August was an unexpected storytelling month for me. On August 10 I was invited to tell a story on stage in Chicago for RISK!. The concept of the podcast is RISK!: True Stories People Never Thought They’d Dare To Share! I've shared my story publicly more times than I can count. But this time it was different. With the valuable coaching assistance of Kevin Allison and the RISK! storytelling coaches, I was able to weave my story in a fresh and more colorful way than ever before. It was an exhilarating experience to stand on stage before hundreds of very appreciative listeners and bare my soul once again. They were an enthusiastic and welcoming audience. Any nerves I had subsided when they laughed at the first humorous point and broke into spontaneous applause at several poignant or inspirational moments. After the show I was inundated with audience members expressing their appreciation for my transparency. I walked away feeling completely fulfilled and exhilarated by the entire experience.
A week later my husband David and I sat in the StoryCorps Mobile Booth at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri. We interviewed one another in a shiny silver airstream trailer parked in front of Quay Coffee which is one of my regular "office" away from home hangouts. While David and I planned to share some of the usual elements of my story, I also wanted to make sure we tapped into something deeper that was truly spontaneous and not rehearsed. We weren't exactly sure where we were going to go with the story, but I tried to think deeply about each question my husband asked and answer it like it was the first time. It must have worked because by the end I was in tears as I reflected on why I fell in love with him and why I continue to love him more deeply every passing day. I learned some new things about him, me and us because of this interview.
Both of these broadcasts became public this week. It was a joy to hear our own voices on KCUR and the RISK! podcast. You may wonder why I bare my heart and soul to the world and expose all my own secrets, both the beautiful and the ugly. I do it because years ago as I was coming out I realized that too many had been silent. I spent years feeling alone, stuck and hopeless. When I finally came out, I promised myself that I would never be silent and would always openly share my story for the benefit of the listener. I never know who is in my audience. I don't know what reality they are facing. I don't know where they are in their journey. I do know that telling our stories allows the listener to live someone else's reality for a few moments. This has transformative power. No one can take my story from me. Maya Angelou said "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." Telling my story through Joel Speaks Out is key to my commitment to living an authentic life not controlled by fear and shame. It is my desire that no one else be subjected to what I went through and that they never feel they have no option but to live a life of fear and shame. Please take a few moments and listen to both these stories and share them with your friends.
Joel on StoryCorps
Joel on RISK!
LGBTQ Writer, Speaker, Gatherer