Dining across the divide: ‘It felt like such a direct attack at points … I actually started crying’

Can two strangers, one anti-abortion, the other pro-choice, find some common ground?

David, 31, near Norwich


Occupation Anti-abortion campaigner

Voting record Originally voted Conservative, then abstained; stood as a candidate for the Christian Peoples Alliance in 2019, but lost his deposit

Amuse bouche Made it to the semi-finals of Britain’s Got Talent as part of an all-male a cappella group

Josie, 31, Norwich


Occupation Housing officer for Norwich city council

Voting record Green in local elections, Labour in general elections, remain in the EU referendum

Amuse bouche Her calf, Heidi, won best in show in the 1997 Essex county show

For starters

David Josie arrived first. I wouldn’t say anything particularly struck me. Doing the work we do, we speak with all sorts of people.

Josie He looked exactly like Phil Rosenthal, the presenter of the Netflix series Somebody Feed Phil.

David I ate prawns and steak. I would have been prepared to forgo the steak if she was a vegan, but thankfully that wasn’t necessary.

Josie I had venison and steak.

David We were there for four and a half hours, it was amazing. We’ve both said we’d love to do it again.

Josie Maybe I’m very privileged – I’ve moved through my life without much homophobia. I’ve been out all my life. And, as a woman, you don’t face as much. But it felt like such a direct attack at points.

Josie and David

The big beef

David We got on to the subject of abortion pretty quickly because of my work. The Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform exists to challenge society’s thinking about abortion. We place a heavy emphasis on video evidence about when life begins. We show life in the womb, and what actually happens to the unborn child when it’s aborted, then ask people what they think, using the Socratic method to question their assumptions.

Josie You’d have to work flipping hard to change my views on this. I’m pro-choice. I’m still “your pussy, your rules”.

David She’d thought of it purely in a bodily autonomy, women’s rights perspective, and hadn’t really appreciated, “What about the baby?”

Josie He has two daughters, I asked what he would do if one of them got pregnant at 15 – would he really not support her choice?

David I’ve thought through those things in the past, but to sit down with a stranger and honestly think them through was interesting. However, my position didn’t change.

Josie He said: “She’d be robbing me of my grandchild.”

Josie and David

The big beef, second helping

Josie I thought, “I bet he doesn’t like gay people.” I could feel it. And I knew that if I didn’t ask, I would regret it. So I said: “How do you feel about the LGBT community?” He said: “As people, we have to draw the line somewhere as to what’s normal and what’s not. We have to draw a moral line.” Me being with a woman, he sees as the same as me having sex with my sister. We’re all under the same umbrella – incest, bestiality. I’m allowed to stay with my partner, but we have to stop having sex. Because God doesn’t like it.

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David I don’t believe that bestiality and incest are equivalent to homosexuality – I was just making the point that everyone draws a line somewhere.

Josie I actually started crying at this point. I said: “I’m not crying for me, I love myself, I’m comfortable in who I am. I’m crying because of the queer youth who’ve been made to feel this way by their church.” Think of all the queer suicides that happen because people have been made to feel disgusting.

Josie and David

For afters

David I can respect people’s choices. We’ve got a lady in our team, a vegan, and when she’s in the canteen, I don’t have milk in my coffee. But I wouldn’t agree with this idea that we’re meant to affirm everything that someone feels.

Josie I said: “If you were sitting here with a trans woman, what pronouns would you use?” And he said: “I’d use the pronouns he was born with.” I said: “What difference does it make to you to address someone the way they want to be addressed?”

Josie and David


David We could have gone on longer. It was fascinating.

Josie I felt very conflicted about what actually happened. That night, I was lying in bed with my partner, telling her all these things, and, at the end of it, she said: “Why are you saying he’s a really nice person?” And I said: “Because he said it all with a smile on his face.”

Josie and David

Additional reporting: Naomi Larsson

• David and Josie ate at the Ivy Norwich Brasserie

Want to meet someone from across the divide? Click here to find out more


Zoe Williams

The GuardianTramp

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