What We Do • Our students say • Our teachers say • Our volunteer speakers say
What We Do
The Speakers Bureau began several decades ago as part of the nationwide push for LGBTQ civil rights. We began as a small, volunteer-run collective, and later expanded and began working under the larger Community United Against Violence (CUAV) umbrella with a full-time staff coordinator. In the wake of massive budget cuts and energy reallocation, we have now come back full-circle to our roots as a volunteer-driven group. Funding or no, we are determined to go on!
While LGBTQ communities have made many strides both socially and legally, we recognize that we still have a long way to go. We believe that by allowing people who have had limited contact with LGBTQ people the opportunity to interact with us, we can begin to debunk the negative stereotypes and assumptions holding many back from realizing their full potential.
A typical speaking engagement includes two speakers who open by briefly explaining our program, and giving a few guidelines for the presentation. Speakers then provide a bit of background about themselves: upbringing, hobbies, career, life experiences, etc. From there, the rest of the time is committed to answering audience questions, which usually includes in-depth, open discussions about terminology, stereotypes, and the speaker's personal experiences. Each presentation is as unique as the audience and the individual speakers, and our speakers are able to adapt to a wide variety of settings and audiences. They conclude with having the students fill out written evaluation forms. The presentations are approximately one hour.
The success of our program speaks for itself. Largely due to the positive evaluations we receive, we visit more schools each year, work with more teachers, and discuss LGBTQ issues with a broader range of students. We operate in compliance with a San Francisco School Board’s resolution, which states that family life and sex education should present factual and unbiased information about LGBTQ people and their diverse lifestyles. We reach over 2,500 young people each year. We seek to educate youth because it is LGBTQ youth who often express a sense of isolation from their peers and feel an earnest need to change a youth environment that is typically non-accepting of and hostile to their presence. Over 75% of our audiences are youth of color and one-third are immigrant youth.
Traditionally, the majority of our speaking engagements have taken place in classrooms ranging from elementary to university level. Each year, we look forward to speaking in the schools and working with all of the dedicated teachers and wonderful students as we have in the past!
We have also given presentations and workshops to a number of private and public agencies, including training sessions for healthcare providers, law enforcement, and many others.
The post-presentation evaluations we have conducted over the years show unequivocally that these programs work to foster a greater understanding and tolerance amongst diverse groups of people, and we are committed to continuing this important work. Thank you for your interest and support!
Check out these rough-cut videos of interviews with our speakers and Tom Ammiano by our Spring 2013 intern, Josh Hollands at https://www.youtube.com/user/LGBTQSpeakersBureau
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Our students say:
• Did this presentation change how you feel about LGBTQ people?
“Yes, because I thought being gay or lesbian was bad but now I figured its not. [This presentation] will help other people not to tease other people. Thank you for telling us about your life.” —10 year old female Latina student at El Dorado Elementary school
“Now I am less scared.” —a male high school student from the Juvenile Justice Center
“I thought all gay people were yuck. They’re cool though.” —a female Wallenberg High School student
“They totally changed my mind on gay people. I used to be kind of homophobic, but now I am more understanding.” —a male Asian Lincoln High School student
“My family is from a very traditional Chinese background, so LGBTQ people are generally looked down upon. Before, I was really confused, but now, I understand more.” —a female Lowell High School student
“I didn’t realize how hard it was for a LGBTQ to come out and get others to understand them. It’s also very difficult for a transgender to go to another country & to come back b/c they will be questioned when they come back to the US. Also, it’s interesting to learn how cruel society is when a gay couple’s spouse passes away & they don’t have the right to see them until they’re gone.” —18 year old female Chinese student at Galileo High School
“This was the first time I’ve had a long conversation with people who are transsexual. I’ve not identified w/prejudice towards the community—however, talking with Kara & Yosenio awakened a deeper respect and understanding (acceptance) of transsexual individuals. —25 year old mixed ethnicity student at City College San Francisco
• What did you learn today?
“No one really talks to me about this, so I learned a lot.” —a female student at James Lick Middle School
“It taught me a lot about the emotional level of feeling that LGBTQ people go through when I only knew about the physical-ness.” —another female student at James Lick Middle School
“That being gay is nothing wrong and you can be whoever you want and don’t be scared.” —14 year old male Latino student at James Lick Middle School
“Finally I changed my point of view about LGBTQ from negative to positive today. I realize that anyone has the right to love and live the way they want and be themselves. I would be the one who support the LGBTQ people since now on!!! I LOVE this presentation!” —19 year old Chinese student at Galileo High School
“I learned to not judge people because of the way they are. And being an ally is the best thing to do.” —15 year old female African American student at Wallenberg High School
“It was great listening to your stories. You helped clear up stereotypes I believed in that were incorrect.” —a SF City College student
“It really made me realize how much transgender people have to go through just to be who they are.” —a white female SF City College student
“I learned that being bisexual is an option for me, especially because I have been questioning my sexuality for so long.” —19-year-old Latina female SF City College student
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Our teachers say:
"We do have a GSA alliance here, but we also have a large population of students who have never met anyone who openly identifies as non-hetero." —a teacher at James Lick Middle School, May 2013
"I just wanted to send out a giant thank you for last Friday. The event was amazing, and the impact on the kids was much larger than I imagined. All of you were so powerful, and I can't thank you enough for doing this work. I know you are all volunteers and that you worked especially hard to keep this speakers bureau going, so I wanted to tell you that what you are doing is truly making a difference. So many of my students' attitudes and mindsets changed as a result of your work." —Megan Mercurio, Juvenile Justice Center, Woodside (High School)
"I have been a teacher for the SFUSD since 1991, and am teaching Health and Physical Education. At times, I have invited a number of different community-based organizations to visit with my classes. The Speakers Bureau has been a positive influence with my students in a number of different ways:
• Diversity is important to see and understand.
• I teach and reinforce that even though we as individuals may not be accepting, respect of others is extremely important, whether it's toward their religion, race, culture, or sexual orientation, etc.
Please understand that speaker bureaus such as yours are very important to our community, our schools, and our students (all of us are students). Thanking you in advance." —Ali R. Mayer MS., CHES, Abraham Lincoln High School
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Our volunteer speakers say:
"In scanning student evaluations for the Speakers Bureau, I came across this one from one of the kids from last Friday. Under 'What did you learn?' they wrote, 'I learned that LGBTQ people are just as normal as anybody else and they are ABSOLUTELY not weapons to society.' #TakeThatPopeFrancis #TransPeopleArentNukes :) Thanks to Rich Russo and Leigh McLellan for making magical moments like this possible for me and so many others :) " —Christina DiEdoardo
"First, thank you for continuing the speaker's bureau—as a member of the bureau for the past year and a half, I personally know how important and powerful a panel of queer folks talking about their lives is. I still remember the first speaker's bureau panel I saw when I was a scared, lonely 15-year-old lesbian with bad hair—I felt less alone, isolated, and afraid. Seeing that there were people like me in the world, and that those people were living happy lives, gave me hope that I could one day have that too. And I am so happy to say that I have that now. I just started law school at Santa Clara and hope what I learn here will give me the tools to use the legal system to help fight injustices. Thank you for your incredible work. In solidarity," —Cola Hess
"I hope everything has been going fortunately as you form a new Speakers Bureau. When I heard the news, I was very excited. I joined the Speakers Bureau a few months before its removal from CUAV's programs and did only two gigs. I was in Connie's last training and it was a bummer to hear that she would be leaving just as my speaking career started. However, it is great to see that she is involved once again. Connie and others at CUAV opened my eyes to the many problems that our community faces, how they are interlocked with other forms of oppression, and the importance of informing the public as well as our peers about these issues. However, there is still SO MUCH more for me to learn in order to be a better speaker, activist, and well-rounded person. I've been preoccupied for a while, but am happy to say that I would love to join the Speakers Bureau to learn, contribute, and help the folks out there who need it the most. I have to admit that I myself still need help understanding fully who makes up our community, what our needs are, where we stand, where we need to go, and what factors are prohibiting us from gaining the freedom that is so important in order to live a fulfilling life. Hope to hear from you soon to see how far you've come since you undertook the task. Thanks!" —Brian Carrillo
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