I (Tracy) was flying from North Carolina into Utah to co-host "Living Room Conversations" between gay people like me and Mormons, with a friend from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jacob Hess. We had recently collaborated on a workshop at the National Coalition of Dialogue and Deliberation exploring how to work with diverging "sacred convictions" in relation to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues. Since then, Jacob and I had developed an unlikely friendship.
[. . .]
As participants arrived [for the focus group], we enjoyed some chips, hummus and drinks. We then took turns reading the Living Room Conversation ground rules, including "be curious and open to learning," "show respect and suspend judgment" and "be authentic and welcome that from others." One person said, "It didn't take long for everyone to realize that there was no reason to be afraid."
Opening rounds of conversation focused on getting to know each other -- including our sense of purpose, and our hopes and concerns for the future. The sense of commonality was almost immediate -- and made it "easier" as one person remarked, "to see each other as human beings rather than 'opposing views.'"
After an hour of these "warm up" conversations, participants responded to the question: "when it comes to the issue of marriage and LGBT rights, what are you most concerned about right now?"