Coronavirus may be changing our ability to relate to friends or family with ‘different views’

Coronavirus and lockdown restrictions are not only changing how we interact socially, but also our ability to relate to people who don't share the same views.

woman with mask angrily talking on the phone, coronavirus different views

Keeping up good relationships with family and friends and who disagree on LGBTQ+ and gender identity issues is often far from straightforward under ‘normal’ circumstances. But a major research project led by a UCD academic suggests that coronavirus restrictions could be making it more difficult to engage with people who have different views.

Describing the highlights from the data collected, the project Principal Investigator, Professor Kath Browne, said: “Whilst for some people lockdown didn’t affect their relationships, others told us that coronavirus restrictions meant they now had ‘nothing to do’ with family or friends who didn’t agree with them on issues around sexuality, gender identity, abortion or same-sex marriage. For other people, though, they can’t so easily avoid family who hold very different views, and life under lockdown has exacerbated that. That is really hard for a lot of people.”

“People have also spoken to us about losing friends over their views on sexualities or sex/gender issues, or being afraid to talk to their family or friends over certain issues.” Professor Browne continued, “But a lot of people actively tried not to distance themselves from others with different opinions.”

The research project, called ‘Beyond Opposition’, looked at social divisions around sex/gender and sexualities issues in the UK, Canada and Ireland. The five year, EU-funded international study examined what everyday life is like for those who have concerns about, or who object to, issues like same-sex marriage, transgender peoples’ access to specific spaces, same-sex couples having children, abortion and teaching about same-sex relationships and/or gender identity in schools.

Participants spoke about how time spent under lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic meant they strengthened the nature of their views. Describing what has changed during lockdown, one interviewee said: “I definitely got involved more in that scene because of how much more upset I got about how things are right now. […] I really took much more energy to read more books, talk to more people and really get educated on what’s happening and share my opinions and my words in that as well.”

But whilst some people spoke to the research team about giving up on close relationships with those who disagreed with them – either prior to or during lockdown – others described not being able to discuss things that are important to them for fear of family breakdown: “I have had arguments with family and friends over my viewpoints, which has resulted in fractured relationships. To maintain the relationship(s), I have to keep my mouth shut on my views even as they spout off voraciously on theirs.”

Professor Kath Browne said: “These findings are just the start. We need more people to tell us about their experiences and what they think. We are looking for people to participate in the research via our confidential interviews and questionnaires. We are interested in what impact, if any, your views have on your experiences of home, work, and public spaces, such as work, home, and school. We are also interested in what your relationships are like with family or friends who disagree or hold very different views.”

For more information on the Beyond Opposition project and if you would like to participate, please visit the Beyond Opposition website.

© 2020 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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