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Q and A with Gabi Morgan (she/her/hers)

To celebrate National Coming Out Day we are highlighting the coming out experiences and insights of several of SpeakOUT’s speakers. We asked them to fill in some of the details of what coming out was like for them and how it has affected their work with SpeakOUT. When our speakers share their stories out in the community, they inspire others to have the confidence to live more authentically and we hope it will do the same for you.

Gabi Morgan started working with SpeakOUT three and a half years ago. She is 64 years old and enjoys hosting events as well as participating in trivia.


Q: If you had to use one word to describe how you felt after coming out, what would it be?
A: Authentic

Q: Why was coming out important to you? How was it challenging?
A: The secret was eating me up for too long. I was letting the fears drive me. Afraid of being judged.

Q: If you could have told your younger self one thing before coming out, what would it be?
A: Don’t be reckless, but never NEVER let fears make all your decisions for you.

Q: How does SpeakOUT’s use of coming out stories help to create change?
A: It helps people with questions identify with other people and situations.

Q: How have you witnessed SpeakOUT positively affect those around you?
A: I have done engagements where audience members actually came out to us at end of the session.

Q: Why do you volunteer your time with SpeakOUT?
A: It helped give me a voice and confidence in who I am and the opportunity to listen to and help others.

Q and A with Bill Barnert (He/Him/His)

To celebrate National Coming Out Day we are highlighting the coming out experiences and insights of several of SpeakOUT’s speakers. We asked them to fill in some of the details of what coming out was like for them and how it has affected their work with SpeakOUT. When our speakers share their stories out in the community, they inspire others to have the confidence to live more authentically and we hope it will do the same for you.

Bill Barnert has been with SpeakOUT since 1980. He is 64 years old and enjoys  the theater, music, movies, education, and comedy.


Q: If you had to use one word to describe how you felt after coming out, what would it be?

A: Apprehensive.


Q: Why was coming out important to you? How was it challenging?

A: I felt that I was living a lie – lying to my parents, my family, my friends. Hiding my sexuality had put a barrier between me and everybody, and I wanted to take that barrier away. It was difficult at first, because in some ways I felt that until I told ANYONE, it was OK that I hadn’t told my parents. But I wasn’t ready to come out to my parents, so it was a Catch-22. I couldn’t tell them first, and I couldn’t NOT tell them first.


Q: If you could have told your younger self one thing before coming out, what would it be?

A: Spend less time fretting, and more time dating.


Q: How does Speak friendsOUT’s use of coming out stories help to create change?

A: I was at a weekend of college LGBTQ+ leaders at my Alma Mater, Brown. A young woman came up to me and asked “Are you Bill?” “Yes,” I said, “Why?” “Because I go to Colby College in Maine, and before you [SpeakOUT] came up to give an assembly, there were barely two out gay people on campus who talked to each other, and now we have a gay group, I do speaking engagements, and I quote you all the time!”


Q: How have you witnessed SpeakOUT positively affect those around you?

A: At one of the SpeakOUT Training Weekends, there were a number of high school students, and their parents. One of the mothers came up to me & started talking about her daughter as if I should know both of them. I finally confessed that I couldn’t place her, and she blushed. “Oh, of course! We can see you on TV, but you can’t see us! And I used a fake name.” She had called in to SpeakOUT TV when her daughter first came out, and I was the first person she had discussed it with, and she felt much better afterwards. And here they both were at a SpeakOUT Training!


Q: Why do you volunteer your time with SpeakOUT?

A: It really makes a difference in people’s lives, and that’s a good feeling.

Q and A with Michael Bookman (he/him/his)

To celebrate National Coming Out Day we are highlighting the coming out experiences and insights of several of SpeakOUT’s speakers. We asked them to fill in some of the details of what coming out was like for them and how it has affected their work with SpeakOUT. When our speakers share their stories out in the community, they inspire others to have the confidence to live more authentically and we hope it will do the same for you.

Michael Bookman starting working with SpeakOUT eight years ago. He is 45 years old and enjoys traveling.


Q: If you had to use one word to describe how you felt after coming out, what would it be?

A: Reborn


Q: Why was coming out important to you? How was it challenging?

A: It was a part of my journey to form and uncover my true identity.


Q: If you could have told your younger self one thing before coming out, what would it be?

A: Seek and interact more with others who have already “come out.”


Q: How does SpeakOUT’s use of coming out stories help to create change?

A: It facilitates a recognition of our vulnerabilities and shared humanity.


Q: How have you witnessed SpeakOUT positively affect those around you?

A: That is a resounding, “YES!”


Q: Why do you volunteer your time with SpeakOUT?

A: It is therapeutic for me.


Q and A with Quyen (Win) Tran (she/her/hers)


To celebrate National Coming Out Day we are highlighting the coming out experiences and insights of several of SpeakOUT’s speakers. We asked them to fill in some of the details of what coming out was like for them and how it has affected their work with SpeakOUT. When our speakers share their stories out in the community, they inspire others to have the confidence to live more authentically and we hope it will do the same for you.

Quyen Tran starting working with SpeakOUT three years ago. She is 43 years old and enjoys drag performing (she has 15+ years experience), waterfall chasing, skinny dipping, foraging, and being an avid plant daddy.

Q: If you had to use one word to describe how you felt after coming out, what would it be?

A: Liberating.


Q: Why was coming out important to you? How was it challenging?

A: So I could stop hating myself & actually start living. It was challenging because I gave up a promising career. 


Q: If you could have told your younger self one thing before coming out, what would it be?

A: Your blood family won’t understand you, but you’ll create a whole new family that spans the whole country and will do anything for you at the drop of a hat.


Q: How does SpeakOUT’s use of coming out stories help to create change?

A: We create visibility and room for those who previously thought there was no place for them. 


Q: How have you witnessed SpeakOUT positively affect those around you?

A: Because of my experience of working with SpeakOUT, I’ve realized just how important my visibility is and how I can change people’s perception of the gay community. I now use my social media as a place where I’ll present current queer education for folks who may not have someone in their lives to help them with that.


Q: Why do you volunteer your time with SpeakOUT?

A: Because I specifically want the high school kids to have an easier time with it than I did. My hope is if I can get to them sooner, the better adjusted they will be and their personal development will be better off.

Everyone’s Coming Out Day Deserves to be Celebrated

By Ellyn Ruthstrom, Executive Director of SpeakOUT

National Coming Out Day can be a significant moment for LGBTQ+ people who are newly empowered to step forward about their sexual orientation or their gender identity. On that day, you can feel like the whole community is welcoming you with open arms and cheering just for you! And we are. We know the courage it takes to make that choice to live authentically and to reveal deeply personal parts of yourself to important people in your life. Each person’s journey is different and whether you are 14 or 74, we all deserve to be celebrated and welcomed into the community.

National Coming Out Day also provides a space for folks who have been out for decades to attest to the transformative power of the coming out experience. As those of us who are “tenured” know, you don’t just come out once; you end up having to come out throughout your life whenever you are meeting new people and heading into new environments. It’s a bit like flexing your muscles, and it becomes easier each time you do it. 

SpeakOUT speakers have been venturing into classrooms, boardrooms, auditoriums, public libraries, churches, temples—anywhere we are invited—to share stories about LGBTQ+ lives since 1972. Raising awareness about our lives and answering questions from the audience (“Ask Us Anything” is our motto!) are extremely important parts of our engagements. But many of our speakers volunteer their time and energy for an even more personal reason. They know how potent a role model can be for someone who hasn’t yet come out. One of the things that our members often say is, “I wish there had been a SpeakOUT when I was growing up. It could have saved me a lot of struggle if I had seen a confident LGBTQ+ adult talking about their life.” And some of our own speakers were originally members of a SpeakOUT audience and felt the impulse to pay it forward by telling their own story to the next generation.

This week, as a lead-up to National Coming Out Day on Sunday, October 11th, SpeakOUT will be sharing our members’ insights about their own coming out experiences and highlighting the power of telling those stories to raise awareness. We have a generous donor who is pledging to match the first $2,500 of donations this week—doubling the impact of your gift! We’ve pivoted during COVID to online engagements and your support today can help us continue our awareness-building work. 

SpeakOUT speakers represent the beautiful spectrum of our LGBTQ+ rainbow, and on National Coming Out Day my hope is that everyone within our community feels the liberation of living true to ourselves.

SpeakOUT’s 2020 Board of Directors

SpeakOUT’s Board of Directors has brought on three new members in the last six months. We are always interested in hearing from prospective board members who want to contribute time and energy to the LGBTQ+ community. The board meets once a month (currently virtually) and has opportunities for board members to support the organization’s fundraising, events planning, organizational development, and more. If you are interested, please email Executive Director Ellyn Ruthstrom at ellyn@speakoutboston.org to find out how you can get involved. We especially encourage people of color, and transgender and nonbinary individuals to apply for a seat on the board.

Meg Duberek joined the board of SpeakOUT in March 2017 and after a year as Vice Chair, she is now the Board Chair. 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. 

Andrew Chou joined SpeakOUT’s Board of Directors in September 2018. After serving as Treasurer for a year and a half, he is now in the Vice Chair role. Andrew’s affinity to SpeakOUT stems from his belief that sharing personal experiences and building community are critical to helping LGBTQ individuals better understand their identities and allies better support their LGBTQ peers. Outside of his involvement with SpeakOUT, Andrew enjoys his day job in finance and is a spin class regular, an avid squash player, and an aspiring pastry chef.

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.

Sherry Jones Maspons joined SpeakOUT’s board in February 2019 and has recently taken on the role of Treasurer. She’s been an advocate for LGBTQ organizations in the North Shore and Greater Boston areas for many years. She acted as marshall for the Ova4D Lesbian Group in 2018 for the Boston Pride parade. As a Financial Systems Analyst and Consultant she chased large financial institution mergers and acquisitions from MA, FL, NC, OH. She then returned to her hometown of Marblehead in 2014 and currently sits on the Board of Directors for her Rowing Club, RocknRow. Sherry enjoys cooking and hosting dinner parties, cycling, gardening, traveling and sailing. 

George Grattan’s career and volunteer history wind through the woods of both academia and non-profits, including editing, writing, marketing, program management, public speaking, board service, environmental activism, and general “doing of stuff.” George joined the board of SpeakOUT in the fall of 2014, and served as Board Chair for three years. He has worked at Ceres, Bentley University, Earthwatch, and the Urban Ecology Institute and has taught American literature, writing, and environmental studies courses at Boston College, and the College of the Holy Cross, his alma mater. A proud bisexual/queer, cisgender man, he lives with his wife, Mary, in Waltham, MA and can be found every third Wednesday of the month hosting the Bisexual Resource Center’s “Bi/Pan+ Guyz Social Night.”

Catherine (Cat) Tepoz joined SpeakOUT’s board in December 2019. She previously volunteered with DBSA Boston, a mental health support group. Cat is excited to be a part of the LGBTQ community and to share her personal experiences with others. Professionally, Cat works for Bank of America Private Bank in the financial district. Outside of her involvement with SpeakOUT, Cat is a part-time MBA student at Boston College’ Carroll School of Management. In her free time, Cat can be found going on small hikes. 

Chessy Whalen joined the board of SpeakOUT in January 2020, having moved to Boston from the UK in late 2019. In London, Chessy worked with a UK-based LGBTQ charity, Just Like Us, an organization that also uses storytelling and personal connection to increase awareness of LGBTQ issues and acceptance of LGBTQ people. Seeing the similarities with SpeakOUT, she was really keen to get involved. Chessy’s day job is as a Strategy Consultant and in her spare time she enjoys reading, British TV, and trying new food either in her kitchen or out to eat.

Supporting SpeakOUT Builds Safer Spaces for LGBTQ+ People

For over 45 years, SpeakOUT has been helping to build safer spaces for LGBTQ+ people through our personal style of storytelling and community education.

Each year, our trained speakers conduct over 100 engagements within local middle and high schools, colleges, businesses, faith communities and many other venues while sharing our diverse experiences and perspectives in order to raise awareness about LGBTQ+ identities. Our long history and the richness of our membership of over 100 speakers illustrates that our style of community engagement works to change the way our audiences see LGBTQ+ people. Sharing our stories in a variety of settings opens up a dialogue that enhances understanding and truly affects the climate of the places where we speak.

Our work also reaches other LGBTQ+ youth and adults who feel supported in their schools, workplaces, places of worship, and other community spaces when they hear our stories reflect some of their own experience. One of the leaders of an Employee Resource Group that hosted SpeakOUT at their Pride event shared their feelings:

“It’s been not even an hour since our event ended and I am already getting incredible feedback from so many colleagues here. I think the work that you are doing is beyond valuable, especially to an organization like ours. My goal for the year was to move the needle for our LGBT staff, and the three of you more than achieved that in only an hour. I personally cannot express my feelings toward you for how much your stories meant to me.”

SpeakOUT is one of the many LGBTQ+ organizations that educated the community about protecting transgender rights during the #YesOn3 campaign in 2018 and we continue to raise awareness about transgender experience beyond the ballot box. Societal acceptance takes education, and personal connection is often key to making that final step to understanding and empathizing with someone else.

SpeakOUT members led a panel at Suffolk University recently to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance.

In addition, SpeakOUT conducts private speaker trainings to help other organizations and activists enhance their public outreach skills, including LGBTQ+ youth groups and transgender activists in New Hampshire who successfully advocated for the passage of their own state’s transgender rights bill in 2018.

SpeakOUT also initiated an annual scholarship competition for LGBTQ+ undergraduates who live or study in the New England region to assist them with expenses for their studies. We’re committed to awarding at least two scholarships per year and hope through our fundraising we’ll be able to expand to additional scholarships. This end-of-year campaign is one way for our supporters to help ensure that happens in 2020!

Our bi-annual speaker trainings attract interested volunteers from throughout the Greater Boston region and beyond. Our fall training included folks from Vermont and New Hampshire who are deeply involved in their own LGBTQ+ activism and will be using their enhanced public speaking skills to advocate within their own communities. We love the opportunity to disseminate our storytelling techniques to help our community SPEAK OUT—no matter where they are doing it!

Our speakers also benefit from the act of sharing their stories and connecting with our audiences. Many of them find it a healing and confidence-building process to talk about the challenges and triumphs they have encountered throughout their lives.

“Being given the opportunity to talk about what makes me who I am is a gift. It is letting me revisit and work through issues that I had buried and it is letting me deal with the emotions that bubble up from that in a new and constructive way.”  

Some of our speakers have volunteered for SpeakOUT for ten, fifteen, and even twenty years! Whether they are speaking to high school students or within a corporate setting, they know that their stories can help create safer environments for LGBTQ+ people.

To keep us thriving we need your support. Please consider making a gift today to keep our training program strong and to help us provide a wide range of speakers to those spaces that still need LGBTQ+ awareness building—even in Massachusetts! On our Network for Good page you’ll have the choice of making a one-time gift or becoming a monthly or a quarterly donor, which is easy to set up and allows you to spread out your donation throughout the year in smaller increments.

Regardless of how you choose to give, thank you in advance for your generous support. Your support goes directly back into boosting awareness of the LGBTQ+ community as we share our #ProudStories!

We wish you the best in this holiday season as we all look forward to 2020 with strong hope of positive change and peace.

Michael Bookman, Board Chair & Meg Duberek, Vice Chair

Back to School for SpeakOUT

It’s definitely that time of year again!

The onslaught of back-to-school commercials are the best indicator that students will be filling the classrooms again very soon. And that means SpeakOUT will be heading into those classrooms as well as we raise awareness about LGBTQ+ lives in the new school year.

According to a 2017 National School Climate Survey administered by GLSEN, 60% of LGBTQ+ youth felt unsafe at school due to sexual orientation and 45% felt unsafe at school due to gender identification. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) makes clear that for youth to thrive in their schools and communities, they need to feel socially, emotionally, and physically safe and supported.

A positive school climate is associated with decreased depression, suicidal feelings, substance use, and unexcused school absences among LGBTQ+ students (trans students were not included).
 Within schools that have an LGBTQ+-inclusive curriculum, students were less likely to hear “gay” used in a negative way often or frequently (62% compared to 78% of other students); and less likely to hear negative remarks about gender expression often or frequently (57% vs. 67%).

SpeakOUT has been sharing our #ProudStories for decades with informal storytelling to help create LGBTQ+-supportive spaces in middle and high schools in our region. We know that our proven style of community engagement works to change the way our audiences see LGBTQ+ people. Sharing our diverse stories in schools opens up dialogue that enhances understanding and positively affects the climate of the schools we visit.

Please consider making a gift today to support our work in the schools as well as in the wider community. SpeakOUT educates about LGBTQ+ lives within public libraries, colleges, faith communities, businesses and much more.

All donors who can give $125 or more will receive the new rainbow Red Sox cap as our thank you!

Warmly,
Ellyn Ruthstrom
Executive Director

P.S. Consider making a monthly donation and spread your gift throughout the year. We appreciate the ongoing support!





SpeakOUT Board of Directors for 2019-2020

SpeakOUT’s Board of Directors is currently looking for new members to join as we plan for the coming year. Are you interested in helping to plan the direction of one of the oldest LGBTQ+ organizations in Boston? The board meets once a month and has opportunities for board members to support the organization’s fundraising, events planning, organizational development, and more. If you are interested, please email Executive Director Ellyn Ruthstrom at ellyn@speakoutboston.org to find out how you can get involved.

Michael 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. He joined the Board of Directors in 2014 and assumed the Board Chair position in 2018. 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. 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.

Andrew Chou joined SpeakOUT’s Board of Directors in September 2018. Andrew’s affinity to SpeakOUT stems from his belief that sharing personal experiences and building community are critical to helping LGBTQ individuals better understand their identities and allies better support their LGBTQ peers. Outside of his involvement with SpeakOUT, Andrew enjoys his day job in finance and is a spin class regular, an avid squash player, and an aspiring pastry chef.

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. 

George Grattan headshot

George 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. In his day gig he serves as “Editor in Chief” for Ceres, a sustainability nonprofit in Boston. He has worked in the past for Earthwatch, the Urban Ecology Institute, Boston College, and the College of the Holy Cross. He lives with his wife, Mary, in Waltham, MA and can be found every third Wednesday of the month hosting the Bisexual Resource Center’s “Bi/Pan+ Guyz Social Night.”

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.

Stonewall 50: Honoring the Rebellion

By Ellyn Ruthstrom, Executive Director

Today is the 50th anniversary of the night LGBTQ+ people fought in the streets of New York City against the harassment of police and said enough is enough! 

The Stonewall uprising of 1969 was not the first time the queer community stood up against oppression and violence, but it was a pivotal moment that captured the anger and frustration of a marginalized community. The sparks that ignited a movement after Stonewall spread across the nation and inspired many LGBTQ+ organizations to form and build a political movement that would better the lives of our community and encourage millions to live out and proud lives. 

Those nascent sparks led to the development of SpeakOUT in 1972, when members of the Homophile Society and the Daughters of Bilitis joined together to form the original Gay Speakers Bureau. The founding SpeakOUT activists believed in the power of “telling the truths of our lives.” It was a deeply personal form of activism to engage in dialogue with strangers in the hope of opening minds and changing attitudes. Our members still live by that mission with the commitment to share our stories to create positive change for the LGBTQ+ community. 

Today we have an out legally-married gay man running for the Democratic nomination for president! That idea was not in the minds of those street warriors on June 28, 1969, but it is a direct descendant of those flying bricks and loud chants that filled the air for six days outside the Stonewall Inn. From standing up against police harassment and violence to decriminalizing our identities and sex lives, from HIV/AIDS direct action demanding queer lives be taken seriously to creating legal protections in housing and the workplace, from federal marriage equality to banning conversion therapy. All of these issues and more are part of the legacy of those heroes who stood their ground 50 years ago. 

On Sunday, millions of LGBTQ+ people and allies will be marching through and lining the streets of New York City during World Pride to both commemorate what occured at Stonewall in 1969 and to celebrate our queerness as we proudly live it in 2019. We can celebrate how much change our community has fought for and achieved already, and we must also honor those street warriors by continuing to fight for those in our community who are still marginalized and oppressed. 

Stonewall was an important instigator for our community’s activism. Let this anniversary celebration be another source of rebellion for us!