On Thursday, March 16, 2017, Professor Robin Fretwell Wilson will participate in a dialogue at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law titled "Religion and Gay Marriage: Do They Have to Be at Odds?" The event is the first in a new series of conversations that are the brainchild of Wilson and Professor William Eskridge (Yale University) - the #ToleranceMeans Dialogues.
We recently sat down with Wilson to learn more about #ToleranceMeans.
How did the #ToleranceMeans Dialogues come to be?
At the conference we co-convened at Yale on Faith, Sexuality and the Meaning of Freedom, Bill Eskridge and I asked ourselves, "who are the most open-minded and engaged people we know, who are most likely to find ways to peacefully coexist on issues that have long been unnecessarily divisive?" We decided it was our students.
The basic intuition of the #ToleranceMeans Dialogues is to harness the insights of people who have grown up with trans or gay peers - this is in contrast to our older members of society who may have never met an LGBT person, at least not that they were aware of meeting. With familiarity with others who are "different" comes respect and insights into how different folks can coexist. Day in and day out we navigate our differences and millennials are ground zero for those gestures, large and small, that help us live together civilly.
The first #ToleranceMeans event is coming up this week at PittLaw - where else are you planning on having these dialogues in the coming year?
The second one is scheduled to take place at the Idaho State Capitol Building on Tuesday, April 4, where I will dialogue with Idaho College of Law professor Shaakirrah Sanders and Idaho Senate Majority Leader Senator Bart Davis, in a discussion moderated by Idaho Representative John McCrostie. We're working on plans for a few others as well.
The first dialogue is titled "Religion and Gay Marriage: Do They Have to Be at Odds? And Can University Students Make a Difference?" Will all of the events focus on the same topic, or will some of them address other hot button issues, such as transgender bathroom laws?
The Pitt Dialogue will discuss trans people's access to bathrooms. We mention the question of trans access to bathrooms in our op-ed*, too, because it is an obvious case where we really can peacefully coexist and most schools have made real strides in finding creative solutions that are respectful of all.
(*Professor Wilson, in collaboration with Bill Eskridge and Mary Crossley, published an op-ed titled "Thinking like millennials" in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on 3/15)
What are you hoping to achieve with the #ToleranceMeans Dialogues? It seems like directly engaging students on these issues is a big part of this.
This is exactly the point. Who better to chart the path forward than the very people who stand on the cusp of their futures, but who can draw on childhoods and recent past of peaceful coexistence with one another. They hold the key to learning to live together for real.
To encourage engagement, particularly among the millennial audience, each dialogue features opportunities to compete for scholarships, as well as the chance to win social engagement prizes for tweeting to the @ToleranceMeans Twitter account.
A livestream of the event at PittLaw will be available on March 16th, and @ToleranceMeans will also be live tweeting.