Eliciting Open-Mindedness: A Phenomenological Study of Acceptance Same-Gender Marriage by Vermont Residents
Alice S. Kitchel, Student, School of Human & Organizational Development
In this study I explore the lived experience of changing one’s mind about civil unions and/or same-gender marriage in Vermont. I interviewed nine participants, all Vermont residents, two times and asked about their early beliefs and influences, experience of the change process, current perceptions and beliefs, and their ideas on why they were able to change their opinions about LGBT issues and same-gender marriage. I also included my protocols on experiences of being and feeling prejudiced.
I analyzed the findings using hermeneutic phenomenological methods. Reviewing several areas of literature I focused on Engel’s presentation of social movement theory and the inception, etiology, and reduction of prejudice based on theories of Allport, Devine, and Herek, and the role of empathy founded on Hoffman’s concepts in the reduction of prejudice. I also reviewed Conforti’s theory of pattern analysis based on Jungian archetypal theories, field theory, and system theory and human development theories of Kegan, Moshman, and Bentz, and theories on religious/ spiritual development, and moral development.
From the analysis of the data I draw several conclusions in light of the literature, the process of change was long and slow and most participants described their process using metaphors depicting a physical, felt component of the change process. My interpretation of the data also revealed that the capacity to change seemed to be linked to a previously acquired ability to change. Multiple paths of change included conversations with marital partners, friends, gay individuals, the media, and debates and testimony in legislative committees. The messages of a social movement did influence some participants in their change process. Several participants evidenced a qualitative degree of adult development. There seems to be no change in religious/spiritual or moral development, although several participants describe empathic responses. How the experience of change is expressed, more affectively or cognitively, is indicative of the degree of perceived transformation.