Beyond Opposition: Exploring the daily lives of people opposed to recent social changes

Beyond Opposition: Exploring The Daily Lives Of People Opposed To Recent Social Changes
According to Professor Kath Browne, recent research shows that 15-25 per cent of people will never agree with things like same-sex marriage or abortion.
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Danielle Walsh Ronan

From passing the same-sex marriage referendum in 2015, to repealing the 8th amendment in 2018, the State has undergone major social change over the last decade.

However, although there has been significant social change, it has not been welcomed by everyone.


There are people who have concerns about, or still object to, same-sex marriage, transgender peoples’ rights, abortion, and other changes to sexual and gender rights in Ireland.

While the recent social change has significantly improved the lives of many people, what about those who are opposed to it?

Professor Kath Browne, a geographer at University College Dublin who specialises in sexual and gender equalities, is working on a project researching the everyday experiences of people concerned about recent legislative and social change relating to sexual and gender rights.

As part of the Beyond Opposition project, Professor Browne, along with a number of other researchers, are exploring how recent societal changes are impacting the daily experiences of those opposed to it.


Speaking to about where the idea for the project came from, Professor Browne said it was borne out of an experience she had working on hetroactivism, which is the opposition to LGBT rights.

"I was at a conference that was about opposing LGBT rights, and they had a parent there whose child was wanting to transition," Professor Browne says.

"The parent was very upset about this and was trying to mind their child in all kinds of ways, but was being treated by the State how myself and my children would have been treated kind of 10 or 15 years ago.

"The school was telling them they were causing their child harm… that their child was suicidal and all I kept thinking was, if that was my kids 10 or 15 years ago then they would have been told the same thing about our family.


"And I just thought, we need to do something different, or we need to at least try and do something different about how we engage with each other and deal with each other."

Every day experiences

According to Professor Browne, recent research shows that 15-25 per cent of people will never agree with things like same-sex marriage or abortion.

"We know there are some people whose minds can’t be changed, so the project isn’t about changing people’s minds," Professor Browne added.

Rather than changing peoples opinions, the Beyond Opposition project is looking to explore new ways of understanding the differences people have and how we can live better together as a society with those differences.


According to Professor Browne, there is extensive research about how recent social change has impacted those who welcomed it, such as LGBT+ experiences of legal changes to same-sex marriage.

However, there is not much information about how those changes have impacted the people who are opposed to them.

"They are not part of what they see happening around them, and they might be encountering this in all kinds of ways," Professor Browne said.

"Say things like, if Pride is on, and they go into their local Penneys, and they're having all these kinds of Pride t-shirts in front of them, or what's happening maybe in their schools.


"They might not be happy with that.

"They might be going into work and expressing an opinion and finding themselves in trouble."

Researchers working on the Beyond Opposition project are hoping to bring those together who have both welcomed and opposed the recent changes in order to consider how to address the social polarisation that comes with disagreement.

The project, which is funded by the European Research Council, seeks to explore the lives of people living across Ireland, the UK and Canada.

If you are interested in participating in the project, you can find out more information by clicking here.

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