By Miyah Keller
From speaking out on the acceptance of the LGBTQ community to speaking the truth about our own lives, storytelling can bring awareness to diversity.
OUTspoken is Chicago’s storytelling event celebrating unique personal stories from across the LGBTQ community. On the first Tuesday of every month, people from Chicago’s LGBTQ community and their allies change Boystown’s well-known Sidetrack bar into an innovative, safe spot where they feel appreciated as they share personal stories.
OUTspoken was established in August 2014 by co-founders David Fink and Archy Jamjun, the story curator at Sidetrack, 3349 N. Halsted St. This bar hosts several local events, but none quite match this gathering of storytellers from all walks of life. They have a lot in common — yet each story is unique.
Chicago radio station WBEZ promoted the show on air, which helped attract attention from NPR and its listeners who don’t visit Boystown or participate in the LGBTQ community. This opportunity helped capture broader net of individuals by publishing a sampling of stories for a much diverse audience.
“I want the show to feel like everybody that’s at the bar is a guest at a great party, and the storytellers are interesting guests that they’re going to be able to meet,” Fink said.
LGBTQ doesn’t define a single community and the show is very inclusive. Everyone will all be able to see the commonalities but the event strives to represent different groups of people to show diversity within the larger LGBTQ community.
OUTspoken is a place where you can be vulnerable as you share your story but emotionally, it allows you that space to be open with peers — recognizing different individuals of the community to broaden their reach through storytelling.
Jamjun is a former storyteller at OUTspoken and has been curating events for several years.
“The more people who attend the show, the more people want to share their story,” Jamjun said. “The audience is consistently cheering for every storyteller. Some people tell a story at OUTspoken, and this launches them into the storytelling community to do more shows.”
Jamjun said OUTspoken is a haven where LGBTQ individuals can share their stories. The presence of love in the environment is palpable in the room. The stories range from personal traumatic events to entertaining experiences.
“I put myself in the shoes of the storytellers. Casually sharing my story, I did not expect this opportunity to come. I found my purpose,” Jamjun said. “I encourage everyone to tell their story because you might not become a storyteller or curator, but this opportunity helps you open up to an audience and level up your life.”
The shows’ outreach encompasses different communities in the Chicago area such as Naperville, Woodridge and Beverly. In the western suburbs, where there are not many gay outlets, Jamjun recently connected with Naperville Pride, Youth Outlook, and P-Flag, creating a new group of more than 150 participants.
Fink said everyone who attends the events endures the stories in a different way depending on their experiences, but there’s value to every piece.
“People’s true personal stories have value [and] are essential. I would encourage people to tell their stories that share their little gold nuggets,” Fink said.