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“To tell the truth is to become beautiful, to begin to love yourself, value yourself. And that’s political, in its most profound way.” ~June Jordan

By Ellyn Ruthstrom

SpeakOUT grew out of a simple urgency to tell the truths about LGBTQIA lives, to tell our own stories and demonstrate that we love and value ourselves and each other. Back in 1972, our founding year, a common expression was “the personal is political.” And that sentiment is what Jordan’s words and SpeakOUT’s personal storytelling reverberate with. There is power in the telling of our own truths, and sharing personal experience with others breaks through the barriers that exist to keep each other in our own boxes. When we understand another person’s life, it is much more difficult to condemn them or distance ourselves from them.

After 46 years, SpeakOUT is still sharing our #ProudStories and telling our truths. This year’s SpeakOUT Day on June 6th will again share the voices of our speakers and our clients through a social media fundraising campaign that speaks to the power of a community of speakers who strive to create safer spaces for LGBTQIA people throughout life—in schools, workplaces, faith communities, organizations, and more!

Many people know that SpeakOUT goes into middle and high schools around the region to discuss issues about sexual orientation and gender identity. Did you know we visit private as well as public schools? And this year, we’ve been approached by elementary schools interested in finding an age-appropriate way to talk about LGBTQIA lives with their students. (Stay tuned for more about that as it develops.)

Beyond the school setting, SpeakOUT members have recently shared their stories with a wide variety of audiences:

  • Several public libraries invited us to share LGBTQ stories or to focus on transgender awareness.
  • Two of our members told their stories at the LGBTQ Elders in an Ever Changing World conference at Salem State that emphasized the importance of sharing elders’ stories.
  • We spoke to USDA officials in central Massachusetts about being LGBTQ in rural environments.
  • Two of our speakers spoke at MCI Norfolk’s first LGBTQ Pride event for those incarcerated there.
  • We helped Resident Assistants on a college campus to be better prepared to support students with sexual orientation or gender identity experiences.

SpeakOUT’s training team with Freedom New Hampshire volunteers.

In addition to our speaking engagements, we also conduct speaker trainings for other organizations in the community. Last November, we traveled to Concord, New Hampshire to train a group of transgender activists and allies as Freedom New Hampshire prepared to fight for passage of a Transgender Rights Bill at their State House. Success! New Hampshire now has a law that protects transgender citizens from discrimination, including public accommodations. We’d like to think we were just a small part of that hard-fought win!

SpeakOUT has also been participating in educating audiences across Massachusetts about maintaining the Transgender Accommodations protections that are being threatened in November with a state-wide referendum. SpeakOUT will continue to speak across the state to encourage voters to get to the polls and put a stop to this backlash.

We have an amazing team of speakers, from students to retirees, who volunteer their time and personal commitment to help create safer spaces for LGBTQIA people. Your gift on SpeakOUT Day can help continue our tradition of telling personal stories to open minds and change attitudes about our community.

Pride Month is a special time for the LGBTQIA community. We take to the streets to both celebrate our fabulousness and to continue the political struggle that our Stonewall warriors began back in 1969. SpeakOUT honors our Pride connections by choosing a day in June for SpeakOUT Day to highlight the power of the #ProudStories our members tell. These truths continue to make a difference—profoundly.


Ellyn Ruthstrom is the Executive Director of SpeakOUT. She admires the work of June Jordan, an amazing bisexual writer whose poetry and prose meant so much to her in her own coming out process.

The Power of Silence

By Jenn Nguyen

I am so inspired by the youth of today who raise their voices about gun control, anti-racism, and LGBTQ civil rights. Their voices are working to create positive change for the future. And their silence is also meant to create change.

Friday, April 27th is the annual Day of Silence, which was initiated in 1996 by university students who pointed out the lack of support that was provided to LGBTQ students on campus. The Day of Silence is also meant to increase awareness of the harmful effects that bullying and harassment inflicts on LGBTQ students. Students voluntarily participate in Day of Silence by not speaking throughout the day in order to spotlight the erasure of LGBTQ people at school. Students then “break the silence” by communicating to their school administrator (whether it’s the day before, after, or through non-verbal communication) for LGBTQ-inclusive supports. Educators can also participate in Day of Silence by planning classroom activities to highlight these concerns.

Coming to terms with your LGBTQ identity can be difficult if your community is unaccepting. It’s especially harmful if your peers use “gay” as a derogatory term and your school administrators prevent you from basic forms of self-expression. In fact, GLSEN’s 2015 National School Climate Survey reported that 98% of LGBTQ students have heard the term “gay” used as a derogatory term (i.e. “that’s so gay”) from their peers at school. Additionally, 22% of LGBTQ students were prevented from wearing clothes deemed inappropriate for their sex and 17% were discouraged from writing or discussing LGBTQ topics. Some school policies specifically target transgender students: 51% of transgender students were prevented from using their preferred name or pronoun, and 60% were required to use a bathroom or locker of their sex at birth rather than their preferred gender.

When LGBTQ students experience bullying and harassment at school, the effects are detrimental. LGBTQ students have higher rates of depression, low self-esteem, low GPA, and are less motivated to pursue higher education than their straight peers. LGBTQ students who have experienced bullying and harassment because of their sexual orientation are three times more likely to have missed school in the past month. The Day of Silence encourages schools to provide better support and awareness for their LGBTQ students. Schools that have a Gay-Straight Alliance or Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA) or similar group are proven to promote visibility, safety, and acceptance to their LGBTQ peers. The groups also increase the likelihood of supportive school staff and accepting peers. The overall benefit is increased inclusivity and acceptance for the LGBTQ students.

There are various ways you can get involved with Day of Silence activities. On Friday, April 27, follow #DayofSilence on social media to tune into the activity nationwide. If you’re a student, make sure that you are granted permission to participate by your school administrators. For more details and to register for Day of Silence, check out GLSEN’s website: https://www.glsen.org/day-silence.

The fact that more states, such as Massachusetts and California, are starting to implement LGBTQ history into their curriculum is a huge milestone. I am hopeful and excited to see the power of silence help to raise more LGBTQ voices throughout the community.


Jenn Nguyen has been a member of SpeakOUT for over a year. Born and raised in Boston, she enjoys spending time with her partner, their rescue Ollie, and their 30-pound Maine coon cat, Junior.

Deciding Not to Be Who I Wasn’t

By Gabi Moynihan

Gabi with the transgender flag at Boston Pride.

March 31st is Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV), a time to celebrate transgender lives and to honor the resilience and strength of those who led the way to create space for transgender people within the LGBTQ movement. Gabi Moynihan, an active speaker with SpeakOUT, shares her own journey to living her true self and her commitment to supporting others in their quest.

A little over two years ago, the term transgender started being more widely known to me, even with a celebrity name or two identifying that way. Too bad I could never do that. Fear again. I was a volcano ready to erupt. Suicide wards were becoming commonplace, my mind a blur. I found a friend who I felt I could say anything to. I knew I had to share my true existence. Finally, January 19, 2016, at 59 years, 7 months and 20 days old, I shared who I was with her. I finally understood the term “weight of the world off my shoulders.” I didn’t think anything would come of it, but I laugh at that thought now.

First, the pierced ears, then a little mascara. No, I need to introduce Gabi to the world. I had told a few people but on February 25 I shared it on Facebook. Wow, still don’t know what was more emotional, writing it or reading the hundreds of supportive replies that followed. I had to move forward. I learned a little about makeup and dressing well for a 60ish woman. I attended the Transgender Flag Raising at Boston City Hall. I’m pretty much all in now. I went to the ceremonial signing of the Public Accommodations Bill on the steps of the Massachusetts State House in the summer of 2016 in a dress and heels. OK, really all in now.

I knew I could never go back to pretending. I took off on the greatest ride of my life. Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, Gender Soup, attending and marching in my first Pride Parade. Joining SpeakOUT. I had a lifelong fear (that word again) of public speaking and now I could share who I was and how I got there with groups of people and maybe make a little difference by educating others. I live a life I am proud of today.

A doctor asked if I had regrets I was not born a woman rather than a transgender woman. Maybe a few. Maybe I missed a lot of struggles, but they should’ve been my struggles. I am proud to be a transgender woman. To be accepted as I am for who I am. Not tolerated, accepted.

Transgender Day of Visibility. It is a day to reflect on my own journey and to appreciate the efforts and courage shown by so many before me. To be here. To be of help to someone with similar feelings and to help cisgender people understand the transgender experience better.

I never decided I wanted to become a woman. Thankfully I decided not to be who I wasn’t and be truthful with myself. I like who I am today. Finally. Yeah, it’s a pretty good day.

SpeakOUT’s Board of Directors for 2017-2018

SpeakOUT welcomed three new board members in the last six months who will be helping to guide our work in the coming years. We have a very talented group of eight now working together on organizational growth and sustainability. If you are interested in learning more about SpeakOUT and how you can become involved with the organization, please email Executive Director Ellyn Ruthstrom at ellyn@speakoutboston.org.

Michael Bookman headshotMichael Bookman’s attendance at SpeakOUT’s Speaker Training in 2012 inspired him to learn more about the organization and he has been volunteering and speaking for SpeakOUT ever since, joining the Board of Directors in 2014. Michael has served on the Volunteer Recognition Committee and as a disaster services instructor for the American Red Cross of Massachusetts, and as the co-chair of Boston Pride’s Human Rights and Education Committee. Currently in graduate school at Emmanuel College, Michael holds a bachelor’s degree of science in psychology, and a master’s degree of science in management. He is a human resources professional and belongs to the Society of Human Resources Management. For over nine years, Michael has been a proud member and executive club committee member of Toastmasters International, a non-profit educational organization that helps its members develop their public speaking and leadership skills.

Meg Duberek joined the board of SpeakOUT in March 2017. Meg previously volunteered with Horizons for Homeless Children and REACH Beyond Domestic Violence. After the November 2016 election, she was reinvigorated to spend her free time focusing on social change. Meg values the focus of SpeakOUT on breaking down interpersonal barriers and changing hearts and minds, and knows that this vital work must go hand in hand with policy change within our political climate. During the work day, Meg is a member of the Communications team at an education consulting nonprofit. She analyzes reporting, tracks data, and assists with website development. In her spare time, she is usually found outside hiking, kayaking, or in a hammock with her kindle. 

Jess FickJessica Fick joined the SpeakOUT board in September 2015. Jess has served in a variety of talent/organizational development focused roles throughout her career in the nonprofit sector. She is passionate about helping organizations run well and become better places to work/volunteer, so that they can make even more of an impact. Her day job involves leading the talent function at an education consulting firm, for which she has recently taken on the role of integrating diversity and inclusion efforts into the overall recruitment and employee engagement efforts. She joined SpeakOUT to learn and extend her impact beyond work. As an LGBTQ ally, Jess is a true believer in building stronger and more inclusive communities and cultures through listening and understanding the unique perspectives and experiences of others. In her spare time, Jess enjoys walking, hiking, and biking with her husband and dog.

George Grattan headshotGeorge Grattan’s career track and volunteer history has wound through the woods of academia, non-profits, marketing, writing, acting, public speaking, board service, environmental activism, and general “doing of stuff.” George joined the board of SpeakOUT in the fall of 2014, and prior to that was a board member of Living Routes, an environmental study-abroad program. His day gig focuses on marketing academic and social media content for Bentley University in Waltham, where he resides with his wife Mary. He has worked in the past for Earthwatch, the Urban Ecology Institute, Boston College, and the College of the Holy Cross. He has co-authored and co-edited both editions of Writing Places, a place-based composition reader for first-year college courses, and can be found every third Tuesday of the month at a “Bi Guys Bowling Night.” George is now serving as SpeakOUT’s Board Chair and is also one of our active speakers.

Jenn Guneratne joined SpeakOUT’s board in July 2014, having initially signed on as a volunteer in late 2013 to assist with the organization’s social media presence. Since then, she has watched the board grow with a number of highly talented and enthusiastic members. Jenn is excited to be involved with the Board during this time of growth and she is serving in the role of Board Clerk. Professionally, Jenn has worked in both arts organizations and educational institutions, and is currently working for the Undergraduate Affairs department at Boston University College of Communication. Jenn’s background and interests span the gamut of drama, music and musicology, photography, deaf studies, involvement with the LGBTQ community and commuting around the city on her trusty bike.

 

Jackie Pomposelli joined SpeakOUT Boston’s board in April 2017. Jackie has been involved with several non-profit organizations over the years advocating for human and environmental rights. Jackie’s involvement with SpeakOUT ties directly to her belief that providing people with a platform to share personal experiences helps to break down stereotypes and provide a sense of understanding that would not exist if people remain silent. In her day job, Jackie works in project management for Reebok’s US Retail team. In her spare time, Jackie loves spending time with her loved ones, cooking, and enjoying the outdoors, specifically her favorite beach in Marshfield.

alley photo

Alley Stoughton became an LGBTQ activist in Kansas during the fight against a proposed amendment to the state’s constitution restricting marriage to one man and one woman. The amendment passed, but the process of fighting it had beneficial effects for many participants, both personal and professional. In Alley’s case, it gave her the courage to transition genders, restarting a process that had been stalled for decades; it also led to her becoming a social and political activist, taking on leadership roles in a new LGBTQ rights organization as well as in an established peace and justice organization. Alley and her wife moved to Boston in 2010. In her professional life, she’s a research computer scientist, and currently works mostly remotely for a research institute located in Madrid. She trained as a SpeakOUT speaker in the fall of 2014, and joined the SpeakOUT board in the summer of 2015. She’s also a member of WMBR, MIT’s community radio station, where she hosts a modern classical music program.

Rob Symanski joined SpeakOUT’s Board of Directors in April 2017. Currently a Finance Director and MBA candidate at Boston College, Rob has worked in the nonprofit sector for the majority of his career. He is passionate about public service and hopes to make a social impact with the work he does as a volunteer. In his free time he enjoys travel, art, music and architecture. He currently serves as the Treasurer for SpeakOUT and believes that his work as a Board member will help to create a more inclusive and safe community for LGBTQ individuals in the Boston area.

A Different Tone to Pride This Year

By Ellyn Ruthstrom

As Executive Director of SpeakOUT, my custom over the last three years has been to publish a blog post to celebrate Pride Month with high energy and enthusiasm for the beauty, glitter, and joy of our high holiday. Outrageous fabulousness is a trademark of our celebrations and you won’t take that away from us! However, two crucial occurrences have shaped our realities this year that provide another layer of significance to our community’s Pride events. I hope, dear reader, that you don’t mind me getting a bit more serious this year.

One year ago on June 12th, I stood in Copley Square with several hundred others as we mourned the loss of 49 people that had been killed the night before in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub. We were in shock and sought comfort within the same community that we had been marching through the streets of Boston with just the day before. From floats and rainbow flags to tears and grief within 24 hours.

Hundreds of people came out to Trinity Church in Copley Square on June 12th, 2016 for a vigil to mourn the victims of the Orlando Massacre.

Once we realized that the shooter had been motivated by ISIL terrorism and that the majority of victims were Latinx and LGBTQ, it only heightened the fear of violence against queer people and people of color in particular. Having the violence within our own queer space sent reverberations throughout the community. Some of us felt unsafe going to queer spaces; others of us defiantly set out to reclaim the spaces as our own. Vigils around the country similar to the one at Copley allowed us to vent our pain and seek out a place to feel safer together.

Secondly, since November 8th when the Electoral College produced a political outcome no one imagined could ever happen, our whole sense of safety has taken on a new dimension. Not only do we feel more targeted as LGBTQ people, but people of color, women, Muslims and Jews, immigrants and refugees, working class and people who live in poverty are all made more vulnerable by the policies and the hatemongering atmosphere this Administration perpetuates. We saw hate crimes increase by 20% in 2016, and indicators show these rising still in 2017. Almost every day we hear of instances of people being harassed and assaulted in public just for who they are.

For the last eight years, there has been an LGBT Pride celebration at the White House (one I’ve been honored to attend twice); and now, instead the current president curries favor with anti-LGBT organizations. On the positive side, this change of direction and general level of disregard for our community has prompted a renewed sense of urgency to vocally and visibly resist the actions of this Administration. SpeakOUT has definitely seen more interest in our community outreach programs and I’ve heard many other organizations report this upsurge.

As we near the first anniversary of the Orlando massacre, let’s double down on our commitment to uprooting hatred and working to end anti-LGBTQ bigotry throughout the country. Equality Florida, the key organization that responded to the Orlando tragedy, is asking folks to participate in a social media campaign, starting on Friday, to connect with others and to #HonorThemWithAction. Ways you can participate:

* Tweet using #HonorThemWithAction at 1:00pm ET on Friday, June 9th.

* Join the Thunderclap campaign and schedule Facebook posts, Tweets, and Tumblr posts to automatically launch at 1:00pm ET on Friday, June 9th.

* Use the graphic with #HonorThemWithAction in posts starting on Friday at 1:00pm ET.

And as we mark this somber anniversary, let us also choose to celebrate the fabulousness that runs within our queer spaces. SpeakOUT will be at Boston Pride on Saturday, June 10th and we will be absorbing the joy that sparks when we bring our full selves OUT!


Ellyn Ruthstrom has been the Executive Director of SpeakOUT Boston since 2014 and an active speaker for the organization since 2008.

Spring Speaker Training Message: It’s Time to Speak OUT

By Dr. Jennelle Kariotis

As part of my work as a Relationship Advisor to members of the Rainbow Community, I regularly share my story as a way to provide a nonjudgmental, safe space for open, honest connection. When I learned about SpeakOUT and its mission to share the experiences of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, and asexual people and their allies—well, let’s just say it spoke to me.

I have always believed that it is incredibly important to share the voices of the minority with the majority as a way to educate and build common ground. SpeakOUT’s purpose is to educate through shared experiences, and the organization has been doing this in the Greater Boston area for over 45 years—and doing it damn well, might I add. As someone who has been speaking in front of audiences for pretty much all my life (I was raised in and took a strong affinity to the theater at a young age), I was truly amazed at how much value was packed into the SpeakOUT one-day speaker training. On April 22nd, 24 members of the local “Rainbow Community” came together with one purpose: to learn how to share our stories in a way that inspires, educates, and motivates others towards change and acceptance. Being with so many truth tellers and “hope spreaders” (as Glennon Doyle Melton would call us), was absolutely incredible. Strangers bearing their souls for a greater purpose, paying it forward with every word spoken. And mind you, these stories were as unique as they come—no two were alike. From coming out experiences to issues with family acceptance to fear around cultural tolerance to fitting into the LGBTQ+ spectrum to branching out of the LGBTQ+ spectrum, and everything in between. Each of us had a different message but with the same purpose: it’s time to SpeakOUT.

As a woman in a same-sex relationship who does not identify with any particular letter of the Rainbow alphabet, I found the SpeakOUT training was also very much about educating within the Rainbow Community. Stories shared from transgender, non-binary, and sexually fluid members (such as myself), allowed for thought-provoking, provocative conversations all day long. Questions were asked that required careful attention and the recognition that we all have a lot to learn from each other. And the opportunity to ask the SpeakOUT panel our most feared questions during a speaking engagement (e.g., “Why are all lesbians so ugly?”) was absolutely priceless. And rest assured, we are now all armed with the cool, calm, collected approach to dealing with even the most difficult of inquiries. As I like to say, kill ‘em with kindness and knock em’ dead with knowledge.

A large group of speakers came out for the Spring Speaker Training to prepare to tell their personal stories to create positive change.

In today’s political climate, sharing our everyday experiences with the community at large is so incredibly important. Our stories humanize what the political scene and the media can often demonize. Our greatest assets are our collective voice, we must continue to speak up when it comes to social justice, and the best place to start is with our individual experiences. Let us continue to lead by example and remind everyone that we are everywhere.

If you are a member of the local Boston Rainbow Community, find out more about SpeakOUT. You may not think you have a story to tell, but your story may be the one that someone else is waiting to hear. And you will no doubt meet some of the most compassionate, brave, intelligent, supportive people that you will ever come across in this city. We are here, we are queer, and all we need now is for you to lend an ear. To the newly inaugurated SpeakOUT speakers: congratulations on a day of hard work and dedication, and may we each go out and be the change we wish to see in the world.


As a Relationship Advisor, Dr. Jennelle Kariotis offers support, guidance, and advice on the matters of the heart that matter most to you. With over 10+ years of psychology education and a lifetime of personal experience following a nontraditional path, Dr. Jennelle advises through various platforms including a free, private community on Facebook (the Big Change of Heart Community) and her weekly podcast (the Big Change of Heart Podcast. Connect with Dr. Jennelle on Facebook @ Dr. Jennelle or contact her directly here.

Being An Ally Is What You Do, Not Who You Are

By Jess Fick

I grew up in a conservative community in the midwest. I remember one year students in my high school participated in GLSEN’s Day of Silence. I also remember that there were other students who wore T-shirts that day that said, “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” My high school self thought that was pretty witty.

When I went to college, I began to examine my belief system. I attended a very conservative Christian university in the south. When the Equality Ride came knocking at our doors, the university responded by setting up events to teach us why homosexuality was a sin and even had a person who ran a conversion therapy camp come and speak to us about how conversion therapy has helped so many people. It made me angry, so I did my own research. I decided that loving the people around me was the most important thing that I could do, no matter their sexual or gender identity. Obviously an evolution from when I thought the joke about Adam and Steve was funny.

During my junior year of college, one of my best friends came out to me as a lesbian, and I realized that there was absolutely no way I could respond with anything but love and compassion for how she was feeling. She was obviously feeling out of place at our ultra-conservative university, and as though she couldn’t be herself. We had hours and hours of conversations late into the night, where we talked through her thoughts. She told me about when she knew she was gay (In kindergarten, she wrote a love note to another little girl, not yet knowing that was “outside” of social norms.), and we talked about the ways she was beginning to accept herself. At this time, I knew I needed to be a listener and a loving friend.

However, it wasn’t until a few years after I graduated from college that I had a breakthrough in my understanding of true allyship. In my mid-20s, I dealt with a severe bout of depression. I spent a handful of years in therapy working through issues of self-worth. Since then, I have come out on the other side of it, not knowing where I stand on religion, but having realized that I am good (in fact, great) just the way that I am. Furthermore, if there is a God, they would never, ever want me or anyone to feel the way that I did for those few years. By extension, if there is a God, they would never, ever want any LGBTQIA person to feel like they weren’t great exactly as they are.  

Since then, I’ve learned a lot about what it means to be an ally. I was the opposite of an ally when I thought the whole “Adam and Steve” bit was funny. Although it was a step in the right direction, I was still not an ally when I began to believe that I should love instead of hate someone in the LGBTQIA community. I was beginning to become an ally when I began to listen, learn, and love, and when I had my personal realization about self-worth for all. I now know that to be an ally, it is not enough to simply show this love and compassion to your loved ones.

I have learned that I cannot truly be an ally to my friends and loved ones if I am not also fighting against prejudice that impacts them and fighting for their equal rights to marry, have full custody of their children, and be treated without discrimination in the workplace, in hospitals, and in businesses as they go about their daily lives. I have learned that being an ally is not a state of being, but something you do. This is why I am on the board of directors of SpeakOUT. As an organization, we are focused on ending prejudice and discrimination against the LGBTQIA community through changing hearts and minds. As a board member, I support the smooth functioning of the organization, through supporting fundraising, board recruitment, and volunteer speaker trainings. I hope the actions that I am taking to be an ally, even though I am far away geographically from my loved ones, have helped them to feel empowered to more proudly be who they are.


Jess Fick is a transplant from Michigan and joined the SpeakOUT board in the fall of 2015.

It’s Time to Understand the “I”

By Kimberly Zieselman

October 26th is Intersex Awareness Day – marking the 20th anniversary of intersex protests outside the annual American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) conference in Boston.  That protest is considered the beginning of intersex activism in the U.S. and the beginning of a movement.

interact-buzzfeed

Several intersex activists participated in a Buzzfeed video to raise awareness about intersex issues.

Intersex – the “I” in LGBTQIA – is an umbrella term for people born with a biological sex characteristics that are not strictly ‘male’ or ‘female’. As common as red hair, nearly two percent of the population is born with reproductive or sexual anatomy and/or a chromosomal pattern that does not seem to fit the typical male/female binary notion of sex.

For example an intersex person could be born with XY, or typically “male” sex chromosomes, internal testes, and no uterus but have typically female genitals and secondary sex characteristics.   A trait referred to as “androgen insensitivity”. Or a person may have typically “female” XX chromosomes and internal reproductive organs but have external genitals that are perceived to be atypical such as an enlarged clitoris. Intersex people are not really that rare; they have just been mostly invisible due to stigma and shame imposed on them by society and specifically some in the medical community.

Many have not even heard of intersex traits because until recently it has not been widely discussed.  Doctors have attempted to surgically erase variations of sex anatomy attempting to make intersex bodies “normal”. Since the 1950s, intersex children have been routinely subjected to irreversible, harmful, and unnecessary surgeries and other medical interventions in an attempt to ‘normalize’ or ‘fix’ their bodies.  But intersex bodies aren’t broken.  In fact, in the overwhelming majority of cases there is no medically necessity associated with these irreversible and unconsented “treatments”.

These so-called “normalization” surgeries are simply cosmetic, and can result in loss of genital sensation and sexual function, sterility, scarring, ongoing pain, incontinence, loss of reproductive capacity, depression, and PTSD. Families are often told to keep these experiences a secret, sometimes even from the children themselves. Sometimes doctors did not fully inform the parents or the children about the procedures that they performed.

Since the 1990s, intersex people around the world have been stepping forward to speak out against the medical treatment they received in childhood. Many have disclosed that the secrecy surrounding their experiences led to traumatizing feelings of shame and stigma and had a profound negative impact on their lives. Leaders of the intersex community started calling for an end to unnecessary surgeries, and for children with intersex traits to have a voice in in the treatment of their own bodies!

Today, interACT, a national organization based in the Greater Boston area, is the only organization fighting to promote legal and human rights of intersex youth, as well as working to raise awareness of intersex issues in the media and empowering intersex youth advocates.  Some of interACT Youth’s recent projects include a viral Buzzfeed Video entitled, “What it’s like to be intersex,” as well as consulting with MTV to create the first intersex main character on the popular teen show Faking it! interACT also uses innovative advocacy strategies on the state, federal and international levels to impact law and policy in favor of intersex rights.

interact-log-with-taglineThe LGBTQA community and the intersex movement are fighting some of the same societal constraints associated with not fitting into narrow understandings about bodies and identities. Most intersex people share the common experiences of discrimination, stigma and shame based on non-binary notions of sex, gender, and sexual orientation.  Although intersex is not a sexual orientation, it can be an important identity that some have reclaimed and celebrated in the face of medical providers who’ve felt intersex is shameful and should be kept hidden.

This intersex awareness day, please consider sharing this information with a friend who many not yet understand what the “I” in the alphabet soup stands for.  For more information, go to www.interACTadvovates.org.


Kimberly Zieselman, JD, is an intersex activist and Executive Director of interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth, and lives in Sudbury, Massachusetts.

weareorlando

By George Grattan

I’m sorry this is going to be rambling. Two years ago tomorrow I came out widely and publicly as bisexual, at work, online, and in other sectors of my life where I had been partially closeted for more than 20 years. As she has always been, Mary Benard was by my side through that process and the decisions leading up to it. I’ve been one of the lucky ones: I’ve received love and support from family and friends. I’ve become active with groups like the Bisexual Resource Center and, especially, SpeakOUT Boston. I’ve deepened my sense of connection to the larger LGBTQIA community. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made it my life; I’m only sorry I waited so long, but fear is a powerful, powerful thing.

This weekend, I celebrated my 47th birthday and Boston Pride on the same day, spending it with Mary and a dear friend and spending some time at the SpeakOUT booth at the festival. We’d marched in the parade each of the last two years so this was our year to be spectators and get a larger sense of it; I’m glad we did. Over the course of the long day, we went to four different queer-friendly establishments. We laughed, danced, hugged, waved our flags, and came together with the diverse greater Boston queer community. It was wonderful.

And then we awoke Sunday to the news about the shooting at a queer nightclub, Pulse, in Orlando. Like every other decent human being, we were sickened at the loss of life, outraged once again at living in a country where the laws and culture around guns and gun control make such things so common, and dismayed to once again learn about the radicalization of someone into something so broken, so inhuman, as to be able to distort Islam and commit atrocities in its name.

And, of course, there was also the cold sweat realization: that could have been us. The night before. Any number of nights.

Please understand this: queer-friendly spaces are sanctuaries. If you’ve never been called faggot or dyke or queer-as-a-slur or any number of other insults because of who you are, I’m genuinely happy for you. If you’ve never been physically threatened because of your identity or how you present it in public, great. But many of us have, and those scars run deep. Safe spaces like Pulse in Orlando are where we can go and be ourselves in the expectation of reasonable safety. This killing spree was as much about striking at that idea as it was about taking individual lives.

I’ve never been to Orlando, so I’ve never been to Pulse. But I know who was in there Saturday night. Gay men, lesbians, bisexual men and women, transgender people, gender-queer or gender-fluid folks, people of many different ethnicities, and lots of others with lots of other labels of choice. I’m sure that many straight friends and allies were there as well, as is often wonderfully and increasingly the case in such spaces. Some people were there with their partners, whether married or not, whether monogamous or not. Some were single and alone. Some were there with friends. Some were there to talk, to flirt, to dance, to make friends, to hook up, to celebrate something, to drink, to eat, to simply be, like people at bars and nightclubs of all kinds are, everywhere. Some were out. Some were closeted in other parts of their lives.

All of them, the dead, the wounded, the survivors, were beautiful, flawed, wonderful, imperfect, full-of-potential human beings. Yes, this is a human tragedy. And, YES, it matters that this act of violence was aimed at the queer community, in particular, queer people of color. If I can borrow a style from Lin Manuel Miranda’s wonderful Tony acceptance sonnet: it matters it matters it matters it matters it matters it matters.

I don’t know how we move on from this as a queer community, or as a country. I do know that Pride will never feel the same. And neither will safe spaces. Just….love each other. It’s ultimately all we can do.

panorama trinity

Hundreds gathered at Trinity Church in Boston on eve of June 12th after the Orlando massacre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


George Grattan, SpeakOUT’s board president, has lived in the Boston area for more than 20 years and helps run a “Bi Guys Social Night” through the Bisexual Resource Center. He’s been active with SpeakOUT since 2014. In his spare time he works in higher education marketing and communications, goes kayaking, and sits on his back porch.

Kick Off Pride Season on SpeakOUT Day – June 3

Temporary tattoos are a must at the SpeakOUT Pride booth!

Temporary tattoos are a must at the SpeakOUT Pride booth!

By Ellyn Ruthstrom

It’s that time of year again to break out the rainbow regalia, sprinkle the glitter, and get your marching or dancing shoes on—whichever suits you best! Pride season has begun and it’s exciting to attend flag raisings, LGBTQ community forums, pride marches, history events, block parties, inter-faith services, and so much more! We come out to celebrate, we come out to raise awareness, and we come out to COME OUT!

This year, we are kicking off Pride month by celebrating SpeakOUT Day on Friday, June 3. All day long we’ll be sharing information on our social media channels about SpeakOUT: our mission, our speakers, our clients and our impact in the community. And yes, we will be encouraging our supporters to make a donation on SpeakOUT Day to keep our work expanding and touching as many lives as possible!

We hope you can jump in and share your experiences and insights about our work, too. If you don’t already follow us on Facebook and Twitter, do so and include #SpeakOUTDay in your posts. Some of us will be celebrating SpeakOUT Day at Fenway Park’s Pride Night that evening so look out for fun selfies from us.

Most years I’m usually helping to set up a table or marshaling a parade contingent into position on my Pride mornings. And this year will be no different as I head to Government Center for Boston Pride on June 11 to hang up the SpeakOUT banner, spread out the table displays, and get ready to schmooze all day with the fascinating array of people who stop by the table.

I am passionate about the work that SpeakOUT does in the community, so I get jazzed when I get a chance to talk to others about that work. By the end of the day I often realize that I have talked to folks from the ages of 13-80, from city dwellers to suburban and rural folks, first-timers as well as those chalking up their 40+ Pride year. I love meeting students who tell us how glad they are we came to their school, and meeting others who haven’t heard of us before but tell us how much they need us to come to theirs. I meet community members who get excited about our mission and decide to sign up for our next training so that they, too, can share their stories. It’s exhausting and exhilarating and not to be missed.

On Pride Day, there is much to celebrate about our rich history of resistance and pure fabulousness. (Snap!) And there is also much more to continue working on together as a community! Celebrating Pride is a way for me, personally, to recharge and recommit to doing the work we need to do all year long. After the glitter gets washed away, it’s back to work. Happy Pride, everyone!


ParadeboaEllyn Ruthstrom is the Executive Director of SpeakOUT Boston. Last year, Ellyn was one of Boston Pride’s marshals, honoring her many years of work with the Bisexual Resource Center and the LGBTQ community. She was able to cross off her bucket list “riding in a convertible with a pink boa.”