Speak Out! Toastmasters, which was the first openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) specialty Toastmasters Club in Southern California, recently celebrated its 10th anniversary with an official proclamation from Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster.
Keynote speakers and original club founders, Dana Runge and Heidee Sinowitz Stoica, recalled their inspiration for starting the club and the challenges they faced in 2003 in forming a LGBT-identified Toastmasters Club. Both had the desire to create an open and inclusive club where people of all genders and sexual orientations were welcomed.
“People don’t face two fears at once: the fear of ‘Will I be accepted?’and [the fear of] ‘How do I learn to speak in public?’” said Runge, a transgendered female.
Both Runge and Stoica acknowledged the progress that the LGBT community has made since its inception, but they also recalled the apprehension they faced back in 2003. “Not everybody was so thrilled about the idea,” Runge said. “There were people in Toastmasters, hard to believe as it is today, who were saying, ‘A gay Toastmasters Club?’”
Back in 2003, some people didn’t even want to step into the gay and lesbian center, she said, emphasizing how much has changed since then. Speak Out! inspired the formation of other LGBT clubs, including West Hollywood Toastmasters.
Foster’s proclamation pointed out the contributions Speak Out! has made to the community, including enriching “the lives of high-school students in Long Beach by hosting youth leadership programs, educating students in public speaking and leadership skills.”
Another guest speaker at the event was King Chan, a young man who attended Speak Out!’s first Youth Leadership program at the Long Beach Center. He spoke about how the program helped him develop self-confidence.
Chan said that Toastmasters helped him “go out into the world and find my own voice and utilize it wisely. I’ve seen the insides of the political arena, working for three elected officials, including our city’s vice mayor and also a sitting U.S. senator. I’ve met our president and vice president, as well as former President Clinton at various events I’ve organized. And I’ve been able to contribute my voice to matters important to the communities I represent.”
Speak Out! Toastmasters Club meets weekly on Saturdays from 10:30am to noon. The group welcomes adults of all genders and sexual orientations, including gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and heterosexual people. Members have the opportunity to practice public speaking and learn communication and leadership skills in a supportive environment.
For information about local Toastmasters clubs, please visit toastmasters.org .
Speak Out! Toastmasters Club has been recognized by Toastmasters International as a President’s Distinguished Club. For more information, visit speakouttoastmasters.org or call (818) 973-2283.
Courtesy: Speak Out! Toastmasters