I used to be anti-gay, when I was in middle school. Granted, I was a young teenager, about 12 or 13 years old, and my experience with homosexuality was kids on the school bus talking about two guys kissing. At the time, that sounded yucky to me, and so I opposed it(in the ways that a 13 year old can), basically by calling people who would do that(I didn't actually know anyone that was gay) (*)(*)(*)(*), and disgusting, and generally saying that "gay is wrong". This wasn't a thought I had arrived at completely on my own, in fact, it was mostly based on the social view of it by the other kids in my environment that I was exposed to. Also keep in mind that this would have been around 1996 or so.
One day, when I was at a friend's house, we were chatting on America Online(hahahaha, so archaic) in one of the "Teen" chatrooms. The whole concept of chatting on the internet at the time was pretty darn new to us, so we were sort of mystified by the fact that there were who knows how many other people in the same chatroom as us talking about all manner of things, with no shortage of obnoxious trolling going on. I would join in, saying things in chat like "(*)(*)(*)(*) are evil", "being gay is just disgusting", and other statements to the same effect. I'm not even sure why I did it, maybe just to fit in, or maybe just because I've always tended to be someone who likes to make my opinions known to people(whether you've asked or not! ).
One day while doing this, I got an instant message from someone with a girly screename. I don't remember the exact wording of the message, but it was basically along the lines of, why are you getting so worked up about what other people do, if that's what makes them happy and they aren't hurting anyone, why do you feel the need to say such rude and hurtful things about them.
Seems like a no-brainer, right? Well, I was floored. I had simply not considered that angle of the issue before. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I was instantly not homophobic anymore, or that I instantly became a supporter for homosexual rights, but I never went into a chatroom saying those things again, and I've never called another person a (*)(*)(*) or a similar hateful term for being gay. It also made me realize that I'd never actually felt "right" saying those things to begin with. It was almost like that person shone a light on my behavior and opened my eyes to my own ignorance and my own lack of true belief in the things I was even saying.
That simple message was the catalyst for the birth of empathy in my thinking, and the realization that people's pursuit of happiness is not mine to judge when it's not harming others.
"The whole "us verses them/right verses left" mentality is childish; leave that crap in the sporting arena and understand that political discussions are no place for torrid, angry argument, rather rational dialogue whereby we may deepen and hone our own beliefs. Anyone declaring "liberalism" or "conservatism" as finite terms distinguishing absolute morality is grossly misguided and closed minded. They're just words; and we're just people. Political positions aren't sports teams." - TitoSparks