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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.