First GLBT-Identified Toastmasters Club in Southern California
Long Beach, California, JUNE 17, 2013: An official proclamation from Bob Foster, Mayor of the City of Long Beach, was presented to Speak Out! Toastmasters at a special anniversary meeting and club reunion, Saturday evening. The meeting celebrated the club’s 10-year anniversary, a particularly striking accomplishment since it was the first openly gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered specialty Toastmasters Club in Southern California.
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 GLBT-identified Toastmasters Club.
Both had the vision 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’,” Runge, a transgendered female said.
Both Runge and Stoica acknowledged the progress that the GLBT community has made since then, but did recall apprehension they faced back in 2003. “Not everybody was so thrilled about the idea,” said Runge. “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 continued and emphasized how much has changed since then. Speak Out! inspired the formation of other GLBT 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 US 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 12pm. The group welcome 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, among friends.
Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. Founded in October 1924, the organization currently has more than 280,000 members in 13,500-plus clubs in 116 countries. Each week, Toastmasters helps more than a quarter million people of every ethnicity, education level and profession build their competence in communication so they can gain the confidence to lead others. For information about local Toastmasters clubs, please visit www.toastmasters.org.
Speak Out! Toastmasters Club has been recognized by Toastmasters International as a President’s Distinguished Club. For more information, please visit the club’s web site at www.speakouttoastmasters.org or call (818) 973-2283.
NOTE: Photographs from the event are available upon request.
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