NIU is home to a diverse, vibrant and engaged LGBTQIA+ community and they are poised to share their stories with fellow Huskies. For more than two decades the LGBTQIA+ Speakers Bureau has been an important resource for students, faculty, staff and members of the DeKalb community.
“The LGBTQIA+ Speakers Bureau has a rich history with NIU and our commitment to LGBTQIA+ education,” Molly Holmes, director, Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, said. “The Speakers Bureau is one of the longest standing educational services and programs for LGBTQIA+ students at NIU.”
The Speakers Bureau is made up of NIU students and community members who volunteer to speak about their experiences as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer individuals or heterosexual allies. They speak candidly about their experiences, what it was like to come out and what resources are available for LGBTQIA+ students and allies.
Sam Lanigan, coordinator of the Speakers Bureau and graduate research assistant at the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, shared the sentiment.
“Each individual speaker has their own reasons for joining and continuing to be a part of Speakers Bureau,” Lanigan said. “They want to answer the questions they already get asked every day in a safe and respectful space; they also want to be able to use their voices to try and make a difference at NIU.”
Speakers are trained student volunteers willing to share their experiences as people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or heterosexual/cisgender allies. They speak honestly – from their own experiences – and have participated in a training workshop to prepare them for giving public presentations. They are available to speak for student groups, in classes, in residence halls or for other appropriate engagements.
“Speakers Bureau helps break down misconceptions about the LGBTQIA+ community,” Holmes said. “It let students – who may never have met someone who identifies within the community – ask questions in a safe, respectful and educational space.”
Holmes said the Speakers Bureau members replace stereotypes with real people and real stories, and they also serve as an educational resource for the LGBTQIA+ community.
“By being themselves and having a shared connection as NIU students, the speakers inspire audience members to discover ways to support and find their own ways to be allies,” Holmes said.
“My hope for the attendees is that they can realize that this community is full of unique individuals who all have their own experiences and they deserve to feel safe, loved, affirmed and celebrated,” Lanigan said. “We want to give fresh and authentic perspectives about the LGBTQIA+ community and what it is like to experience these identities.”
And they are doing just that.
During the 2018-2019 school year, the LGBTQIA+ Speakers Bureau presented to more than 600 people. The feedback of attendees has been impactful, and speakers have been impacted as well.
“Speakers Bureau also empowers the volunteer speakers as advocates, role models, and activists,” Holmes said. “Our speakers show the importance of being an ally and they encourage audience members to continue their discussions and educations by visiting the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center.”