Be OUTspoken and be heard at LGBTQ storytelling event

Alex White


Halie Parkinson

Ally speaker Emily Calvo, left, takes the stage at the OUTspoken event held Feb. 5 at Sidetrack, 3349 N. Halsted St.

By Kendall Polidori, Staff Reporter

On the first Tuesday of every month, members of the Chicago’s LGBTQ community and its allies transform a popular Boystown bar into a creative safe place where they share uniquely personal stories they would not tell elsewhere.

OUTspoken, which met most recently on Feb 5, is led by David Fink and Archy Jamjun and is held at Sidetrack, 3349 N. Halsted St. The club alters its Main and Cherry bars into a storytelling paradise with six storytellers broken up by one intermission.

There is no charge to attend the event, but audience members must be 21 or older.

OUTspoken has had over 300 people tell their stories in the past four years, and is one of the first LGBTQ storytelling shows in Chicago. The event strives to represent at least two different groups of people to show the diversity within the LGBTQ community.

Jamjun was a former storyteller at OUTspoken and has been curating the event since last year.

“It’s a great chance for people in the gay community to share their stories and also to see people who professionally [tell stories],” Jamjun said. “It’s a good mix of everyday people and performers.”

Jamjun said about 70 percent of the time people who go to the show become inspired and want to perform.

“I’m always surprised at how open people are about what they want to share at OUTspoken,” Jamjun said. “The room is filled with love and acceptance. It’s packed with 200 people ready to hear these stories and cheer people on.”

The stories at OUTspoken range from personal traumatic events to comedic or entertaining experiences.

Eleven months out of the year, the storytellers at OUTspoken must be part of the LGBTQ community themselves. November is known as Ally Month, when people who are friends or relatives are invited to share.

Emily Calvo, a writer, artist and ally, spoke on Feb. 5 on behalf of her late father who was gay and recorded the last 23 years of his life on audio cassette tapes before he passed in 2000.

Calvo is in the process of writing her first memoir about her father and shared a chapter from her book during the event.

“There’s so many judgements about LGBTQ parenting,” Calvo said. “From a daughter’s perspective, my dad and I were really close. He was a great dad for me, even though he was far from perfect. He lived a double life for a really long time.”

Calvo said it is important for people to know these stories and to familiarize themselves with other communities.

“It helps a lot to build bridges. We all have so much more in common than not,” said Calvo.

OUTspoken’s Artistic Director and Co-Founder David Fink said the event’s name relates directly to its mission of making LGBTQ voices heard.

“For the most part, it is just spoken word. [There are] no costumes, no props, no gimmicks. Just tell the story and be sincere,” Fink said. “Hopefully when a person is done, you feel like you know them.”

Fink said everyone who attends the event takes in the stories differently, depending on their life experiences, but there is value to all of it.

OUTspoken is in the process of expanding the show, and has appeared in other events such as Lifeline Theatre’s annual Fillet of Solo Festival, held at 6912 N. Glenwood Ave.

“Everybody has stories, and if you can think about your life and think about things that were impactful, I would encourage people to share their stories,” Fink said. “Stories are important, our history is important and our journeys are important.”