December 4th, 2017

By Charles Chan Massey, Executive Director, The Personal Stories Project

I shared this on my personal Facebook page a year ago today. 

“I consider myself somewhat of a ‘late bloomer’ as an activist. I also refer to myself an ‘accidental activist’ because I didn’t choose this path – it chose me.

I always thought front-line activism was for other people – I didn’t really think I had anything to offer. Then a story literally changed my life.

I’ve been an out gay man since I was 18, but it wasn’t until my late 40’s that I decided to roll up my sleeves and get involved.

In 2012 a series of events began happening around me, starting with a story I ran across about a young man who lost his partner in a tragic accident, leaving him to navigate unsupportive family members as he dealt with the aftermath.

Next up: the daughter of a high school friend came out to me literally via a Facebook message, saying that had her mother not known me she was fairly certain her coming out process wouldn’t necessarily have been a pleasant experience.

And finally, my sister re-introduced me to a friend of hers whose then 14-year-old son had recently come out. Since it comes in threes I finally looked up at the sky and said “OK, I get it!” I had to do something. But what?

I sent out a random e-mail to a number of my contacts saying that I wanted to do something to help our community. I essentially said that I wasn’t sure what it would look like but I knew I had to do something. I received a number of responses from folks essentially saying ‘count me in’ so I knew I was onto something.

Next, several of us got together, collaborated and came up with a social media-based idea to help our community by harnessing the power of the personal story, specifically in an LGBT and ally context.

Fast forward to the present and we have an organization called The Personal Stories Project where we collect and share stories about LGBT and allies experiences, the goal being to change hearts, minds and ultimately, lives.

Now, more than ever, I feel that’s it’s important for us to share our stories. We haven’t come this far only to have it ripped away by an administration who offers a platform of hate and intolerance under the guise of love and ‘religious liberty.’ We have to organize, and we have to fight like our very lives and the survival of our community depends on it. Because it does.

I’ll continue to speak out and continue to share until they take away my First Amendment right of free speech. And maybe even after that.”

Friends, continue to share your personal stories. They can take a lot of things away from us, but not our voices.

Author’s note:

Looking back on this, even though only a year has passed since I first shared these words, my reasons for becoming an activist are more clear to me now than ever before. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do. I encourage everyone to speak up, Don’t stay silent. If you see something that you think is wrong speak out. That’s how we create change. Share your story, because our stories are both our greatest gift and our most important responsibility. Stay focused, be proud, and be loud. Because staying silent isn’t an option any longer, at least not for me. And probably not for you, either.