Paul Conroy visits Parkview Students

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Paul Conroy prepares to speak to Parkview students. (Photo courtesy of Tina Dong).

Parkview’s Media Center has hosted multiple speeches given by various guest speakers over the course of the past few months. These guest speakers include Paul Conroy, Founder of Out Front Theatre Company and a member of Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ LGBTQ+ Advisory Board, who spoke to students about overcoming adversities on his journey to the person he is today. 

Emphasizing the notion that life is unexpected and could change at any moment, Mr. Conroy begins by explaining how his own life took a sudden turn. 

He says, “Everything that I do in my life I did not… ten years ago think I would ever be doing in any way, shape, or form. I never thought that I would be working in advocacy, I never thought that I would be an advisor to the mayor of Atlanta, I never thought that I would be working with queer leaders across the country… I’ve been featured in the New York Times, I’ve been in the Times of London, all sorts of international publications, national publications.”

“Let me tell you–your life can take a hard left turn and sometimes it can be an amazing left turn and you have to go with it.”

Mr. Conroy goes on to share a conversation he had with his Latinx and non-binary friend who was auditioning for Jagged Little Pill, a Broadway show. The show stirred up a great extent of controversy as many of the characters identified as Transgender Non-conforming (TGNC), including the main character. However, the actress playing the main character was a cisgender woman. This stirred up many objections from within the community, which left them with two options: either to not audition, or to audition and become the voice of change. Mr. Conroy elaborates:

“I tell you this story because that’s advocacy. Just him trying to figure out what he’s going to do for this job is the way that he can advocate. Advocacy is not getting up and giving a speech in front of five thousand people. It can be, but it can be small things. It can be a conversation that happens between two close friends.” 

‘In your lives, you’re all already advocates. You’re already making change. Everything you do every day, every time you talk to a friend, every time you post something online, you’re advocating your opinion of things. And all that I do, is that on a bigger level. And there are people who do it on a bigger level than me.” 

Mr. Conroy then proceeds to share his experience from what was branded a “terrorist” attack on the Out Front Theater Company. He spoke of the camaraderie that stemmed from the fear. Despite the threats that were used against him and his peers and the police involvement that lasted months, “Our message of what we were doing was spreading.” News outlets from around the world were reporting on the threats and hate directed at the company, yet this only allowed for more allies to offer their support and lend a supporting shoulder. 

Mr. Conroy understands that as a white man, he holds more privilege than most. Rather than wielding this privilege as a weapon, he chooses to use it as a shield to protect others who were not born with the same privilege. He says, “Even as a white, gay man, I carry a lot of privilege. I carry A LOT of privilege, and so to use that privilege to make sure the door is open for trans people, for black and brown people, for women, to make sure that they also have a space to tell their stories too.”

After sharing his stories with eager listeners, Mr. Conroy opens the discussion up to students as a way to give voice to the curious minds in the audience. 

As the end of his speech drew near, Mr. Conroy concludes by offering his E-mail to all attendees. He says, “At any point in time, you are all welcome to E-mail me, reach out to me, just find me at Outfronttheatre.com… It doesn’t have to be theater related, you’re all welcome to reach out at any point in time.”