There are lots of ways you can break bread with your LGBTQI/SSA friends, neighbors, and even strangers. Just find others in your area who would like to reach out and build bridges and invite them, along with members of the LGBTQI/SSA community, to simple social gatherings. It’s that easy. Remember, it’s important that people who are invited to the gatherings have differing opinions on LGBT issues. Some Saints may not know anyone personally who is lesbian, gay or transgender. It is also a great way for community members who may not feel comfortable with LGBTQI/SSA people to be able to meet these individuals in an informal setting and see that they are just like them. Meeting (and eating) with a diverse group of people can enlighten and inform in ways that just seeing or reading cannot. Providing everyone a space to come and feel loved and accepted and talk about their diverse experiences as you eat, visit, play games (or whatever your group decides) is a less intimidating way to approach potential differences they might have.
You can hold these gatherings monthly or quarterly depending on needs. Another great way is to have these socials around holidays – a 4th of July barbecue, a Valentine’s Day game night, an Easter brunch and egg hunt if there are kids, a Thanksgiving feast, or Christmas caroling…really, the sky is the limit. Just bring them into your home and hearts. You can also plan service projects together in your area.
Here are three simple prompts you might like to use to get the conversation started:
1. Share some of your life experiences with me.
More often than not, you’re going to be surprised to learn you have some common ground in some aspect. When it comes to children, relationships, caring about spirituality, or other personal items, there is an awful lot of room to find something to connect on.
2. What issues deeply concern you?
Surprise! While you couldn’t disagree more when it comes to some issues, maybe you are both on the same side when it comes to others. Furthermore, perhaps you’re both ready to get more active in building bridges your respective communities. You could be valuable resources to each other.
3. What have you always wanted to ask someone from the “other side”?
This is a fun exercise in identifying the distortions that can happen when we only listen to people who agree with us. Both of you will probably find that the other’s perceptions really need the context you can provide in order to be more accurate.