How to Talk With Baby Boomers About LGBTQ+ Rights and Other Issues
Pride Month is in full swing, and it's likely the issue of LGBTQ+ rights may pop up during family meals. And while society's understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity has evolved over the years, it's still a contentious topic for many of our boomer parents, especially if they're conservative. So how can we discuss these issues with our parents without it escalating into a full-blown argument?
"This is a sensitive issue, I will not deny that. And there is no room at all for racist jokes or slurs. I think the key is for both boomers and millennials to agree on psychological safety," says Nelson T. Dy, co-author of OK Boomer, Tell Me Y: When Two Generations Talk. "I think it is tougher for the boomer because we're so used to dogmatism. Therefore, both sides have to agree like this: 'Boomer, you have your view. I understand it's conservative, maybe even hardcore. I understand you have the right to those views. But I do wish you would express your views in a more constructive manner.' And then the boomer will say the same: 'Millennial, you have your views I may find controversial, but it's also your view.' And then what we will do with that ground rule is that we explain each other's position."
Dy adds that baby boomers have to remember that gone are the days when saying "because I said so" or "because the Bible says so" will suffice. "We now have to go deeper, we have to give each other space to explore why we believe the way we do. And if it is persuasive, fine, if it's not persuasive, then we can keep the conversation going, or at least agree to disagree," he explains.
"Personally, I tend to look at the complete package of a person," he adds. "For example, I run two factories, and I do have my own share of LGBTQ employees. But these are solid performers. Do I hold their gender identity or preference against them? No, because at the end of the day, they're still people. And if they are solid workers and they're decent people, they treat people with respect, they do no harm, they try to improve the lot of the factory workers, I'm fine with it."
"The approach that we should be taking is one of kindness and patience, and the willingness to listen."
"This is something that even millennials find tricky, even though it's really not new to us to have LGBTQ friends and loved ones," says Hyacinth Tagupa, who co-wrote OK Boomer, Tell Me Y with Dy. "But I think there's still some reluctance to discuss LGBTQ issues. For me, the better approach is to start from a place of listening, instead of dictating or imposing our own rules. I'm speaking as a straight cisgender person. There are rules and systems in society that work perfectly for me because I'm straight but are actually unjust for the LGBTQ community. So I can't go around saying, 'you guys should just follow the rules or just live with the system' because they work perfectly for me, but it's not the same experience for them. So it's not my place to dictate, it's my place to listen first. And I don't think that's something that has anything to do with being progressive or conservative. It's just about being a decent human being to other people."
Depending on how religious our parents are, we might never be able to convince them that there's nothing wrong with being in same-sex relationships or being transgender. But if we can at least explain our point of view to them, then it's a small step toward progress.
And when it comes to discussing any hot button issue, Tagupa says that it would help if we millennials could be less aggressive in our approach. "We could be calmer and more thoughtful in the way we communicate with our elders. There often seems to be a default setting of millennials where they're just rude or condescending when talking to baby boomers," she explains. "The 'Ok Boomer' phrase is an example of that sometimes. It's just an insult that gets thrown around and there's no reasoning, there's no attempt at explaining things. We're just insulting the baby boomers and not arguing efficiently. The approach that we should be taking is one of kindness and patience, and the willingness to listen."
Dy says that for their part, boomers could be less condescending as well. "Speaking of mirror images, we boomers can also be guilty of saying 'those young people.' You know, those three words can be [said] quite condescendingly. I think one of the key points as I write this book with Hyacinth is that we have to remember millennials are not objects or projects we have to shape in our own image. So I think we give them the freedom also, which is respecting their dignity and acknowledging that they are products of their time, which is radically different from when we grew up."
OK Boomer, Tell Me Y: When Two Generations Talk
Dy and Tagupa model this approach in OK Boomer, Tell Me Y. The first half of the book discusses and debunks boomer and millennial stereotypes. But the most interesting part of the book is the latter half, which has the two authors discussing topics over which the generations often clash. These include career, relationships, mental health, and religion. Tagupa and Dy demonstrate how to debate issues in a civil manner, even if they often don't agree.
While neither author claims to represent their whole generation, the book provides an illuminating glimpse into why boomers and millennials think and behave the way they do. In the end, the goal of the book is to demonstrate that boomers and millennials can talk about their differences constructively and understand each other better in the process.
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