Friday, February 5th brought shine and opportunities with new conference sessions, working at the Network’s exhibit booth, meeting new people, and sharing my experiences as a gay Latino man. I went to several sessions but I must tell of my time while at Story Telling for Social Change. A small room in the 37th floor at the Sheraton gathered about 25 people who shared their experiences as LGBT folks and allies with those in the room. Without a doubt, my favorite session so far. We always talk about bringing the issues to a personal level, to bring personal stories and make it relatable to an issue. But, how do we do that? How do we capture that story and relate it to the realities we face? How do we offer a space for people to tell their stories without our personal biases and experiences?
The speaker focused on simple questions like “what happened to you?” and “anything else you want to share?” She stressed on the importance of listening and the ability to relate someone else’s story as key elements for social change. I felt tears in my eyes as a woman at the session shared with me her personal story as a Latina woman, and how she felt that she may not fit in with Latinos/as because of the way she look, like a Caucasian woman. At the end, and after listening to her story, I told her that she was a Latina woman simply because she felt like one. It did not matter what she looked like and how others perceived her but that in her heart and her ethnic background were enough reason for her to be proud of her Latina heritage. She smiled back at me and I left with the satisfaction of focusing on her versus thinking of judgments or ways she was suppose to fit it.