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SpeakOUT Condemns Vandalism at The Pryde

SpeakOUT Boston was deeply saddened and angered to see the vandalism perpetrated upon the construction site for The Pryde in Hyde Park last week. Hate speech against the LGBTQ+ community, including specific threats of violence, can never be tolerated, and its seriousness can never be minimized.

SpeakOUT joins all those in the Hyde Park and greater Boston communities who have condemned this attack and who have expressed solidarity with LGBTQ Senior Housing, Inc., the nonprofit organization building this much-needed LGBTQ+-friendly residence and community center.

We call upon Boston’s Mayor Wu and the Boston Police Department to stick to their pledges for a full investigation into this threat to public safety and the civil rights of LGBTQ+ citizens, and thank them for their swift initial response. We are heartened to see the LGBTQ+ community, the Hyde Park neighborhood, and the larger Boston community rallying around The Pryde and its eventual residents and will do our part to continue that support in the weeks, months, and years to come.  

If you have time, please contact your state representatives today and urge them to vote for Amendment #665, Pryde for All that will support LGBTQ-friendly senior housing in Massachusetts. The vote may take place as early as today, so please act now.  You can find your legislators here

Appreciating Our Members & Continuing to Raise Our Voices for Change

On June 28th, SpeakOUT held its Appreciation Night at Club Cafe to thank its members, board of directors, and supporters for another very busy and productive year. Among the achievements were completing 21 engagements during June alone, with 30 of our speakers completing these in-person and online events! We also announced our three LGBTQ+ Student Scholarship winners, who are impressive youth leaders already making a difference in their home communities and school/college campuses.

Executive Director Ellyn Ruthstrom welcomed everyone to the event and made some opening remarks about the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and how the local LGBTQ+ community is responding to it.

“Before we move on to the program of the night, I want to acknowledge the terrible injustice that took place last Friday when the Supreme Court released its decision on the Mississippi abortion law and simultaneously overturned the protections of Roe v. Wade. Jane Roe was a made up name of a woman who was too afraid to use her real name for this important abortion rights case that took too long to earn her the right to abort, but whose fortitude has allowed millions of Americans to assert their own right to control their reproductive choices. Her real name was Norma McCorvey and she was a young poor white Texas woman who was a lesbian, or at least that’s how she identified until the Christian Right got a hold of her. All of her identities put her in the crosshairs of a cruel system that did not allow her to have control over her own body.

On a personal note, reproductive justice was an area of activism that I put incredible energy into in my earlier years, both as a straight woman and later as an out bi woman. Many of the women I worked side-by-side with were queer women. All of us, working together, understood that abortion rights is about control over our bodies, the most basic human right there is. In the current fight, our own LGBTQ+ community understands this and we must make clear that abortion rights and contraceptive rights affect women, trans men and nonbinary people – anyone who can get pregnant. SpeakOUT has joined a group of LGBTQ+ organizations that has co-signed a statement that was released today condemning the actions of the Supreme Court and advocating for other actions to protect reproductive rights as well as other rights for LGBTQ+ people that are being threatened. You can see the statement on the information table and you will continue to see SpeakOUT respond to ongoing actions that affect our community.”

Being a SpeakOUT Speaker

SpeakOUT is hosting its Spring Speaker Training on Saturday, April 9th at Suffolk University in Boston. This is the first in-person training since the pandemic, so it will be exciting to spend time together in LGBTQ+ community space. Two of SpeakOUT’s trainers share their memories of how they found SpeakOUT and what the experience of being a speaker has brought to their lives. To find out more about the training or to register, visit the SpeakOUT website.

Trevor Boylston

SpeakOUT’s Impact on My Life

When I signed up for the SpeakOUT training in 2018, I did it to satisfy a development goal for my job. I wanted to learn to be comfortable speaking in front of groups and the thought of taking the internal workshop with co-workers terrified me. Frankly, the thought of speaking in front of anyone made me sick to my stomach. A friend had shared the SpeakOUT registration on his Facebook page and it seemed like a safe space to do what my manager wanted me to do.

What I didn’t expect was the impact SpeakOUT would have on my life. By sharing my story, I’ve been able to unpack memories that were painful and buried deep, almost forgotten. I’ve been able to process the emotions that come with those memories in a productive way, and hopefully have helped other people understand a little more about the LGBTQ+ community with each engagement. I’ve become a better person, a better partner, and a better advocate. I’ve met incredible people with unique stories, many who have become close friends. Without SpeakOUT, my life would be missing something. I’m thankful to be able to give back to SpeakOUT by helping the next group of speakers learn to share their stories by now being a trainer.


Joseph Alcantara

My Story Found a Voice

Just when the world thought that the 2020 pandemic could get the best of me after experiencing loss of a job that I treated as a vocation, loss of residency to a country I once called home and loss of a father who loved me unconditionally for four decades – I found new hope, meaning and redemption instead after I stumbled upon SpeakOUT.

As a new immigrant, married gay man and POC planting new roots in Massachusetts, I was in search of an outlet that would bring me peace as I started anew in an overwhelmingly intersectional life. Being an LGBTQIA+ and AAPI advocate juxtaposed with my passion for communication (writing, public speaking, and social media) was an envisioned path, yet I didn’t have an organized platform and structured approach to bring the self-imposed mission to fruition. After Googling ‘LGBTQ advocacy Boston’ I found one of the sparks of light at the end of the tunnel.

I joined SpeakOUT by sending a bold unsolicited email to its super warm, friendly and welcoming Executive Director, Ellyn Ruthstrom. Next thing I know, I’m attending one of their online Speaker Trainings where I eventually found how my unique coming out story as a gay man could be purposeful. While I knew how to share my authentic life anecdotes, the course was very powerful as it reminded me where to source my core, inspiration and rallying call. As a seasoned corporate speaker, the training also liberated me to unlearn ‘too formal’ habits that overshadow the beauty, sincerity and vulnerability of raw stories that come straight from the heart. The constructive feedback and motivation from the small groups also helped define improvement areas while keeping me empowered in my own narrative.

Today, not only am I an active speaker but also an engaged volunteer for the Training Team, SpeakOUT in Color (the BIPOC social group of the organization), and a new Board Member. Indeed, from a simple training to finding an outlet, my work-in-progress story unfolds as it finds its true voice to make this world a bit better for the folks in the generations to come.      

When the Catholic Church Oppresses LGBTQ+ People, Dignity Offers Safe Spaces

Theologian Edwina Gateley said it best: “We are the Church; they are the hierarchy.”  This is demonstrated in the latest oppression by the hierarchy in the Diocese of Marquette, Michigan, where LGBTQ+ people are being excluded from the sacraments and roles in the church.

In response to these recent discriminatory actions, Executive Director of DignityUSA, Marianne Duddy-Burke, noted, “It is a cruel attempt to prevent LGBTQ+ people from living as we were created, becoming our true selves, and experiencing the joy and grace of loving relationships. That just won’t work. What it will do is shame people, potentially into despair and suicide.”

The Marquette actions are yet another example of how the hierarchy in the institutional Roman Catholic Church are not acting as members of God’s church on earth. The hierarchy are meant to take the role of shepherds in the Church, guiding and caring for the flock. Pastoral care is meant to be a primary function of the hierarchy. Yet, people who identity as LGBT+ are excluded and 50% of the Church, women, are excluded from the Church’s highest positions.

I grew up in Central Massachusetts going to a small chapel where my Catholic faith was nurtured, never hearing a “fire and brimstone” homily or a homily that excluded people in the church. I was very lucky. As I became a teen, I grew to learn that those who had same-sex attraction, like myself, were excluded. This led me to lead a double life in my young adult years, separating my sexuality from my spirituality.

In my 30s, I was lucky to step into the doors of a church where my spirituality and sexuality were encouraged to be integrated. That church, that community was Dignity/Boston, a chapter of Dignity USA, a Catholic community where people of all sexual orientations and gender identities are fully welcome as full members of the Church. Liturgies at Dignity are frequently lay lead and have gender parity. Dignity/Boston has performed many same sex weddings, including my own. I was fortunate to be married to the man I love through the sacramental blessing of Holy Matrimony in front of over 100 family and friends.

Many changes will need to come to the institutional church in order to preserve itself in the future and not be perceived as a “leaner, meaner” church, a direction that the Diocese of Marquette appears to be taking currently.  The institutional church could learn a lot from Dignity—a welcoming church, a church of radical inclusion. 

–Dave Houle is a member of both SpeakOUT Boston and Dignity/Boston.

Celebrating 50 Years & Moving Forward

As SpeakOUT heads towards 2022—our 50th anniversary year!—we are excited to highlight the work that has kept our organization going for half a century.

  • Fifty years of LGBTQ+ community members participating in peer-led trainings to learn how to create and share an effective story to raise awareness about LGBTQ+ lives.
  • Fifty years of SpeakOUT members sharing personal stories in public and private schools, colleges, businesses, faith communities, public libraries, community organizations, and more.
  • Fifty years of helping to create safer and more inclusive spaces for LGBTQ+ people throughout the region—SpeakOUT speakers have traveled to all the New England states to share their stories.
  • Fifty years of SpeakOUT speakers building understanding about sexual orientation, gender identity, coming-out experiences, workplace discrimination, bisexuality, marriage equality, transgender rights, queer youth, nonbinary identities, and everything else that is included in the richness and complexities of LGBTQ+ lives.

Think about all the things that have changed for the LGBTQ+ community in 50 years! SpeakOUT has proven the power personal storytelling has to open minds and change attitudes. We know our work with diverse audiences has helped raise awareness about the lives of LGBTQ+ people and created change in communities.

The Challenge

We all know how difficult and strange 2020 and 2021 have been. A lot of sacrifice. A lot of loss. A lot of changes within our worklife, personal life, and social interactions.

SpeakOUT, too, has adapted to the realities of the COVID era, and we spent 2021 primarily in online environments with our clients. With continued violence against LGBTQ+ people and legislative challenges that threaten our rights, SpeakOUT believes that our personal approach to discussing LGBTQ+ lives is still making a difference!

To cope within the changing climate—and as an organization that thrives on personal interactions with our audiences—we have learned how to leverage technology to bring that same sense of connection to our online engagements.

50K for 50 Years

Starting with this end-of-year appeal, SpeakOUT is launching a 50K for 50 Years campaign to provide sustainability and growth for the organization in 2022 and beyond!

This is a large goal for a small grassroots organization like SpeakOUT, and we are asking our supporters and sponsors to help us expand our program beyond Boston with this campaign. LGBTQ+ inclusive spaces are essential in our schools, in our workplaces, and in our communities and we want to do our part in creating more of those spaces—wherever they may be!

Your Contribution

We want to end 2021 strong in order to step into our anniversary year with renewed momentum to support our goals that will carry us past the COVID context. This past June, we had the most successful Pride Month ever and spoke to online audiences in the Boston area as well as corporate audiences across the U.S. and internationally.

With your support, we will continue to expand our work through the online approach beyond the Greater Boston area.

Make your tax-deductible donation today by making an online donation at bit.ly/2021SpeakOUTChallenge. You can make a one-time gift or become a monthly or quarterly donor!

Ellyn Ruthstrom

Executive Director

SpeakOUT’s Statement on Boston Pride

SpeakOUT Boston wishes a Happy Pride Month to the entire LGBTQIA+ community. We know it has been a very difficult year (and more) for our community and, in many ways, even more so for people of color and trans people within the community.

As an organization dedicated to “…ending homo/bi/transphobia and other forms of prejudice,” SpeakOUT Boston is in solidarity this year with other organizations boycotting official Boston Pride events. More importantly, and in the spirit of being actively anti-racist, especially regarding systems and structures, we join the calls for Boston Pride to commit to much greater diversity, equity, and accountability within their board and operations.

While we are thankful for the work done on behalf of the LGBTQIA+ community by Boston Pride in the past, we recognize and affirm that the time has come for meaningful change. Black Lives Matter. Black Trans Lives Matter. And an LGBTQIA+ organization committed to true social and legal equity for all of its members should be able to say so — and act accordingly. Similarly, trans people and their voices and ideas deserve to be in leadership positions in any broad-based LGBTQIA+ organization.

Queer, Trans, and Bi People of Color (QTBIPOC) have always been leaders in the fight for equity and liberation, and yet, sadly, in the last several years Boston Pride has turned away from that legacy, even in the face of today’s increased understanding of the need to be actively anti-racist. As a result, they have lost 80% of their volunteer force as well as the trust and support of many other members of the Boston-area LGBTQIA+ community and our would-be allies. Many of the volunteers are organizing as Pride 4 the People and we encourage you to become informed about their experiences and demands for a future Pride organization for Boston.

We understand that Boston Pride’s board president has agreed to step down and we want to encourage more changes to the board and organizational structure to ensure that Boston Pride evolves into an anti-racist community organization. SpeakOUT Boston will not be participating in Boston Pride activities until the QTBIPOC community is satisfied with the changes that are made.

From SpeakOUT’s Executive Director and Board of Directors

There Is No One Way

By Tai Tran

I recently sat on an online SpeakOUT panel in a high school health class. Between the students in the classroom with the teacher and the other students on zoom we had a small audience. Even in a pandemic, our teachers and students are continuing their education and meaningful work together. I shared my story about how I taught middle school math and science in California for the past two years and had made it a point to be an openly out queer educator. We live in a world that stigmatizes and erases queer identities in the institution of education; I was not going to recreate that in my classroom. I always introduce myself as “Mx. Tran, not Mr., not Ms., and I’m happily independent, so not Mrs. either.” After sharing our stories, a young male student asked me, “Mx. Tran, you say you identify as nonbinary, but the pronouns on your zoom say she and her, what does that mean?” 

I thanked the young man for his question and quickly added, “Good question!” Afterall, young people nowadays need more encouragement than ever. And to ask questions is a sign of intelligence, or so I tell my own students. We had only reached the halfway point of the panel  and even if we had more time it would not have been enough to explain the intricacies of gender and sexuality to the students. Why do I subscribe to a binary pronoun when I claim nonbinary as well? Are the two mutually exclusive? Should I, perhaps more accurately, use they/them as pronouns instead? Or hir? Or ze? 

For me, these were of course questions I asked myself long ago. And ones that I continue to ask myself. But in the moment, I replied “It just feels more me. More like me. Don’t get me wrong, I have tried he, him, his pronouns. I have tried and used them for years and I certainly know those are not what I want to be referred to as when I am talked about.” And trans/nonbinary people are definitely talked about, especially so when we are not in the room. I didn’t need a whole seminar to tell these young bright minds that there is no one way to be nonbinary. Just like there is no one way to be a good person. I told my story about when I started to experiment with other pronouns I found out this was the pronoun for me. When my trusted friends and colleagues started calling me by she and her pronouns I felt seen and respected. I felt seen the way I wanted to be seen and respected. The way I see myself; not the way the world said I should be. 

Whether principals, districts, lawmakers, or governments are willing to admit it or not, we live in a world that scripts out the life of our youth before they are even born. To be a “boy” or to be a “girl” means something. We all have an inkling, large or small, of what it means. Yet, what would it mean to be nonbinary? I am grateful that I am alive to continue exploring what it means to me. I am grateful to be involved with an organization that lets students hear the stories behind the statistics of people who are so different from them, who are likely very different from their family as well. And I am also grateful for that student’s question. 

Tai recently finished her service with Teach For America in Richmond, California as part of the 2018 corps, teaching middle school math and science. She is a bright, bold, and brave queer educator who goes by Mx. Tran in the classroom. Her passions include dismantling the anti-queer patriarchy in the institution of education, empowering students with comprehensive sex ed, and being the change she has always wanted to see in the world.

Dear SpeakOUT Supporter,

The last nine months have presented unprecedented challenges for everyone. As an organization that thrives on personal interactions with audiences, our ability to provide exceptional in-person speaking engagements was weakened by COVID restrictions that shut down nearly all of our clients in March. Our programs were hampered for several months as clients figured out how to function remotely and decided whether online engagements would work for them.

Like many other nonprofit organizations, and like many of you, we’ve had to find ways to adapt and survive. As a small grassroots organization, our budget is extremely sensitive to outside forces; we have no cushion or “rainy day fund.” Even now, after we’ve successfully pivoted to online formats, the volume of engagements has not returned to normal.

Because of this shortfall, we need to raise $15,000 in this year-end appeal. It is no exaggeration to say that this year’s fundraising effort is the most critical one in our 45+ year history, and will determine the future of the organization in a very concrete way.

We know that many other nonprofits, local businesses, and even family and friends are no doubt on your list of charitable causes this year; be assured that your gift to SpeakOUT will have a major impact.

While that may all sound grim, we’re also optimistic that with your help we can put SpeakOUT on the path to sustainability. Because, despite this huge disruption to our programs, we have already successfully explored ways to do our work more effectively:

  • This past summer we sought to support LGBTQ+ youth programs looking to keep their members connected to each other. We led online workshops for youth in the Boston GLASS program, enhancing their public speaking skills and helping them build the confidence to share their stories.
  • In October, we held our first Online Speaker Training in a new two-day Zoom format that maintained our strong personal approach while preparing speakers from Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut, thus expanding our training reach beyond our home state.
  • Our new online engagement formats allow us to present to businesses and reach their employees both throughout the U.S. and abroad. We plan to continue offering online engagements in the post-COVID world to further expand our corporate audiences beyond the Greater Boston area.
  • We continued to support graduating high school students through our LGBTQ+ Scholarship Program. We were very proud to award scholarships to three students and help them realize their higher education dreams; all three are now enrolled in their first year at college! For 2021, the fourth year of the scholarship, we already have a donor who has committed to supporting a scholarship specifically for transgender students and nonbinary students of color.

We are fortunate to have a team of dedicated volunteer speakers sharing personal experiences with a wide range of audiences to create safer and more inclusive spaces for LGBTQ+ people. From college students who want to make life better for queer youth, to teachers who are role models within their own school systems, to political leaders who are trailblazers in legislatures, to retirees who’ve spent their lives working for social justice, SpeakOUT speakers showcase the strong diversity of the LGBTQ+ community.

In October, we asked SpeakOUT members to share their stories again for National Coming Out Day. Each of their insights is unique and illustrates the power of SpeakOUT’s ability to combat prejudice against LGBTQ+ people and others through personal storytelling. Our speakers have a wide range of experiences and a passion for leading sensitive discussions to open minds and change attitudes. Here’s how two of our speakers described what it means to them to be part of SpeakOUT:

“I didn’t grow up knowing anyone in the trans community. I didn’t know if I would be accepted by my family, by the world. Coming out meant starting over as my authentic self. Coming out was terrifying because it was a step into the unknown. SpeakOUT is helping to create a world of visible LGBTQ+ role models, amazing people with unique stories, opening hearts and minds one engagement at a time. I’m lucky to be able to contribute my story.”

“Coming out as an only child in an Asian household was difficult, especially since I grew up with few LGBTQ role models and peers. Today, I’m proud to be part of the SpeakOUT family, a community where I can both lean on and support others.”

SpeakOUT needs your support today. We’re optimistic about 2021, but first we need to make up for losses in 2020. Please consider making a substantial gift this year—possibly doubling what you’ve given in the past—to sustain our work. But no matter what amount you’re able to give, know that your support today will directly improve the lives of LGBTQ+ people during these challenging times.

Make your tax-deductible donation today by making an online donation. You can make a one-time gift or become a monthly or quarterly donor. With positive energy in the air after the election, we look forward to uplifting LGBTQ+ voices in the new year!

Sincerely,

Ellyn Ruthstrom

Executive Director

P.S. For a gift of $100 or more, we’ll send you one of our #ProudStories t-shirts with our rainbow-colored mohawk-wearing speaker graphic. Or you can order one for $25 on its own!

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.