Thursday, August 16, 2012

South Florida Universities Discuss Openly

My name is Jared, and I recently joined the staff of YES Institute as an intern and volunteer speaker. While passionate about the topics of gender and orientation, and a dedicated intern, I had reservations about speaking in front of a group of people. Dr. Barbara Garcia-Lavin, Director of Division Internships & Training for Nova Southeastern University (NSU), invited YES Institute to converse with her psychology interns and postdoc residents, and I was asked to be on the YES speakers team.

Jared sharing his story at Barry University
This was the first time I’d ever publicly shared about my own orientation, and the impact it’s had on my family, friends and my life. I quickly felt the nerves leave my body and my voice grew more confident as I continued to speak. As I became more comfortable, so did the room, and they were engaged with what I had to say, asking me more questions. I felt at that moment that my voice and my story was making a difference.

“This was an extremely necessary discussion for us to have as therapists. I liked how we were given the personal side of these issues rather than just facts and statistics. The speakers were very powerful and moving. ”

“Today was very informative! I wasn’t aware of how high the suicide rate is for this population. The presentation really helped change my thinking on this topic.”

I also spoke with YES Institute during a Community Dialogue at Barry University, a Catholic college in Miami Shores. Michael Fountain, a Residence Hall Coordinator, invited YES Institute to present to 40 Barry resident advisors.

Emily addressing the interns at NSU
Throughout the conversation, the audience became more expressive, sharing their personal and cultural struggles with gender and orientation. I found myself more nervous than the first time I’d shared; the audience was nearly double in size, and they had been asking more in-depth questions. I felt vulnerable as I shared about my own orientation, but the more I spoke, the more my fear diminished. I was now able to be authentic with the audience, no longer afraid to look them in the eye and tell my story. And when I was finished, I was met with genuine questions about my happiness and future goals. I was shocked, and yet grateful to see that they actually cared. I felt like my story and the stories of other YES Institute speakers had shifted us all in a positive way.

Some of the students said:

“The YES dialogue was an intense but eyeopening experience for me. It was my first time meeting and listening to people who identify as gay and transgender. I now understand more about what they go through on a daily basis.”

“I now feel like I can better handle a situation relating to these topics in my residence hall.”

“All of the guest speakers made a huge impact on me. I was very touched and driven to become more involved.”

If you are interested in getting involved as a Community Dialogues speaker with YES Institute, contact us today!

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