By Martin Witchger, Dignity/Washington
Author’s note: The use of the description “older” in this piece is meant only in contrast to “younger” in regards to age, and for the purpose of contrast, and is not meant to be inferred as “old.”
One of the many highlights for me at the DignityUSA 2013 Convention was the workshop on intergenerational dialogues put on by the Young Adult Caucus. With the realities of many of our chapters being older, but trying to reach out and retain younger adults, it was a very pertinent and timely session. I was curious about this session because I know that while intergenerational dialogues are important and necessary, from experiences after Mass at my local Dignity/Washington chapter, even after almost a year of weekly Masses, as a young adult, talking with some of the older members of my Chapter has been a little awkward. But, being committed to Dignity, and wanting to push myself into this experience, I went into this session with an open heart and mind.
Surprisingly, the session at the Convention was a wonderful experience. After hearing from a young and older adult telling part of their coming out stories, we broke into intentionally mixed-aged groups. In these groups of 6-8, we had a chance to share our reaction to the stories we heard, and share a bit of our own story. With some minimal ground rules (namely, no questions or comments from anyone after each shares, just listen), there was some amazing sharing that occurred. I believe all were pleasantly surprised at what we learned, and what bonds we started to form from our short 30 minutes together. This shows that to get over the barrier of awkwardness or difficulty for discussion between generations, it is as simple as having intentional time set aside to have an open, honest, and respectful space to share with each other about our lives and experiences.
Thanks to this breakout session at the Convention, I am coming back to my local Dignity community with renewed energy and experience to help facilitate the space for intergenerational dialogue.
We may just be surprised what we hear. It isn’t all easy for us young LGBT people coming out or living in our worlds, despite the amazing strides in LGBT rights over the last several decades. And it wasn’t as difficult for some of the older adults in our community who have been out for decades. But we each have a story to tell, and hopefully, through talking with those outside our age, we will learn to better respect one another and build strong intergenerational communities at Dignity.