“Dialogue cannot be reduced to the act of one person’s depositing’ ideas in another, nor can it become a simple exchange of ideas to be ‘consumed’ by the discussants” – Paulo Freire
I’ve always known I couldn’t do this project alone. The whole point of this effort has been providing infrastructure for a broadened dialogue. And by definition, “authentic dialogue” must entail “the bilateral, free and un-manipulated engagement of at least two persons, two unique perspectives and ultimately two distinct agendas.” In addition, “the moment a space becomes, in actuality, a site for unilateral, instrumental and manipulated engagement, it arguably ceases to be dialogue.”
Despite positive intentions, this kind of subtle manipulation can happen in writing-about-conversation just as much as it can in conversation itself. Either way, this falls short of an important standard in the world of dialogue and deliberation – and one I take very seriously.
And what is that? As Kadlec and Friedman (2007) have summarized, healthy conversation settings – especially on contested issues – share the following feature: “no single entity with a stake in the substantive outcome of the deliberation should be the main designer or guarantor of the process” (p. 7).
So far, I’ve been the main designer of this series of first draft “maps” that I’m hoping can support more productive LGBT-RC conversation. It’s time for that to change.
While this felt like the right first step for me, I’ve always seen it as just a beginning. After all, even after reviewing hundreds of stories, comments and articles, I only have one pair of eyes. And as much as I have earnestly tried to hear out and understand diverse views and perspectives, I still only write out of my own standpoint.
That means blind-spots – natural limitations in what I alone can see and do. As a crucial next step in this project, I’m excited to recruit a team to provide accountability for a nuanced and sufficiently complex finished product.
Recruiting the FWC Team. Starting today, I will be recruiting other writers and thinkers with an interest in bolstering this LGBT-Religious Conservative conversation – expanding the Flirting with Curiosity project to encompass a bigger team representing diverse life experiences, political persuasions, sexual preferences and identity constructs. The goal will be to achieve, in qualitative research lingo, a “maximum variation” sampling of perspectives and views.
But hold on, now: In a group with this many differences (aka disagreements), what would be the point? How is a group so ‘at odds’ supposed to do something together, let alone write something half-coherent?
If not for my own past experience with other collaborative projects, I would be skeptical as well. But some of my favorite and most powerful writing experiences have all involved intense disagreement among the various authors. For instance, in a paper on contested views of mental health recovery, it was hugely helpful to have both the conventional and critical psychiatric views. And in another related project, the Red Blue Purple Dictionary, I’ve found the diversity of our team not only helpful, but essential and even indispensable to achieving our writing goals.
And I feel the same way about this project. As I wrote more about recently, the purpose of this writing effort is creating the opposite of the homogenized echo-chamber that is coming to characterize Tribalized America – experimenting with a larger infrastructure within which people with real disagreements can not only come together, but do so productively.
In order to get there, I’m looking for a team that can embody and practice together the very thing we’re inviting the broader audience to do: Flirt. With. Being Curious…that there is More to Understand (and Many Things we Still Don’t Know!)
To date, I’ve taken a first stab and put out my best ideas, based on what I’ve read across narrative comments and understood in past dialogues. Now it’s time for incisive response, revision, critique, correction, upgrades, additions, subtractions, deletions. Essentially, it’s time to make this a real dialogue text – one reflecting the voices and insights of many people on the authorial level (and not just in the textual voices I’ve tried to juxtapose and map out in the writing itself).
Uniting this team, amidst our substantial differences, would be a shared commitment to high-quality conversation that involves intense respect for each others’ humanity. This does not mean we would necessarily resonate or even ‘respect’ each other’s ideologies or philosophies or beliefs-about-anything…but it does mean we’d agree on (a) the basic value of practices that bring different ideas and beliefs together in a generous, open-hearted interplay that teaches, presses and stretches us all and (b) the possible benefit of creating a text that helps encourages and foster that kind of exchange more often.
Getting to the finish line. THAT is the Dream Team  I’m looking for, a trusted group of confidants to help drive the next phase of Flirting with Curiosity. From where I stand, I’m envisioning at least three phases (open to other ideas):
- Audit, improve and upgrade the “maps” to date. Review all the question “maps” posted (7 so far) in a shared Google-document that allows each person to change, edit, upgrade and revise anything that needs to be improved; the goal in all the changes would be to better reflect the true nuance and complexity of the current conversation between LGBT and religious conservative communities.
- Review additional maps considered for posting. Additional maps (at least 23 still to go) would go through a similar process of review and collaborative input – including what future maps to prioritize.
- Unite energies and insights in the final book product. Join forces towards finalizing a hard-copy text that synthesizes and integrates all maps in one place – drawing larger implications for the current and future U.S. conversation between the LGBT and religious conservative communities.
Arthur Pena has been my main confidant and critical accountability partner to date, to date. I’m looking to add voices that span various angles of additional diversity.
This won’t be merely some kind of an approval or review committee, where people nuance or finesse the text a bit this way or that. All team members would have access to raw data and many files I’ve been working from, with a significant voice in revising or correcting or upgrading or deleting anything that they spot as ‘not quite right’ (or way off).
Bottom line: Those who join this team would have wide leverage to help shape this project and make it something you can call “yours” as well…
Is that you? See if this describes you:
- Someone with a passion for not only LGBT questions and/or conservative religion – but for the future of dialogue between the two.
- Individuals road-weary of the way conversation has gone – and locating a hunger in themselves for something better…an ache that they feel this project may help satisfy (for them and others).
- Individuals more committed to the quality of public discourse, than simply who “wins” the conversation (even if practical/policy issues still legitimately matter to all of us).
- People willing to spend time writing, revising, honing, analyzing – and with the stamina to become part of a team that brings this book to press by the end of 2016.
Over the course of the year ahead, the work load would vary from week to week – without ever a linear commitment of “X hours per week.” If you’re so busy that you can hardly imagine adding ‘anything else’ to your schedule, this may not be for you. I’m hoping to find people willing and able to make space in the year ahead to help finish a collaborative book project – with their name on it.
If that describes you, I’m dying to hear from you (okay, I’ll live…but seriously, I’m sitting by the phone).
Start with sending me an e-mail about your interest – where you’re coming from, why this kind of writing and work draws you, etc. (at firstname.lastname@example.org) – and let me know a number to reach you.
After formalizing a team, we’d pick a time to all connect on Google-hangout together. Details of team size and working process will be finalized at that time. Feel free to forward this to others who might be interested. Thanks!
 This is the term I’m using to refer to the series of question-centered documents where various interpretations and responses are laid out, followed by the likely implications of each interpretation in actual practice.
 On one level, I’ve already sought for this to be multi-vocal – in the format of juxtaposed narratives and narrative excerpts throughout. But on another level, it’s still mostly me writing it! That’s what will be changing.
 I was thinking of 8-10 people as ideal – although I’ve seen twice as much really power other projects forward. I’m open to different sizes of a team.