There has been a lot of progress in recent years, but discrimination against individuals who are transgender still remains. It can seem that some people have prejudice against LGBT people that is so deeply ingrained that they will never change, but a new study published in Science has found that a simple face-to-face conversation can be enough to reverse those prejudices. Because many civil rights and protections for LGBT people are put to a general vote, it is important to know what methods are most effective .
"Our ability to change voters' hearts and minds has been measured, this time for real," Dave Fleischer of the Los Angeles LGBT Center said in a press release.
The center had previously called for a study about the efficacy of changing prejudiced minds on the topic of gay marriage, but that paper was retracted when it was discovered that those conducting the study had falsified the results.
In the current study, volunteers canvassed conservative neighborhoods in Miami about their feelings toward the transgender community. They went door to door and had conversations that lasted about 10 minutes, covering topics like what it actually means to be transgender, what experiences they've had, and what concerns they have.
Rather than using a script and set talking points, it was an actual conversation between two human beings who didn't share the same set of beliefs. This afforded an incredible opportunity to breed trust and understanding that being "talked at" using predetermined sound bites could never do.
They also found that the canvasser didn't even need to be LGBT to have a strong effect on the people they talked to; cisgender allies were also effective. However, canvassers who had the most experience made more of an impact than those who were newer, indicating the importance of training and practice.
Not only were the conversations effective in changing some prejudiced minds, but follow-up interviews found that the new feelings of tolerance were still present three months later. Not bad for 10 minutes of conversation.
"We've long believed that if LGBT people and our allies could meet and engage voters in heartfelt conversations, we could reduce their prejudice," Los Angeles LGBT Center CEO Lorri Jean stated.
While many people, particularly during election season, have a tendency to live in echo chambers and only listen to views that align with their own, this shows that actually talking to someone and having a conversation that is potentially uncomfortable can do a tremendous amount of good.
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