A group of my friends were decrying the lack of involvement on the part of so many people in community events—kids soccer, the block party, bowling league, our local Pride celebrations, even church—although they want those events to be available for them. They’re not willing to show up for the organizational meetings, or take care of any of the details, but they sure want that soccer league or black party to happen! They are consumers, not doers.
Now I know people work, but all those events are put together by volunteers (or mostly volunteers), who also have jobs, and families. So don’t tell me you don’t have time because you’re too busy, but you want someone else to do it for you. Other people have found ways to make time, and so can you.
When my son was small, the church nursery went co-op in the summer time. The parents signed up for a Sunday each (per family) and took care of the babies that showed up that Sunday. That way, everyone, even the people with babies, were able to come to church in the summertime (when the usual nursery worker took vacation). They babysat one Sunday; they had the rest of them off. You put something in; you got something out.
In the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community, the same thing often happens--a few people do all the work, get burned out and quit, and then everyone else complains because something doesn't happen or isn't up to their standards. If you want something to happen, the best way to be sure it does is to organizae it yourself. Now, there’s often fear of being involved in the meetings or the organizations because of exposure. Some people are terrified of being “outed,” and many of them with good reason. For some, it’s a matter of age—it was a great deal worse to be outed twenty or thirty years ago than it is today, and the older folks still carry that fear. Therefore, the active people are the ones who are totally “out,” are self-employed, or students, or, like me, out as part of their work!.
But—and this is the big thing—organization, planning, cannot be done by the few for the many. I don’t mean just on the basis of energy and time--and this is important. If the group of folks that I know best in the local GLBT community got together and created what we imagine as the perfect GLBT community centre, for example, we would leave out huge chunks of the community, because we don’t know them, or we don’t know they exist, or we don’t know what they want. We may try, but we cannot get into their minds and find out what they need. So we’d cover the 30 -50 year-old lesbian, bisexual, gay, some-with-kids-of-various-ages and a variety of spiritual paths crowd, but that’s all. While I know some people who are, for example, into the bear or leather crowd, I don’t know enough about those folks to know what they might want/need in a community centre—a meeting space? A rap group? A literature rack? How are the needs of GLBT Muslims different from those of GLBT First Nations? Got me. I know some places to go to for information, but my point is that people have to get involved on their own. No one else can read your mind and know what you want/need, much less provide it.
We need everyone’s voices. In order for a community centre to be truly a community centre, we need to hear what everyone wants and needs.