For some people it’s easy; for others it’s much harder. But telling your story—your true, unvarnished, straight-from-the-heart story—may be the most radical act any of us can commit. World-changing story-telling starts with each of us.
Listen, changing the world was just about the last thing on my mind when I sat down for an interview on the Naked & Inside Out podcast. The podcast tells stories of LGBT people in various careers—a lovely idea—but it was early December 2016, less than a month after the election, and my head hadn’t yet stopped spinning. I could talk about my past, and maybe that would help someone. But the future? I wasn’t sure we’d have one.
The podcast finally dropped yesterday and it sounds surprisingly coherent. The host, Janine Toro, asks me about how and why I do what I do, and I tell the stories I often tell—though I don’t often get to tell them from an explicitly LGBT perspective.
It was interesting to revisit the bad old days of sexist ’90s-era Wall Street, when I felt daring to have a photo of my partner on my desk…even if 75% of the picture focused on my cat and the irises in our garden. That’s an old story—or is it? The clients I work with are well past that stage—they’re champions of diversity and inclusion, for real. But in more than half of our states, it remains perfectly legal to fire an otherwise stellar employee just for being LGBT. And that was true even under the Sainted President Obama. Who knows how bad it will get now?
And that’s why the last five minutes of the interview really made me sit up and take notice. Janine asked the question I’d been dreading—”what about the future?” and, man…
World-changing story-telling — action we can all take
Remember, this was back in December. Things felt pretty bleak back then, before pussy hats and millions of (mostly) women marching. Before Indivisible (find a chapter near you and get involved). Before we had a rallying cry:
Back in December, we had no way of knowing—really knowing—that anyone would have our back when we needed them. That we wouldn’t just be living through a rerun of Martin Niemöller’s Nazi-era lament:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
And then I remembered: We don’t have to just sit there and wait to see what happens. We don’t have to wait for other people to tell our stories. In fact, our stories become much more powerful when we tell them ourselves. Our stories can change the world. I know this because it’s happened before. When LGBT people came out of the closets and into the sitcoms, into the offices, into the schools and churches and the Scout troops—when we found the courage to be ourselves in the world, people saw who we were. And for the most part, they embraced us.
That’s world-changing story-telling and we need it again. So listen to the interview—and then tell your story. Tell your story of courage and hope. Talk about the pain the Republican administration’s policies are inflicting on you. Let people see your humanity and I have to believe they’ll respond in kind.
Learn to tell your story—and to become a better writer. Write for just 15 minutes a day for five days in a row and benefit a great global literacy nonprofit. My next 5×15 Writing Challenge starts March 13th.