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Our World Reflected: Why We Tell Stories

“I only claim to know how a story ought to be told, for I have been almost daily in the company of the most expert storytellers for many years” (1) – Mark Twain

To be human is to tell stories. We are social creatures. We create and live within complex societies in order to subsist, yes, but also in order to understand and enrich. We strive to see ourselves reflected back to us, to hear words that describe us, to piece together meaning from the mundane and the monumental experiences that surround us. We seek out stories and, where stories do not exist, we construct them. In the words of Joan Didion, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”(2) And the stories told are only as good—as impactful, as enlightening, as galvanizing—as the way in which they are told. We at TENCUE have been fortunate enough to have worked with a number of organizations whose missions revolve around amplifying, reframing, celebrating the stories of others.

To mark World Storytelling Day, we want to share with you the work of some of our personal favorite storytellers.  

GLAAD—the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation—is the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization. Born of the misinformation campaigns against the LGBTQ community during the height of the AIDS epidemic, GLAAD works tirelessly to increase media accountability, ensuring fair, accurate and inclusive representation that rewrites the LGBTQ narrative and promotes cultural change. Through entertainment, news and digital media, GLAAD shares stories from the LGBTQ community that help accelerate acceptance. Through their triannual GLAAD Media Awards events, they recognize and honor media for their positive and accurate portrayal of the LGBTQ community and the issues that affect their lives. Amidst the current uptick in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and defaming media depiction, GLAAD’s work has never been more relevant and the stories they amplify never more powerful.

The Ever Forward Club is a Bay Area-based organization that provides mentorship opportunities and social emotional development to at-risk young men. Through their work, they seek to address underlying causes of dropout rate, youth violence and achievement gaps. Their focus goes beyond mere academic achievement, working to draw out and reflect the stories of its participants to create a meaningful, resonant environment where young men can learn from each other and find pride and mutual support amidst their own communities. Their #millionmaskmovement initiative took this idea to a global scale, inviting individuals from around the world to participate in a self-reflective exercise by drawing and describing the mask they wear, as well as the details of what their mask hides. Through the sharing of these personal stories, the movement aims at gathering a deeper understanding of how our own narratives connect us to one another.

Gender Spectrum is a national organization committed to the health and well-being of gender-diverse children and teens through education and support for families, as well as training for educators, medical and mental health professionals. At the heart of their mission is helping folks discover, or even create, the language that best communicates their internal experience, while offering guidance and tools for communities to help understand those experiences. Since its inception, Gender Spectrum has created the standard framework for understanding gender, and has supported thousands of gender diverse youth across the nation in telling their authentic stories. With more than 300 anti-LGBTQ bills having been introduced across the country in 2023 alone, most directed at our transgender youth, Gender Spectrum’s commitment to affirming and uplifting these young voices sends a crucial message of positivity and validation to a community most in need of it.

At TENCUE, our own work as storytellers is constantly being influenced by the expert storytellers we are surrounded by in our communities, our industry, our world. Their stories enrich ours, their techniques excite us, their perspectives impact the way in which we approach our own craft. We celebrate the many storytellers who have shaped our work directly and indirectly, and all those whose narratives continue to help us comprehend and contextualize our humanity.

– Hara Slonevsky
Communications Director, TENCUE

A story is only a story if there is someone with whom to share it.
Explore some of the stories these organizations are working to amplify.

(1) Twain, Mark. “How to Tell a Story.” How to Tell a Story and Other Essays, 2011.
(2) Didion, Joan. “The White Album.” The White Album, 1979