Live Out Loud’s 2015 Young Scholars Reflect on the Gala

Zoe Bracken

“Writing the speech was very difficult for me. I wanted to articulate my gratitude and excitement, while sharing experiences I’ve had. When I walked into the auditorium I was dumbfounded by the amount of people who were going to show up to hear us speak. I struggled to shake my nerves and overwhelmed by the weight of giving a speech. When I got up to give my speech I was trembling, but quickly felt comfortable in front of everyone. Meeting so many people was incredible. I was so touched by the compliments everyone gave me and by the stories I was able to listen to. The whole night was an incredible blur.”

Kaitlin Maloney

“I love to give speeches to crowds because I get such a personal rush from moving people with words, and because I feel like giving speeches can really connect me to a group of people and to a movement. Throughout my life and coming out process, all I have really wanted was to feel connected to the LGBTQ community, not only because of my sexual orientation, but because I wanted to be a part of the fight for equal rights. I wanted to champion the community, and to be a “hero” for LGBTQ people like the other heroes who came before me.

“I wish I could have stayed for the entire time during the downstairs reception because it was so neat to be able to network with people and never to feel like my sexual orientation was a barrier at the beginning of the conversation. For me, even though I am very comfortable with my sexual orientation at this point, any time I meet a new person, I’m always gauging how they will react to me being gay. But at a place like Live Out Loud, that is a non-issue, and it gave me a sense of freedom that I don’t always feel in my social interactions, at least initially.

“I learned that I must involve myself even further in the fight for equality and legal recognition and fair treatment, and all of the other fights the gay community is facing. As a gay woman, I felt like I was one of only a handful of women in a roomful of men. And although there are many great men and women who have done wonderful work for the LGBTQ community, I feel like the female voice is not as present. I know that I want to change this. I would love to do this work, and bring more women into this work, and make sure that everyone is at the table when it comes to fighting for equality. We can’t hear the voices of the people who aren’t there. That being said, Live Out Loud does incredible work for the LGBTQ community and I am so grateful and honored to have been selected for this honor and scholarship, and I feel so lucky to have been a part of such a wonderful event.”

Kain “Kai” McCall

“Being one of the scholarship recipients at the Young Trailblazers Gala was honestly one of the greatest experiences I think I will ever have. I have always been a bit shy about public speaking and social situations, so while I was preparing and practicing my speech I was definitely very nervous about how it would turn out. It was pretty hard to try to compress everything that I wanted to say into a two minute speech, and I was very nervous about whether or not I would be able to get my message across. Now, having given the speech, I think I was able to do that. It was amazing and inspiring to have people come up to me afterwords telling me how brave and strong I was for telling my story, and to have people talk to me about their family or friends who are transgender and who are going through some of the same things that I did. But to be honest, for me, getting an award was secondary; the most amazing moments I had were hearing people like Peter Staley speak about their own experiences, or hearing some of my fellow scholarship recipients’ stories. Hearing from other leaders in the LGBTQ community talk about the issues they have faced inspires me to continue trying to make things better for everybody, and I think those kinds of experiences are more important than any award could possibly be. Thank you Live Out Loud!”

Steven McClary-Smith

“This was a really inspiring experience. I felt like I didn’t really have anyone that believed in me and everything I am trying to do with my life but I feel like going to the Gala and meeting all these amazing people made me feel like I am going down a great path. I feel really inspired by everything.”

Michael Nowak

“I think aside from the scholarship itself, getting to meet all the folks downstairs was the best part. When I get back from Buffalo next week, I’m going to have several hours of emails and calls with journalists and senate staff. This event definitely provided me with the means to accomplish exactly what I wrote about in my speech.

“The speech itself, I thought, would be a really stressful experience. My heart was pounding when I went up on the stage but everything kind of stopped the moment I started talking and I could feel everything on me. It was nice to hear from people afterwards saying how the speech made them think more about the lives of homeless LGBTQ youth.”

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