made videos for the "It Gets Better" campaign against gay teen suicide, I dismissed the dissenters as a few closed-minded kooks. After all, gay rights is obviously a civil rights issue.
But what if one of those kooks happened to be handsome and intelligent and came home with me? I haven't had to face this situation but one of my besties finds herself in this exact position.
Sofia has marched in many a Gay Pride Parade in support of what she believes is right. She met Dan, a JFK Jr. lookalike, recently on a dating site. They went out three or four times and were really feeling each other. She described him as "a venture capitalist who ventures to have heart." She found him to be fun, smart, compassionate and with good humor. Then they happened to be walking in the Chelsea area and a male-male couple walked past them holding hands.
Sofia smiled at the couple and took Dan's hand to which he replied, "I wish that these people wouldn't throw their lifestyles in our faces."
"Which people are you referring to?" she asked, dropping his hand slightly.
Dan revealed that he was both disgusted and annoyed by all of the "gay rights stuff in the press lately." He said that he felt gay people should live freely however they wanted, but he felt inundated.
The next morning when I met Sofia for brunch she was distraught. She wanted advice on how to proceed with Dan. Should she break up with him immediately? Why didn't she see any signs that he was completely homophobic? How would he fit into her life?
So, should you date someone who has different social and political views than you do?
1. Talk about it.
Mary Matalin is a Republican strategist while her husband James Carville is a Democratic strategist. They are both hot for each other and hot for politics although they sit on different sides of the aisle. Not every couple is able to do the same. I'm sure that Matalin and Carville still share the same values and agree on how they want to live as a couple.
I advised Sofia to have another conversation with Dan. She had been so shocked that she'd abruptly ended the date complaining of a headache and hadn't spoken to him since. One of my favorite maxims is, how you do anything is how you do everything. I told her to talk to Dan and explain her POV to see his reaction. I told her to ask him why he'd made such a comment and invite him to share his thoughts.
2. Where do you disagree?
There are some social, political and economic issues that you can agree to disagree on as a couple; like whether they should erect a new street sign on Main Street. However, if the person is dismissive about something that you feel passionate about, it won't work.
Does the issue intersect with your life? I am African American and I certainly would feel odd (to say the least) if one of my friends was dating a racist bigot. Is this who I want to sit across the table from at Thanksgiving or share social outings with? Absolutely not.
3. Do you share values?
You can be politically opposed and still share values. After all, I am sure that both red and blue states want life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for their inhabitants. Make sure to ask what your prospective partner thinks on the issues that matter to you early on. Be sure to either ask the 10 Key Relationship Questions or play the Fourth Date Question Game to know you are on the same page on issues that count.
Ultimately Sofia and Dan were able to see eye to eye. He apologized for his bigoted comments and said that he didn't know any gay people so it had been easy for him to see it as a marginal issue. He came to understand that what Sofia was talking about was not special privileges for any part of the population but basic civil rights. Kudos to them!
These are the same issues that come up when discussing interfaith relationships. Where do you agree? Where are you opposed? What are you passionate about?
So, what do you think? Could you date someone that you were politically opposed to?
As I always say be good, and if you can't be good be safe.
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