Over the past couple days, I’ve been thinking a lot about cognitive dissonance theory and how its insights can inform our resistance against the Trump administration’s inevitable attacks on the LGBT community.
Cognitive dissonance refers to the mental unease emergent from inconsistent thoughts, behaviors, and/or beliefs. This psychological discomfort is a motivating force that drives ameliorative actions. This can be accomplished by changing your thoughts/evaluation of a particular object, changing your behavior to align with your beliefs, or withdrawing from a situation.
Trump voters, who hesitantly supported the candidate for economic reasons, but feel conflicted about his recent actions, are likely experiencing cognitive dissonance at the moment. in this context, they are confronted with three options: dehumanize minority groups to reduce guilt, admit fault and turn against Trump/join resistance, or withdraw from the situation by combination of ignoring liberal news sites, isolating to conservative news sites that rationalize the human costs of trump’s actions, and excluding minorities from their lives. This a key audience to target as Trump needs their support to sustain what legitimacy he possesses.
Given these circumstances, this is a crucial movement to deliver the right message. Profile pics with raised fists, assertive comments about “resistance,” and the evocation of identity politics, while excellent mobilizing tools for minority groups, a) emphasize difference, b) attack trump supporters, c) raise defenses, and, consequently, d) likely undermine our position by driving the target audience to adopt dehumanization/withdrawal strategies.
In response, I think it is wise for us to post personal pics/stories while emphasizing our American identities. This makes it much harder for the aforementioned target audience to rationalize the current situation. This strategy was evoked during the recent immigrant protest and produced a very, very powerful counter-narrative that made any defense from the Trump admin appear unpatriotic, anti-American, and, therefore, inherently unacceptable.
To this end, I intentionally present myself as the grandson of a WWII vet who helped defeat Hitler, the son of a southern pig farmer who fought Stalinism, a proud, patriotic, hardworking American taxpayer, who happens to be gay, and only wants the opportunities available to everyone else. Emphasize similarities, not difference. Build bridges, not walls. We will fight. We will win. Justice is on our side.