Jaclyn Kravatz is the founder and President of Stories For Love. Thanks to our upcoming DC event, I was able to connect with Jaclyn for an interview. Read on to learn about the wonderful ways Stories For Love seeks to highlight through conversations and photography the truths of the LGBTQIA+ community.
What is the mission of Stories for Love?
The mission of Stories For Love is to empower the LGBTQIA+ community to unfold their personal truth to create positive change within ourselves, our relationships, and ultimately our community. We are a community of photojournalists and storytellers who share stories of personal truth through recorded conversations and portrait photography.
What inspired you to start Stories for Love? What is your role there?
I am the founder and President of Stories For Love, and I work with an amazing team of volunteers from DC and around the world! Stories For Love was created out of a need to reach and impact my community by unfolding my own truth and story. I am originally from Florida, and when Florida was working to pass same-sex marriage, the Attorney General appeared on the news promoting a ban on same-sex marriage. She was the same woman who stated that recognizing same-sex marriages from other states would disrupt existing marriage laws and “impose significant public harm.” I took it as a personal attack. This was my home state. I had to share my story to try and make an impact on decisions that would ultimately affect my future family, and generations of LGBTQIA+ families to come. Most importantly, I wanted my community and my state to celebrate me with love. From my story, came many others from Florida, and eventually we collected over 300 from around the world in places like DC, Iceland, China, Macedonia, and more. Over time, I have realized that that the fight was not only about marriage. I learned that our mission is about unfolding our personal truth to create positive change within ourselves, our relationships, and ultimately our community. From this realization, Stories For Love was born into the thriving storytelling nonprofit it is today.
How has the climate around the LGBTQ community changed since gay marriage was legalized in the US?
Now that marriage equality is passed, it gives the community the opportunity to focus on so many other issues that need addressing within the LGBTQIA+ community. For example, laws protecting trans rights are now at the forefront of public consciousness. Other sexually diverse groups such as asexuals, queers, polyamorous, and bisexuals and are becoming more vocal and visible. Gay marriage has been a trailblazing movement for the LGBTQIA+ community, and I cannot wait to see the progress we will make in the years to follow. I think the passing of marriage has also changed the climate in other movements as well. The feminist movement, the anti-gun movement, Black Lives Matter, and other movements are learning from the “playbook” of how same-sex marriage was passed in the US. A great book that is referenced by many grassroots movements is “Winning Marriage: The Inside Story of How Same-Sex Couples Took on the Politicians and Pundits — and Won” by Marc Solomon.
While other organizations are doing work to pass laws and start larger conversations, Stories For Love continues to focus on the individual in these fights. We want to ensure the LGBTQIA+ community continues to have a platform to share their truth to create change within themselves, their relationships, and ultimately their community.
If you’re open to it, can you share a powerful moment or story of someone who has been helped by or featured on Stories for Love?
I recently interviewed a man named Todd whose story and spirit greatly impacted me. Todd’s story is about self love. Todd was adopted into a Mormon family who was very active with the church. Todd came out as gay to his family in High School. At the age of 20, he was diagnosed with HIV. He learned to disclose his status on all of his dates, and eventually to his family. Todd refused to hide who he was, and what his status is. He started becoming a public advocate, and shared stories with People Magazine, MTV, and Stories For Love. Becoming an advocate was the only way he was able to find peace in his life.
Todd explains, “My love story involves me forgetting to love myself. Long before we can talk about same-sex marriage, or happy and healthy relationships, we have to talk about a healthy relationship with ourselves and what loving ourself truly means. Our community can be hurtful towards each other. Marriage equality has not yet fixed the internal issues. We have addiction, we have lack of self esteem, we have lack of self love. When we are talking about love, those are the conversations that feels more relevant than marriage. I want marriage, but I want my LGBTQIA+ community to love themselves before they love someone else. Let’s advocate for that. That is worth fighting for. Because then, when we are a community who has learned to self love, then our relationships are better, then less people are effected with HIV.”
Todd turned anger and chaos into a positive force to help others. He is an inspiration to all of us. You can listen to his full story here: http://www.storiesforlove.com/blog/2016/6/1/c09wnfsy46b2w95o15vmf7vmhbj0rf
What are the biggest roadblocks facing LGBTQ organizations like yours?
I can only speak for my organization. I would say the biggest roadblock for Stories For Love is around learning to fundraise in the LGBTQIA+ space, specifically. I am new to the nonprofit world, and thankful for conferences like Accelerate. It is the first organization that I’ve come across that supports and shares opportunities for LGBTQIA+ organizations and can teach our organization how to best utilize the tools we have in place.
How has the LGBTQ community in DC impacted you? How would you like to impact it?
The LGBTQIA+ community in DC is thriving! There are many groups, organizations, and networking opportunities that all strive to positively impact the LGBTQIA+ community. Over the span of a few months, I met and connected with LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers, Barney Frank, and the first trans man in Congress. Everyone is willing to help each other out. For that reason, I want to give back and share inspiring stories from all walks of life, and help folks in DC unfold their personal truth! I would love to work with anyone who wants to share stories within their DC community! Connect with with us at storiesforlove.com/volunteer.
What have you learned through starting Stories for Love?
I’ve learned that community is key. I sign all my emails with the quote: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead. At the end of the day, the most important work Stories For Love does to help build community is during those 5-10 minutes when two people, a photojournalist and storyteller, sit down and unfold their truth to one another. The sense of community created during these story gathering sessions have been multiplied 300 times around the world since we began 2 years ago. These story gathering sessions allow people to unfold their truth out loud, and also empower the community to live their truth in all aspects of their life. We aspire to grow and share many more stories with each year that passes!
Why are you excited about this event?
I am so excited to lean in and learn as much as possible from other great minds. Stories For Love is in dire need of assistance to put our data and analytics to good use so that we can curate and share even more stories around the globe!