Keeping Families Together
The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog
January 21, 2011
Are You Taking Every Opportunity to Tell Your Story?
By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA
Why tell your story?
Whether we are LGBT, parents, or allies we all have personal stories. Telling personal stories is an effective way to motivate others to act. People act when they connect with a social issue through their values. People formulate values based on cultural norms, but people understand and invoke their values through emotion. A personal story is a means to communicate your experience to another person in a way he or she can respond to—by connecting with their emotion. We live in times when there is an ongoing conversation about LGBT social justice issues: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, marriage equality, discriminatory immigration laws, bullying, suicides. These social conversations offer us an opportunity to tell our stories so that we can help change minds and build acceptance and respect for LGBTs.
How to tell your story.
To tell your personal story effectively, focus on key decisions, those decisions made during a crisis. For example, when did you decide to come out to your parents? Or, when did you decide to accept and respect your LGBT child? A good personal story is a series of decisions that are connected by a structure, the plot, so to speak. The structure starts with the characters involved, when and where and how the crisis occurred, the decision made and its consequences. The story is fleshed out with additional details, such as: how big a challenge was the decision? Did the decision take courage? Keep in mind that the reason to tell a personal story is to connect with another person so that that other person is motivated to act.
When to tell your story.
Whenever you have an opportunity. If you prepare for all contingencies, you create a modular story and use the individual modules depending on the opportunity. When you are invited to tell your story at a symposium, tell the full story in all its detail. When you are asked a specific question during an informal conversation, tell that part of the story that directly answers the question. For example: “What did you do when your son told you he was gay?” Answer: “I cried a lot, then I read a lot.” In many instances you gradually get to tell your whole story, over time and perhaps in an order that you did not foresee. We think this is positive; the people who are asking probably want to get involved.
Telling your story is a key way to connect with the values of others and motivate them to act. That is why religions, cultures, and even companies tell stories to communicate the values of tradition and culture. One final word: practice, practice, practice the telling of your personal story.
Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride apifamilypride.org