The Importance of Personal Storytelling

It was my great honor and pleasure to be a presenter at this year’s Gay Straight Alliance conference. The semi-annual event is hosted by Buffalo’s own Gay & Lesbian Youth Services (GLYS), an organization that offers a variety of opportunities and services for LGBTQ youth and their friends.

Among GLYS’s (so many acronyms!) events is an annual prom for students who need or desire a safe celebration. These conferences help bridge the gap with lots of education, open dialogue and fun workshops. This was my first year attending the conference, either as an adult or student. (News flash: I am a gay man. I’ll wait for you to collect your thoughts.)

I gave two writing workshops in personal narratives—telling your own story. We discussed the basics of personal storytelling: why it’s important to tell your story; why it’s important to read or hear other people’s stories; why it’s important to develop culture and document history. Students then wrote silently for 10 minutes, and those who wanted to shared with the group.

Following the conference’s goals, we talked about why it’s particularly important for marginalized communities to do this. The takeaway was simple and for some, very important: When you tell your story, you create a place in the world that’s all yours. You can share whatever you want about yourself, and define yourself on your own terms. So long as you tell the truth, as you know it, you’re safe and free.

The same can be said for all forms of personal expression, whether verbal, visual, performative or a combination of many forms. This is a big reason why artists create: to infuse the world with something original. Considering the stories shared by these brave, talented students, I’m confident in a brighter, bolder, braver world.