September 15, 2012 – 10am -12pm
LGBT Resource Center
279A University Center
One of the most effective ways to educate your campus on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender issues is to interact directly with members of the campus community. Let them meet you, see you and know you. Research has shown that people who say they know someone who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender are far less likely to be homophobic. Merely being out and getting to know others in your day-to-day life is a form of education. An organized way to do this is through a speakers bureau.
A speakers bureau can be a meaningful and empowering experience for you in addition to being a useful form of community service. The speakers bureau is designed to provide a personal perspective on what it means to be a lgbt person in contemporary American society. Despite the fact that it seems almost impossible not to be exposed to lgbt issues in today’s world, the continued prevalence of media stereotypes and the fact that many heterosexuals still may not know, or know they know, a lgbt person results in a continuation of fear, confusion and misinformation regarding lgbt people. Speakers Bureau panels can be held in a variety of settings, including residence halls, classes, student organization meetings, fraternity or sorority houses, schools, churches, workplaces and other locations of campus.
Although greatly increasing numbers of lgbt people are choosing to be open and honest about their sexual orientation, many are still closeted and consequently invisible. The invisibility of lgbt people contributes to the flourishing of myths, stereotypes, misinformation, fear and confusion about lgbt people. The speakers bureau’s philosophy is that fear, homophobia and the resulting oppression and violence of heterosexism are often products of ignorance. By letting people get to know us, we hope to dispel some of the myths, stereotypes and misinformation present in society about lgbt people. Speakers bureau members break down the silence by talking with people about their lives.
The task is to make each member of our audience feel a personal connection with homophobia. As the Boston Gay and Lesbian Speakers Bureau says, We help our audiences begin to see gay men and lesbians (as well as bisexuals and transgender people) as people instead of as an abstract evil. We show them our humanity, our intelligence, our humor, compassion, vulnerability and strength. We have a story to tell, one that most people have never heard.
The purpose of a speakers bureau presentation is to raise awareness of, and to increase sensitivity to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues. This is necessary because we live in a culture that is heterosexist. Historically, lgbt people have been considered physically and mentally ill, sinful, criminals, and worse. By combining personal experiences with facts, the type of education provided by a speakers bureau can be on the front-line in the struggle against homophobia.
Perhaps our most important task is to demystify gay men, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people. There remain many people who have never met “a real live gay person" before. Many heterosexuals are often amazed that lgbt people lead “normal” lives, with values, beliefs and “a lifestyle” that is strikingly similar to their own. They are also able to begin to comprehend the complex range of personal strength as well as painful struggle that for many lgbt people is directly related to having a romantic and sexual attraction disapproved of by many in society.