My views on activism have evolved significantly in the last few years. In college, I protested on the streets regularly, but I became discouraged when it didn’t seem to change anything. I tried phonebanking, calling legislators, street canvassing, and other outreach methods. But what I ultimately found is that living my daily life had the largest effect of all. By boycotting the meat industry in my diet, I helped meat consumption to drop in the U.S. By supporting ethical companies with my dollars, I helped workers earn a living wage. By living as out, I helped the national support level for same-sex marriage rise above 50%.
That’s why my most recent volunteering experience was with SpeakOUT, an LGBT speakers bureau founded in 1972. We simply tell our life stories to anyone who asks to listen. I did my first speaking engagement with them on January 29 for a group of Samaritans-in-training. I spoke for just about 5 minutes about my life story (yes, 20-somethings have life stories, too) and then answered questions for an hour. I was part of a panel with two other speakers. Between us, we told stories of everyday life, suicide, church, domestic violence, marriage, divorce, dating, and coming out. Some in the group of listeners had never met an out person before and they asked us the questions they would have been embarrassed to ask in any other setting. It was terrifying and empowering to speak and I can’t wait to do it again.
The way you live every day matters more than one action every once in a while. I still participate in fundraising walks and rallies occasionally, and there is nothing wrong with participating in public group actions, but the quiet form of activism can be the strongest.