Where I grew up, being gay wasn’t unusual. No one commented on it because it was perfectly normal, so there was a lot of acceptance, but not a lot of conversation. So when I got to college last year and started working as an LGBTQ activist on campus, I started hearing stories that I’d never heard outside of books; stories about navigating religiously conservative families, about hearing offensive things like “no homo” in school, about not being able to take a girlfriend to prom. I also heard some familiar stories, like having Gay-Straight Alliances banned by high school administrations.
One of the most powerful experiences I’ve had at school was a coming-out themed dinner during Queer Awareness Month. Anyone who wanted to could share a story. One by one, my friends and allies in the LGBTQ community people I’d known, worked with, and hung out with for over a year told stories I had never heard before. They were sweet, and sad, and funny. They were just like the books I had read, or nothing like them. They were depressing, or they were inspiring.
But whatever each individual story was, they all had something in common; they were informative. By the end of the meal, I knew my friends better than I had when I stepped into the room. I knew the community better. I was more informed, and I felt better prepared to navigate the world as a person and as an activist.
That’s the whole idea of the Tell 3 campaign. You can spend a lot of time with someone without knowing their stories or understanding what their life is like. Sometimes, people don’t ask because they’re not interested. But, often, they don’t ask because they don’t know how; they don’t want to be rude. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard someone gasp, aghast, “You can’t ask someone that!”
Sometimes we can’t ask. But we can always choose to tell. So tell three people a story. Tell three people about your life and how it’s affected by being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or an ally. Talk about the people you know and the stories they’ve told you. And when you can’t find anything left to talk about, talk about Tell 3! I’ve been spreading it around my campus soon it will be on every weekly e-mail from every LGBT group we have. I’m going to a leadership retreat this weekend I’ll be talking about it there. It’s my Facebook status right now: “Anna wants you to Tell 3! (http://www.tell-three.org/).”
So share your stories! Tell 3 (or 30, or 300)! And when you’re too tired to tell anyone else, talk to them about why they should Tell 3. Maybe you’ll get to hear some new stories.