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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.