Monday, June 8, 2015

Why I Speak

Jane Meek
by Jane B. Meek
Becoming a Speaker for YES Institute is empowering. It can also be a little scary, as public speaking usually is. But what I didn’t anticipate was that it would also be healing.

I was first inspired to become a Speaker when I heard a 15-year-old tell her story during Communications Solutions™. I was moved by her strength and vulnerability. It was so powerful you couldn’t stop your heart from opening. In that moment I decided to become a part of the YES Institute Speakers Bureau.

That doesn’t mean I felt completely confident once I stood up before my first audience. So many experiences had remained fragmented in my mind, but now I had a reason to make them whole—into a whole narrative that, in telling, left me feeling humbled and blessed. I had outlined, rehearsed, and revised my story multiple times. Still, I was nervous.

My nerves disappeared the minute I started speaking, thank goodness. But the follow-up questions after my speech were an aspect of speaking I hadn’t quite prepared for. This was the first question from a young woman: “Why is being gay so accepted and so in your face now? I think a man and a woman should be together.”

Two people in the audience responded to her question first, defending the gay rights movement for focusing on the need to come out. The Facilitator jumped in and took some of the tension out of the air. Then something unexpected happened: this same young woman revealed in a follow-up comment that her sister was a lesbian.
It suddenly dawned on me that sometimes those who truly want to accept gay, bisexual, or transgender people have to first grapple with what they’ve been taught about gender and orientation. Once a dialogue has opened and people have a chance to voice their fear and concerns, only then can they make room for new ideas. I realized that perhaps I shouldn’t take their rhetoric so seriously, then, because it might not reflect what is actually in their hearts.

An older person in the audience had been moved by my story. She said her niece had just come out, but nobody in the family would talk about it. After listening to my experiences, she concluded that she would reach out to her niece and support her. At least two others talked about their gay family members, and it was so clear how genuinely they wanted to love and support their queer cousin, their step-sister, maybe even themselves. And that felt healing—for them and for me.