“Piece of sh-t.” “Sissy.” “Flaming queen.”
These are some of the nastiest online barbs people have aimed at video creator, liberal podcast host and LGBTQ advocate Dylan Marron.
Marron had to think about the worst one.
“‘I hate your f-cking guts, please die,’ is a pretty bad one,” Marron told NBC News.
Some people weren’t necessarily hateful — they were just mean or critical. One commenter called him a “talentless propaganda hack,” and another said his liberal views were dividing America.
Marron, 30, is best known for projects like “Sitting in Bathrooms With Trans People” and “Shutting Down Bullsh*t.” At first, the advocate struggled to understand the nasty comments his videos garnered. Did they have meaning or were they just mean? Rather than dismiss his haters, Marron sought to understand them.
In 2017, he launched the Webby Award-winning podcast series “Conversations With People Who Hate Me.” In the series, Marron reaches out to those angry critics to simply ask them, “Why?”
“I get great enjoyment out of making this podcast,” Marron said. “The calls themselves make me feel like everything is possible — like communication is possible in the age of social media, and I wanted to share that with people if some people are kind of willing to go on that journey with me.”
Marron, who is gay, said he is selective about who he interviews. His guests are people who have sent him angry messages, he said, not those who have used violent or threatening language.
“I’m talking to the people I mostly feel safe with,” he said.
Now in its second year, Marron’s podcast has moved on from those who disagree with him to guests with opposing political and social views. He has moderated conversations between a transgender marine and a gay soldier who supported President Donald Trump's trans military ban; teenagers who disagree on gun control; and a feminist comedian and an anti-feminist who called her a “bigot.”
The podcast is not a platform for hateful ideologies, Marron insisted, just people who disagree.
“If we are to understand the ideologies we disagree with, I think it is important that we understand they are coming from humans no matter how fundamentally they may disagree with us and no matter how much those ideologies might disagree with our very existence,” he said.
Marron said social media has in some ways made it more difficult for people to have these meaningful conversations where they feel their views are being heard.
“I guess what I’ve learned is what can feel like hate on the internet isn’t necessarily hate when we take that conversation and move it offline,” he said, “but I think we’re robbing ourselves of nuance if we only have these conversations online."
Marron explained that he isn’t creating a platform for debate — just the opposite. He doesn’t want his guests to argue, he said. He simply wants them to listen.
“We’re so much more nuanced than how we express ourselves online, and we are so much more nuanced than how we express hate online,” Marron said. “So the irony of the title is that I don’t think I’ve ever had a guest who hates me, and I’ve never had guests who hate each other.”
In the end, Marron believes that social media, while divisive, can still be a force for good.
“That’s what I am trying to do,” Marron said. "I hope others join me.”