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Salon meets nerdy supper club. KUOW kicks off Curiosity Club

KUOW has curated a cohort of ten inquisitive humans for a three-month experiment to explore the idea that surprising stories and great food can transform a group of strangers into a community.

We hosted our first Curiosity Club dinner on January 24. Club member Jennifer Hegeman gave us this review of the night.

My first reaction was: Why don’t more people do this sort of thing?

It was the hugest fun to gather with amiable, intriguing strangers, eat scrumptious food, and share insights about surprising news stories.

The diversity of the club members was amazing! Of course, this was no mystery since members were selected to be diverse — to represent voices that are often not heard in the reportage of news stories.

Curiosity Club is a sort of “perspective tank”—like the old think tanks that government and corporations used to generate ideas, but here we strive to form community by listening to the way others see things, and in turn sharing our own point of view. The results of our community’s sharing are then used by KUOW staff to inform and expand the scope of their reportage.

If you’re curious how this might play out in “real life,” here’s an example: I was talking with James about the KUOW story that featured a Seattle bus driver beloved for smiling and greeting each of his passengers.

James and I talked about smiling. I mentioned that the number one piece of advice often given to trans people concerned about “passing” is to smile at people. Almost always, people are put at ease and often they smile back; thus, the whole issue of “passing” becomes a non-issue.

James, who is African-American, told me that when young, he had been given the same advice, especially when interacting with white people. Smiling helped remove the “threat” that — like it or not — many whites feel when interacting with a black male.

So, James and I had something in common: We smiled to put others at ease and thus remove threats to our own personal safety.

This new angle, this “spin-off” to the original bus driver story, opens up a new window, possibly generating a new story for the KUOW reporters, who are mostly neither black nor trans. This is a great example of enlightened inclusivity at work!

Many thanks to Plum Bistro for contributing the delicious, amazing vegan food, and The Cloud Room for providing our meeting space. And thanks, Erik for taking pics!

And special thanks to Kristin Leong for causing all this to happen.

Jennifer Hegeman is a dog owner and Navy veteran. She works as a teacher-librarian at a suburban public high school, where she has taught for 29 years. However, for the first 23 of those years Jenny Hegeman was Mr. Hegeman. In 2014, Jenny transitioned from male to female. Today, Jenny identifies as transsexual. She describes her transition as “an arduous yet magical journey causing a complete metamorphosis of Self.”

Learn more about the other members of the Curiosity Club.

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