Green Room



The Power of Visibility on Public Speaking Stages

February 26, 2020

Do you ever notice how at so many public speaking stages, virtual events, and online summits they speakers all look the same?

I remember watching Pedro on The Real World in the summer of 1994. It was the first time I saw a gay person living an actual life who wasn't just a comedic sidekick.

I remember watching the premiere of Will & Grace on September 21, 1998. I was still a closeted 18-year old and had to pick between my favorite show, Ally McBeal, or this new show. I watched Will Truman and Jack McFarland as gay men — as flawed and stereotypical as the writing may have been — it was one of the first times where I thought “maybe I can come out and be happy, be a lawyer, and find love.”

It happened again in 2000 with Danny Roberts from The Real World: New Orleans.

Then it happened again this week with Pete Buttigieg when approached by 9-yo Zachary Ro at a rally in Denver when Zachary asked Pete to help him come out to the world. Pete responded: “I don’t think you need a lot of advice from me on bravery. You seem pretty strong,” Buttigieg told Zachary. “It took me a long time to figure out how to tell even my best friend that I was gay, let alone to go out there and tell the world.”

I sat weeping at a restaurant in Napa.

A few days later, I gave a storytelling for leaders keynote at a conference in Napa. Later that evening a man approached me and wanted to share his story — one he hadn't even realized was driving his entire life's path until our time together during my keynote.

And I realized — visibility matters.

As leaders, as speakers, as entrepreneurs — we are showing up in people's lives in ways that can have a profound impact on how they see themselves.

It's a reminder that it is critical that when called into that arena, onto that stage, on that screen — we show up — as fully as we can. As fully self-expressed as we can — because someone is watching.

I also paired this episode with a fully-expressed wine — and one of the first one's that helped me see myself in wine. Albariño! This one comes from a winery owned by a gay winemaker in Geyserville. Mercury Wines makes an expressive Albariño that pairs well with life and food.

Links mentioned:

Mercury Wines

Pete Buttigieg with Zachary Ro

Mike’s Medium Article on Visibility 

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