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A speakers bureau consists of a panel of trained volunteers who are willing to speak about their lives and experiences.
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.
Why 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 an 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, an 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.
Goals of the Speakers Bureau
- To provide accurate information to contradict heterosexist myths and stereotype;
- To answer people’s questions from each member’s personal perspective, thereby representing the rich diversity of the LGBT community;
- To provide positive representations of the LGBT community and of supportive allies;
- To advocate for the civil rights of LGBT people; and
- To develop a sense of power and pride for speakers bureau members.
Responsibility of Members
- Participate in the initial training;
- Attend speakers bureau meetings and on-going training (about once every month);
- Meet with fellow speakers to plan before the speaking engagement;
- In general, follow the established speakers bureau format;
- Represent the goals of the speakers bureau in your presentations;
- Fill out and return a speakers’ feedback form for each program in which you participate;
- Hand out, collect, and return the evaluations from the audience;
- Exchange feedback with co-speakers after each speakers bureau; and
- Keep your commitments: return phone calls, be on time, attend meetings, do what you agree to do.
Purpose of the Panel Presentation
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 say, 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 the painful struggle that for many LGBT people is directly related to having a romantic and sexual attraction disapproved of by many in society.